"A good supper...restores to us the small delights that the day ransacks. Through crisis and catastrophe, and rare moments of uninterrupted joy, it's "A good supper...restores to us the small delights that the day ransacks. Through crisis and catastrophe, and rare moments of uninterrupted joy, it's the round, clean and imperishable wisdom that sustains them: cook well, eat well and talk well with people who are significant to your life."
Every Thursday night for decades a small group of Umbrian women, occasionally accompanied by the their husbands or lovers, have met in an old stone house belonging to Miranda to share their supper. Under sheaves of dried olive branches, seated on plank benches, they have laughed, cried, cooked and eaten together.
Befriended by Miranda, Marlena De Blasi, an American chef, journalist and food critic who has made her home in rural Orvieto, was invited to join the women, taking a place at the table every Thursday, delighting in both the food, and the stories each woman has to tell.
In The Umbrian Supper Club, Marlena shares what she learned of the lives of the four women members - Miranda, Ninuccia, Paolina and Gilda, as she joined with each in preparing Thursday night suppers over a period of four years.
The women's stories are moving and fascinating, aged between 52 and 80 something, they have lived full lives. They have variously been wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and lovers, they have endured heartache, loss, poverty and celebrated love, friends, and food. They speak, as the gather, prepare and cook their supper of childhood, family, aging, sexuality, of the evil eye, the Mafia, religion, of life and death.
"'I wish life could end all even, like a supper when there's that last little roasted potato with a single needle of rosemary clinging to its crust and the end of a sausage, charred to a crunch, a heel of bread, the last long pull of wine. Even. Everything in harmony. I have always preferred that last bit of my supper to the first, the beginning being fraught with hunger, the last with serenity. As life should be. Every supper can be a whole life'"
Full of mouthwatering descriptions of food preparation and feasting, The Umbrian Supper Club will delight any foodie. Crusty bread freshly baked in a woodfire oven is dipped in oil pressed by a donkey driven mill, pasta is simmered in litres of local red wine, thyme leaves are stripped from their branches to flavour scored duck breasts. Several full recipes of traditional Umbrian dishes, such as Zucca Arrostita and La Crostata di Pere e Pecorino adapted for the modern cook, are included, but plenty of cooking advice is informally dispensed through the pages.
"In a basket on the worktable there are perhaps a dozen heads of garlic, the purple colour of the cloves bright beneath papery skins. Slapping head after head with the flat of the cleaver, she scrapes the smashed, unpeeled cloves into a five-litre jug of new oil in which she's earlier stuffed leaves of wild sage, wild fennel flowers, rosemary,a fistful of crushed, very hot chillies. She is building one of her famous potions. Violence, she calls it. She uses it to gloss vegetables before tumbling them into the roasting pan, to massage into loins of pork and the breasts and thighs of her own fat chickens, to drizzle over burning hot charcoaled beef and veal."
The Umbrian Supper Club is a delightful true story of family, friendship and food. ...more
A gritty crime thriller Nothing Sacred is the second book from David Thorne to feature disgraced lawyer, Daniel Connell, following East of Innocence.
I A gritty crime thriller Nothing Sacred is the second book from David Thorne to feature disgraced lawyer, Daniel Connell, following East of Innocence.
In Nothing Sacred, Daniel is reluctantly drawn into the underworld of Essex by the tearful pleas of his ex girlfriend Victoria who is being tormented by an unseen force and has lost custody of her young children. Meanwhile, Daniel's childhood best friend Gabe, a veteran whose military career was cut short when he lost his leg, is mixed up in something deadly that has followed him from the battlefield of Afghanistan.
Nothing Sacred was a little too brutal and bleak for my tastes, but the action is fast-paced and the plot is well thought out. There are several twists and Thorne brings it all together well. The characters are convincing, if somewhat stereotypical for the genre. Daniel's sense of justice overrides his confidence in the law and he has no problem crossing the line when he feels justified in doing so.
A quick, solid read with a noir-ish feel, Nothing Sacred should appeal to crime fiction fans with a hard edge....more
The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone is an emotionally powerful story of a family in crisis from Charity Norman.
A respected solicitor and beloved husb The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone is an emotionally powerful story of a family in crisis from Charity Norman.
A respected solicitor and beloved husband, father and grandfather, Luke Livingston seems to have it all, but he has a secret with the potential to destroy it all.
With thought provoking insight and sensitivity, Norman tells the story from four different points of view - Luke's, his wife's Eilish's, and their children's Simon's and Kate's.
I couldn't help but admire Luke for his courage in finally following his heart. His despair and heartbreak is very affecting as he struggles with the realities of his situation. I rejoiced in each tentative step he took towards reconciling with his own truth.
"Because I've come to the end of the road, Eilish. The very end. I can't go on, I was facing a choice last night: to end my life, or to accept what I've always really been."
I sympathised with Eilish's shock and feelings of betrayal, and the initial reactions of Luke's adult children, Kate and Simon, when Luke's secret is revealed. Norman portrays their confusion, anger and grief with believability as their comfortable world is turned upside down. I was furious with Simon's extreme reaction, tempered only slightly when Norman revealed the awful memories Luke's announcement stirred in him.
"Perhaps we never really understand our families at all, any of us. Perhaps those we love the most are really a bunch of strangers, with secret thoughts and inner lives."
I was hugely angered by the bigotry displayed by many of the characters. It appalls me that such a level of ignorance and hatred still exists in today's society. The author does a wonderful job of educating the reader about gender and sexual identity without lecturing.
The novel is well written, drawing the reader into the characters lives, but I did feel as if the story stalled somewhat in the middle and its progression was somewhat predictable.
A sensitive and thought-provoking story The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone is a wonderful novel and deserves to be read widely....more
I selected Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter to read in order to satisfy a reading challenge requirement, but my curiosity was piqued by the premise and some I selected Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter to read in order to satisfy a reading challenge requirement, but my curiosity was piqued by the premise and some flattering reviews, Cape Times named it one of the 10 best books of 2013 and it was shortlisted for the 2014 Sunday Times (South Africa) prize.
The narrative of Wolf, Wolf shifts between the perspectives of Benjamin, Mattie and Mattie's boyfriend Jack, a school teacher at a private school. It a story about manhood, love, family and legacy - not only that which a father passes on to a son, but also in relation to South Africa's struggles with a post-apartheid society.
The translation by Michiel Heyns from Eben Venter’s Afrikaans has received much praise but unfortunately I struggled with the dense prose from the first pages and couldn't seem to find a rhythm in the narrative to suit me. I persevered until the end, but with little enjoyment....more
Turtle Reef is Jennifer Scoullar's fifth novel, and her fourth engaging contemporary regional romance.
City girl Zoe King is thrilled when she lands he Turtle Reef is Jennifer Scoullar's fifth novel, and her fourth engaging contemporary regional romance.
City girl Zoe King is thrilled when she lands her dream job at a marine park and research center in Kiawa, a small town in northern Queensland, looking forward to working with the Reef Center's impressively credentialed director, Bridget Macalister. Though the job proves more demanding than she expected, Zoe quickly learns to embrace its challenges, impressed by Bridget's dedication to the center and delighted by the aquarium's residents, including their six rescue dolphins. Its the findings from Zoe's first research project, monitoring the local dugong population and mapping seagrass meadows, that alerts her to a problem not only with the reef, but also the operation of the marine center.
Conservation management and environmental protection is a major theme of this novel. Set in a small sugar cane community on the Queensland coast, Scoullar writes of the risks outdated cane farming practices poses to the coastal environment, the general threats to our fragile marine ecosystem as well as the desirability of rehabilitating wild creatures for return to their natural environment.
The intrigue in the novel is a touch slow to develop but I enjoyed the measured unraveling of secrets. The suspense is fairly low key for most of the novel but the danger Zoe faces when she comes too close to working out exactly what is going on came as a surprise, raising the tension considerably.
There is an unconventional romance for Zoe in Turtle Reef. Quinn Cooper is a fifth generation local cane farmer and a caring guardian of his brain injured younger brother, Josh. Zoe is attracted to his good looks and down to earth charm from their first meeting, but as Bridget's long term boyfriend, Quinn is strictly off limits. I have to be honest, I found the relationship a little odd, though the chemistry is there, the circumstances are awkward.
The Reef Center is home to a half dozen rescue dolphins, given delightful personalities by Scoullar. I was charmed by Josh's interactions with them and saddened by the way in which they were betrayed. I was surprised to learn how intelligent octopuses can be, and fell in love with Einstein.
Scoullar's descriptions of the beauty of the reef and the ocean are highlights of the novel. "All around them lay a tapestry....Brightly coloured parrot fish abounded and were utterly fearless. Zoe could hear the soft chomping of their beaks as the grazed on the branching coral gardens. Blue-spotted lagoon rays scooted past,... and a shovelnose shark, with its strange triangular snout."
Turtle Reef is a lovely novel from a storyteller whose fiction evokes the romance of the Australian landscape, and the heart.
A lighthearted chick lit novel, Yes, Chef! is Lisa Joy's debut, inspired by her real-life adventures as a PA to a celebrity chef.
Becca Stone works in A lighthearted chick lit novel, Yes, Chef! is Lisa Joy's debut, inspired by her real-life adventures as a PA to a celebrity chef.
Becca Stone works in a small call centre fielding table bookings for a celebrity chef's string of popular restaurants in London. She adores her colleagues, with whom she daily raids the chocolate store downstairs and celebrates 'Sexual Harrassment Thursdays', but the work is boring and the pay is lousy. Nearing thirty and single Becca knows she needs to make a change, so when she is chosen to fill in for Daniel Malone's vacationing PA she is determined to prove herself to the celebrity chef.
It took me a little while to warm up to Becca, I thought her to be whiny and self centered to begin with. Eventually she proves she isn't quite as shallow as she seems, she is smart and feisty just lacking in self awareness. Her love life is also a disaster, she is attracted to men for superficial reasons and ignores genuine interest in favour of men who do something for her ego.
Malone, who reminds me of Gordon Ramsey, is an egotistical boss who demands Becca fulfils his every whim, from sourcing dozens of unique plates from a Turkish bazaar at short notice to lying to his high-strung wife regarding his whereabouts and it's not long before Becca's dream job becomes a nightmare. She lets some of Malone's attitude slide but eventually his sleazy, self-aggrandizing behaviour goes too far and she has to decide if the career she wants is worth the compromises she has to make.
The story is formulaic, not really offering any surprises, but an easy read. The writing isn't quite as strong as it could be, uneven in places with weak transitions. Personally, I favoured the scenes Becca shared with her friends and colleagues from the call center. They are warm, funny and authentic and their banter is entertaining. The romance is fairly low key but I was happy enough with the way it resolved.
Yes, Chef! is a quick, light read about love, food and finding your path in life....more
Cranky Ladies of History is an anthology conceived and developed by Tehani Wessley of Fablecroft Publishing and author, Tansy Rayner Roberts. Crowdfun Cranky Ladies of History is an anthology conceived and developed by Tehani Wessley of Fablecroft Publishing and author, Tansy Rayner Roberts. Crowdfunded through Pozible during Womens History Month in 2014, the concept attracted many supporters eager to be a part of project.
Twenty two authors have contributed to Cranky Ladies of History, including award winner's Thoraiya Dyer, Juliet Marillier, Jane Yolen and Garth Nix.
Each short story in Cranky Ladies of History features a real female historical figure. I'm not familiar enough with history to separate fact from fiction in these pieces but these strong, often fierce women are those who challenged society's rules and ideas about how women should behave, though not always in heroic or noble ways. While Garth Nix honours Lady Godiva in 'The Company of Women', 'Look How Cold My Hands Are' by Deborah Biancotti features Countess Bathory, an insane serial killer.
The women featured include an Ancient Egyptian ruler ('Neter Nefer' by Amanda Pillar), a Chinese Empress ('Charmed Life' by Joyce Chng), a British women's rights campaigner ("Mary, Mary" by Kirstyn McDermott) and an Australia doctor ('Due Care And Attention' by Sylvia Kelso. Some of the protagonists represent well known figures such as Queen Elizabeth 1 ('Glorious' by Faith Mudge) while others feature woman whose lives have all but been forgotten, such as the Icelandic Viking warrior, Hallgerðr Höskuldsdóttir ('For So Great A Misdeed' by Lisa L. Hannett)
An entertaining and interesting anthology, Cranky Ladies of History is an important collection of fiction that gives voice to an extraordinary selection of women from a broad range of backgrounds, era's and cultures. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. ...more
She's Having Her Baby is a funny and bittersweet debut chick lit novel from Lauren Sams.
"This is it. She's going to ask me to be her surrogate. No, sh She's Having Her Baby is a funny and bittersweet debut chick lit novel from Lauren Sams.
"This is it. She's going to ask me to be her surrogate. No, she won't. Surely she won't. That only happens in Katherine Heigl movies, Jesus f** Christ, what if she asks? What am I going to say? There's only one answer, right? Jesus f**"
Thirty something magazine editor, Georgie Henderson, has never wanted kids but her best friend, Nina Doherty, wants nothing more than to be a mother and when her latest IVF attempt fails, she asks Georgie for the ultimate favour. Reluctantly Georgie agrees to become Nina's surrogate, willing to help Nina's dream come true, but Georgie is wholly unprepared for what comes next...
Life doesn't always go to plan and in She's Having Her Baby the plot doesn't quite develop as the reader may expect. Sharply observed, the author explores the themes of infertility, surrogacy, motherhood and friendship in a manner that is funny, poignant and compassionate.
I found Georgie to be an interesting character, she definitely has her flaws, being somewhat inflexible and self absorbed, but she is amusing, feisty and loyal in her own way. I admired Georgia for deciding to help Nina, though I think choosing not to have children for whatever reason is a perfectly valid decision, and though Georgia doesn't cope particularly well when things don't work out as expected, including with her relationship and career, she eventually pulls it together.
I've witnessed the toll infertility can take on the soul, and relationships, and I really felt for Nina, her desperation is authentic and moving. I laughed out loud at the passages describing the parenting styles of Ellie and the mothers at the playground. Those type of 'helicopter', holier than thou parents drove me crazy when my children were babies so I agreed . It's not like I let mine play with knives or fed them a steady diet of McDonalds but they watched ABC Kids, ate jarred baby foods and wore disposable nappies, and let me assure you they are all bright, healthy and happy children.
The writing is of a good standard, the dialogue is natural, and humour is used to good effect, without undermining the more serious issues. The pacing works well with some surprises in the plot and a conclusion that is satisfying but not too neat.
I enjoyed She's Having Her Baby, I found it to be both an entertaining and touching novel tackling issues relevant to the modern woman. Lauren Sams is a debut author with promise. ...more
Lizzy Chandler's debut novel, Snowy River Man, is an engaging contemporary romance, with an edge of suspense, set in rural Australia.
Katrina Delaney Lizzy Chandler's debut novel, Snowy River Man, is an engaging contemporary romance, with an edge of suspense, set in rural Australia.
Katrina Delaney is stunned when she learns that the lost and frightened child she has seen in her dream is Jack Fairley's son. Seven years ago she and Jack spent a single passionate night together, only for everything to fall apart the morning after. Jack Fairley is frantic when his young son disappears while at a rodeo, seemingly without a trace, and he is willing to do anything to ensure his safe return, even if that means accepting the help of Katrina Delaney. Though wary of their history, Katrina and Jack are determined to put aside their differences in order to ensure Nick's safe recovery but in saving the lost boy, they just may lose their hearts.
I really like the bones of the story, for such a short novel (just 165 pages) the author has developed a well layered plot, even if several elements seem somewhat truncated. The main conflicts expose personal and professional betrayal and shocking family secrets providing plenty of dramatic tension. The suspense is well crafted and nicely paced.
Katrina is an interesting character, only recently having found some sense of equilibrium after enduring several difficult years related to a tragic loss and the intrusiveness of her psychic gift, it's brave of her to offer Jack her help, knowing she could be opening herself up to more pain. Jack is a fairly typical leading man for the genre, he has made mistakes but in general is kind and honourable. He is a loving father and a savvy businessman though it's his rugged farming persona that I found most appealing.(I have to mention too, I am a fan of the cover model representing him - yum!) The chemistry between Katrina and Jack is portrayed well, their simmering attraction, complicated by the past, eventually boils over in a sensual scene.
I must admit I wish the author had chosen to exploit the story's potential and developed Snowy River Man into a full length novel but it is a quick, engaging read offering an appealing tale of love, betrayal, forgiveness and family.
SJ Watson's debut, Before I Go To Sleep was a smash hit and I imagine the pressure to produce a similarly successful novel has been immense.
London wi SJ Watson's debut, Before I Go To Sleep was a smash hit and I imagine the pressure to produce a similarly successful novel has been immense.
London wife and mother, Julia, is devastated when she is informed her younger sister, Kate, has been murdered by an unknown assailant in a Parisian alleyway. Half crazed with grief and guilt, Julia becomes obsessed with finding Kate's killer, infiltrating an online 'hook-up' service her sister used in search of suspects. Lukas is one of the first men to respond to her tentative approach, and though she quickly dismisses him as a suspect in her sister's murder, Julia can't seem to extract herself from the connection they have made. Her stolen moments with Lukas are a reprieve from her despair but as their relationship transitions from the virtual to the real world, Julia's 'second life' unwittingly puts everything she has, and those she loves most, at risk.
What Watson does particularly well in Second Life is create a close, tense and increasingly disorientating atmosphere as Julia's life spirals out of control.
My dissatisfaction with this novel can be laid at the feet of Watson's protagonist, Julia. I just didn't buy into her behaviour, despite the author's rationalisations of grief and guilt. I found Julia to be painfully frustrating - naive, self obsessed, and later, wontingly self destructive.
Unable to invest in the character, I then struggled with the plot, which relies on Julia's poor judgment to progress. There is tension and some surprising twists but it wasn't enough to convince me to put aside my dislike of Julia. Perhaps the strongest element of the story is the pacy and shocking denouement, though I'm still not quite sure how I feel about its ambiguity.
Just barely an okay read, largely due to my frustration with the main character, unfortunately, I think Second Life suffers badly in comparison with Before I Go To Sleep....more
Belinda Bauer's backlist, including Rubbernecker, has been on my 'must read' list for quite some time but as it happens The Shut Eye is the first of h Belinda Bauer's backlist, including Rubbernecker, has been on my 'must read' list for quite some time but as it happens The Shut Eye is the first of her six published books I have read.
DCI John Marvel is haunted by the case of missing schoolgirl, Edie Evans, and resents being distracted from his investigation when he is tasked by his boss to find his wife's poodle. Marvel couldn't care less about the fate of Mitzi but when he is approached by Anna Buck, a young mother grieving for her own missing son, with information that seems to link Mitzi, Edie and Richard Latham, a local self-proclaimed psychic, his interest in the case is assured.
The Shut Eye is solid crime fiction with unexpected flashes of dark humour, unfolding from the perspectives of Marvel, Anna, and her husband James.
DCI John Marvel is a dogged and driven detective, but not a particularly nice man. He is brutally dismissive of his colleagues, his de facto partner, and suspicious of humanity in general. He is also a skeptic, and detests Latham's 'psychic' claims, so he is challenged by the inexplicable elements of the case even though he is willing to do anything to solve it.
James is shamed by the depth of his wife's grief, and feels guilty for the role he plays in it, but is at a loss as to how to help her. A mechanic, he works in the garage next door to their flat with a motley assortment of illegal colleagues, doing little else than putting one foot in front of the other every day.
Five months after her four year old son slipped out of the front door of their home, accidentally left ajar by her husband, and vanished without a trace, Anna Buck is still crazed with grief. Bauer's portrayal of Anna's emotional agony is raw and affecting, she is teetering on the edge of a complete breakdown when she reaches out to Latham.
The paranormal element of the story comes into play when Anna visits Latham's 'church' in search of answers. Though he refuses to help her, soon after Anna believes she is either experiencing visions, or has finally gone mad.
The Shut Eye is a good read, but I thought the characters were more convincing than the plot. I enjoyed the uncertainty Bauer created by blurring the line between proof and visions, and offering multiple suspects. The ending didn't quite sit right for me though, feeling a little rushed and aspects of it unlikely. ...more
Daisy Richmond is twenty seven, happily married, working towards her Master's degree and about to celebrate three years cancer-free, when her doctor d Daisy Richmond is twenty seven, happily married, working towards her Master's degree and about to celebrate three years cancer-free, when her doctor delivers the news that her body is riddled with tumours, and it's likely she won't live beyond six months. Daisy is devastated but her overwhelming concern is for her husband, Jack. How will her wonderful but disorganised and absent minded husband cope without her? Who will scratch his back when he can’t reach, make sure he eats regular meals, or save him from drowning in a sea of dirty socks?
Before I Go is a poignant, tender debut novel authored by Colleen Oakley that tugged on my heart strings as I read it. However, on reflection, I don't have much to say about it.
It doesn't offer a particularly unique premise though the idea of finding a replacement for yourself is thought provoking. The characters are engaging, evoking an appropriate mixture of sympathy, admiration, and frustration, but none of them surprised me.
I did feel that the book was well written, and I appreciated the way Oakley tempered the inevitable seriousness with flashes of humour. The underlying message, about savouring and living in the present, is sincerely and simply presented.
Before I Go is an emotional, bittersweet story about love, loss, life and death. A lovely read, just not really memorable for me.
I've been curious about Adrian McKinty's work for a while. Though born and raised in Ireland, McKinty now lives in Australia, allowing us to claim him I've been curious about Adrian McKinty's work for a while. Though born and raised in Ireland, McKinty now lives in Australia, allowing us to claim him as one of our own. Despite my dislike of starting a series in the middle, so to speak, I couldn't resist the lure of Gun Street Girl, the fourth book in his gritty police procedural series featuring Sean Duffy, an Irish Catholic Detective Inspector in Northern Ireland during the mid 1980's.
It's a busy night for Detective Inspector Duffy who, after observing a multi-agency midnight raid on some gun runners which goes spectacularly wrong, is not long home when he is called out to deal first with a sensitive situation in a local whorehouse and then a double homicide just inside the border of their RUC district. A wealthy couple has been shot dead while watching the TV, and Detective Sergeant McCrabban is eager to take on the case. The scene seems straightforward, the dead couple's missing twenty-two year old son determined to be the likely perpetrator, but it soon becomes clear that this investigation will be anything but simple and Duffy finds himself chasing missing missiles, gun dealers and a clever assassin.
Duffy is a complex guy, a cop who believes in justice but is cynical about the law. He is not above breaking the rules, enjoying the occasional snort of cocaine and regularly circumventing the chain of command, but he clearly prioritises the truth over diplomacy or procedure. His failure to play by the 'rules', and the fact that he is one of the few Catholics amidst an overwhelmingly Protestant police force, means he will likely never rise any higher.
Th plot is well crafted with several layers, though I didn't really feel like it offered any surprises. I did appreciate that Duffy, with the help of McCrabban and Lawson, has to really work the case to get the answers he needs. The investigation is thorough but never tedious and enhanced by the story's subplots.
Set against the background of 'The Troubles' and referencing real events, the story is particularly well grounded in time and place. I love that Duffy's house is McKinty's childhood home in Carrickfergus, and though I'm not really a fan, music lovers may enjoy constructing their own playlists from Duffy's preferences.
" The heat was over, along with summer. They walked the dunes in a flush of new shyness, talking of the beginning of their last year of high school."
" The heat was over, along with summer. They walked the dunes in a flush of new shyness, talking of the beginning of their last year of high school."
Rose and Michael have just had sex for the first time, they are in love and shyly thrilled with their new intimacy. In the heat of the moment they forgot to use a condom, just twice, but as each others first, Michael's older brother assures him, at least they don't have to worry about disease. Two months later, Rose counts the days in her student diary - her period is 61 days late and a pregnancy test, obtained by her best friend Liz, shows two bold pink lines.
"'I've worked it out. We won't tell anyone. No one could help us anyway. I can hide it. It's not real....These things go away all the time.'"
With compassionate insight, Australian author Dianne Touchell explores Rose and Michael's responses to their unplanned pregnancy in A Small Madness. Ill-equipped to deal with the reality of their situation, Rose and Michael take refuge in denial that only grows deeper as time passes, leading to horrendous consequences.
Rose and Michael are 'good kids' from middle class families who regularly attend church, gets good grades and have plans for their future. I can't profess to understand their behaviour, but I feel that Touchell communicated her characters rationalisations well and my sympathy was stirred for both characters despite their egregious mistakes.
"She was a good person. And she was as genuinely appalled as everyone else by speculative descriptions of the monster who must have done this dreadful thing in the bush. Because it wasn't her."
The premise of A Touch of Madness may seem far fetched to some, but it was inspired by an American case reported in the media. I was curious to know just how common Rose's denial of her pregnancy is. I was quite stunned to learn that it happens in about 1 in 2,500 cases, and less than half the instances involve teenagers.
An emotionally powerful and provocative cautionary tale for both young adults and their parents, A Small Madness is beautifully written examination of a complex issue....more
Set in provincial France during the late 1800's, Doctor Death is the first book in a new historical mystery series from Lene Kaaberbøl, featuring Made Set in provincial France during the late 1800's, Doctor Death is the first book in a new historical mystery series from Lene Kaaberbøl, featuring Madeleine Karno.
"My father was reluctant to let me assist when he examined the dead. He said it could only hurt my reputation and my future – by which he meant my chances of marriage. For the most part, my father was a man of progress, absorbed by the newest ideas and the latest technology. But he was incomprehensibly old-fashioned on this particular point."
The daughter of a widowed surgeon/coroner, Madeleine dreams of one day following in his footsteps but for now must be content with those rare times when her father allows her to assist him. Intelligent, rational and ambitious, Madeleine is an admirable character who chafes at the expectations of the era though rarely in an overt way. When her father is injured she seizes the opportunity to become more involved in his current case that begins with a dead girl, scarred with human bites, found on her snow covered doorstep.
Solving the complex mystery involves a combination of common investigation techniques led by Madeleine's father's colleague, the Commisioner, and the fledgling science of forensics utilised by Madeleine and her father. It is a strange case that involves an unidentified parasite, a missing boy, a pack of wolves, a murdered priest and it becomes increasingly unsettling as Madeleine gets closer to unmasking a killer. There are red herrings and twists that keep the reader guessing as Kaaberbøl explores the conflicts of human and beast, science and faith.
"Illness is not necessarily a punishment from God.... Sometimes it just comes to us. If we are lucky, it is a trial from which we can learn. Other times, we must just accept that we humans do not understand everything."
The tone is quite dark overall and there are elements of the story which readers may find disturbing. There is a touch of unconventional romance which will be interesting to see develop in further installments. The pace is good but the narrative does feel a little dry and formal at times, perhaps a consequence of the translation as much as a reflection of the period.
I did enjoy Doctor Death, the mystery was intriguing and Madeleine is an interesting lead but I have to admit I wasn't as engaged as I hoped to have been. I do hope to continue with the series though to see how it develops. ...more
A fast-paced high fantasy adventure, Red Queen introduces Victoria Aveyard's debut trilogy.
Perhaps the weakest aspect of Red Queen is its fairly formu A fast-paced high fantasy adventure, Red Queen introduces Victoria Aveyard's debut trilogy.
Perhaps the weakest aspect of Red Queen is its fairly formulaic concept. Aveyard pits an elite group - the Silvers - against an oppressed faction - the Reds. The Silvers, so called because of their silver blood, have a range of special abilities and hold all the wealth and power. The Reds, who bleed red blood, have no such gifts and are used as little more than slave labour or as fodder for the war with neighboring factions, subject to the whims of the ruling class. Enter the Scarlet Dawn, a band of Red rebels determined to overthrow the Silver's.
"We will rise, red as the dawn."
In terms of plot however, the author ably develops exciting conflict, intrigue, and betrayal. There is plenty of tension, high emotion and drama as Mare struggles to deal with the dangerous situation she finds herself trapped in. The story is fast paced with plenty of action and the obligatory romantic triangle, though with a surprising twist.
“I see a world on the edge of a blade. Without balance, it will fall.”
I liked Mare a lot, she is daring, feisty and loyal to those she loves. She has never simply accepted her lot in life as a Red, rebelling by becoming a petty thief in order to help support her family, and she jumps at the chance to become part of the revolution. Mare's idealism is tempered with a hard earned streak of pragmatism but it proves to be not quite enough to protect her from intrigue of the Silver Court. She makes mistakes, tending to take things at face value, and as such is vulnerable to placing her trust in the wrong people with dramatic consequences.
"It is impossible. It is foolish. It is our best chance."
The other main characters introduced in Red Queen also prove to be interesting, particularly the Silver Princes, Cal and Maven. Their complicated dynamic is integral to the plot development and Aveyard uses it well.
"He's strong, he's talented, he's powerful - and I'm his shadow. The shadow of the flame."
Entertaining and exciting I really enjoyed Red Queen and I am looking forward to the next book.
A warm hearted story of family, motherhood and midwifery, The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth features three generations of women - Neva, Grace, A warm hearted story of family, motherhood and midwifery, The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth features three generations of women - Neva, Grace, and Floss.
"I suppose you could say I was born to be a midwife. Three generations of women in my family had devoted their lies to bringing babies into the world; the work was in my blood. But my path wasn’t so obvious as that. I wasn’t my mother—a basket-wearing hippie who rejoiced in the magic of new, precious life. I wasn’t my grandmother—wise, no nonsense, with a strong belief in the power of natural birth. I didn’t even particularly like babies. No, for me, the decision to become a midwife had nothing to do with babies. And everything to do with mothers."
As the narrative unfolds from the alternating perspectives of each woman, it is revealed that they each hold a secret. Neva has successfully hidden her pregnancy for 30 weeks and now that she no longer can, refuses to divulge the identity of the father, her mother, Grace, is struggling both personally and professionally, and Floss, the family matriarch, is increasingly anxious about the repercussions for both her daughter and granddaughter, of a choice she made years before.
Though the plot is fairly predictable and lacks any real sense of depth, The Secrets of Midwives is an engaging read. The drama generated by the women's secrets is fairly low key, there is never really any doubt that things will work out, and their issues are resolved quite neatly by the end of the book. I'm a sucker for birth stories so I particularly enjoyed the midwifery angle. I was a little worried that Hepworth may have had a 'natural birth' agenda but she presents a fairly balanced view that favours choice for the mother.
The characters are easy to relate to and generally believable. I thought the dynamics between the three women were well drawn, particularly between Neva and Grace whose relationship is loving but complicated, simply because they are very different people. Grace is probably the most nuanced of the three characters, but it was Floss, and her story, that I found most interesting.
An easy and amiable novel, I found The Secrets of Midwives to be a pleasant and satisfying read....more
A quirky tale with a hint of magical realism, Lisa Walker's third novel, 'Arkie's Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing' is the story of one woman's search A quirky tale with a hint of magical realism, Lisa Walker's third novel, 'Arkie's Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing' is the story of one woman's search for all the things she has lost....including herself.
“I am forty-one years old but perhaps it is possible … Can my life begin again?”
A year ago, Arkie Douglas's life fell apart. Her husband left her when Arkie confessed to an affair, and shortly after her business failed, her trend forecasting mojo having deserted her. It's New Year's Eve and Arkie is waiting on a deserted platform in Byron Bay planning to throw herself under the next passing train when a young Japanese woman carrying a briefcase and a surfboard, strikes up a conversation. Despite herself, Arkie is intrigued by Haruko Iida and excited when she recognises her own brand of trend spotting magic in the twenty year old. Abandoning her plans for suicide, Arkie convinces Haruko to work with her, hoping to recover her career.
"Pilgrimages are so hot right now. I think they are the Next Big Thing."
The idea is Haruko's, suggesting society is ready for a resurgence of spirituality, self discovery and simplicity. Arkie enthusiastically embraces the idea but traveling to Japan is out of the question, so instead she proposes a journey closer to home, a pilgrimage to Australia's 'Big Things'. Traveling by train, bus and on foot, while avoiding the Yakuza and Arkie's ex husband's divorce lawyer, Arkie and Haruko set out their unusual pilgrimage in search of the Next Big Thing.
From the Big Redback Spider, to the Big Banana and the Big Prawn, Arkie and Haruko look past the peeling paint and wire fences to find the beauty and meaning in the outsized icons. Their adventure is blessed by the Shinto Gods and smiling Buddha's found in unlikely places, but they face challenges on the 'yellow brick road' along the way. Arkie in particular is forced to reflect on the root causes of her present unhappiness and look closer to home for fulfilment . I enjoyed traveling to the Big Things with Arkie and Haruko, I have visited a few in my time. In fact the town where I live is home to The Big Oyster. It was once a restaurant, housing a roadside cafe underneath for highway travellers heading North, but the bypass forced its closure and the site was redeveloped, so now the Big Oyster is empty, presiding over a car dealership.
Truthfully Arkie doesn't engender a lot of sympathy, she is self absorbed and a confessed adulterer, but I could sort of relate to the questions she is struggling with. Her life has imploded and she is lost, looking for a way to regain her equilibrium. Haruko is an unlikely spiritual guide in the guise of a quirky, hip Japanese girl. An enigmatic character with an ethereal quality, she is self possessed with a talent for reinventing herself.
Arkie's Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing is an offbeat, sometimes surreal, contemporary novel that will have you reminiscing about your last visit to one of Australia's 'Big Things' and perhaps yearning for your own spiritual road-trip.
The second novel to feature rig engineer turned superhero monster slayer Dave Cooper, Resistance is another darkly funny, action packed fantasy advent The second novel to feature rig engineer turned superhero monster slayer Dave Cooper, Resistance is another darkly funny, action packed fantasy adventure from Australian author John Birmingham.
Dave is enjoying his celebrity, in a typical Dave-like manner, after the defeat of the Hunn but the breach in New Orleans was just the start and now the Hunn are boiling up from the underworld realm all over the globe, eager to reclaim their dominion.
There is no getting away from the fact that Dave is a dick, and his basic nature is unchanged despite becoming a superhero. In Resistance he is confronted with his new responsibilities as the only man able to translate the intentions of the Hunn but he manages to alienate almost everyone when he makes the wrong choices.
Like Emergence, Resistance is a fast paced, entertaining read, hilarious, action - packed and unfailingly politically incorrect.
A Time of Secrets is Deborah Burrows' third wonderful novel blending Australia's wartime history with mystery and romance.
While Burrows previous nove A Time of Secrets is Deborah Burrows' third wonderful novel blending Australia's wartime history with mystery and romance.
While Burrows previous novels take place in Perth, A Time of Secrets is set in Melbourne in 1943. Australian Women's Army sergeant Stella Aldridge is out shopping with her roommate and colleague, Dolly, when she overhears a whispered conversation in Malay between a group of Australian soldiers. Concerned with the implications she alerts her boss at the APLO, The Australian Pacific Liason Office, only to be drawn into a covert investigation headed by her superior officer, Lieutenant Nick Ross.
As Stella and her colleagues work to uncover the identity of the traitor sabotaging the Australian war effort they have to negotiate the politics of the APLO. I enjoyed the intrigue of the storyline and learning a little more about the war effort. In this, as in both of Burrows previous novels, A Stranger in My Street and Taking a Chance, Burrows' brings to life the experiences and contribution of women during wartime in Australia.
A minor subplot focuses on Stella's roommate Dolly, and the secrets she is keeping both from her fiance and Stella, while a second involves an axe wielding murderer stalking women in Melbourne. The theme of domestic violence is prominent in the novel. as is violence on the home front in general.
There is romance for Stella with the enigmatic soldier Staff Sergeant Eric Lund. A special operative, his life is at risk if the rumours of a traitor imbedded within the APLO are true. Stella's attraction to Lund is complicated by his capability for violence, her first husband who was killed in action physically abused her, and she is wary. A sort of love triangle also develops as Ross, an unapologetic ladies man, makes his interest in Stella clear.
Burrow's is a talented storyteller who brings wartime Australia to life. Offering an interesting mystery combined with strong characterisation and a well crafted plot, A Time of Secrets is an engaging historical fiction novel. ...more
The Reluctant Midwife is a heartwarming and engaging novel by Patricia Harman, set in the same location and era as her fiction debut, The Midwife of H The Reluctant Midwife is a heartwarming and engaging novel by Patricia Harman, set in the same location and era as her fiction debut, The Midwife of Hope River.
Penniless, homeless and the sole carer of her inexplicably catatonic ex-employer, Dr Isaac Blum, nurse Becky Myers is in desperate straits by the time she arrives in Hope River, rural West Virgina. It is the 1930's, times are tough for everyone, and with few options, Becky is forced to figure out a way to support herself and Blum.
Harman effortlessly evokes the era in which The Reluctant Midwife is set. The focus is on the challenges of the Great Depression, in rural areas unemployment rose to around 80% leaving hundreds of thousands of people struggling to survive.
With a little luck and hard work, Becky finds a way to eke out a living as the Depression ravages the country. Though initially forced to rely on the generosity of friends and neighbours, she delivers groceries, reluctantly assists the local midwife Patience Murphy, and becomes a part time staff nurse at a nearby Civilian Conservation Corps camp.
Characterisation is a real strength of Harman's writing. Becky is not a saint, she can be uptight and prideful, she is often frustrated by Blum's non responsiveness and resents having to work as a midwife when the whole notion of childbirth horrifies her, however it is difficult to fault her drive to better her circumstances. I really enjoyed the way her hard edges softened over the course of the novel. Readers familiar with The Midwife of Hope River may remember Dr Blum as an arrogant and cold man. His unexplained catonia was precipitated by the death of his wife, and he is now a pitiful man but his silence also hides a secret. I loved reconnecting with Patience Murphy, Hope River's sole midwife, now married to the 'new' vet, Daniel Hester and the mother of a young son, but even more minor characters, like Nico and Captain Wolfe are well drawn and believable.
The Reluctant Midwife is a captivating story of hardship, loss, friendship, and hope. Though its not necessary to have read The Midwife of Hope River to enjoy The Reluctant Midwife, I would recommend it, simply because it too is a wonderful story. ...more
Crushed when she discovers her live in boyfriend of three years has been having an affair, ICU nurse Kate Kennedy packs up her belongings and desperat Crushed when she discovers her live in boyfriend of three years has been having an affair, ICU nurse Kate Kennedy packs up her belongings and desperate to move on, impulsively accepts a position at a hospital in the small country town of Birrangulla, five hours west of Sydney. Everything seems to be falling into place, she's found the perfect job, the perfect home, and in search of the the perfect cup of coffee, may just have found the perfect man, but
Intensive Care is a contemporary rural medical romance in which the author, Nicki Edwards, draws on her love of country Australia and her personal nursing experience.
I found Kate to be a bit of a passive-aggressive character. There is a lot of emphasis on her dislike of confrontation but I thought she was often over sensitive, snappish and impatient. I understood her avoidance of her cheating boyfriend Marcus, especially as more details about their relationship were revealed, and sympathised with her feelings of hurt and betrayal. And while I admired Kate's professional compassion for her patients, her reaction to Joel's sister's concerns bothered me, she didn't demonstrate a lot of understanding for the younger woman's fears.
Taking place over the period of about a year the romance between Kate and Joel develops slowly. Though they both have good reasons to be wary of beginning a new relationship, I found their chemistry a bit lacking. Joel in particularly seems disinterested much of the time while Kate tries to force the issue, which was slightly discomfiting.
Joel, with his Irish accent, coffee making genius, and handyman skills, is an appealing hero, made more so by his tragic past. Though perhaps a little passive for my taste, I found him sweet and charming.
A blend of medical drama, and rural romance, Intensive Care is a pleasant novel which should appeal to fans of both genres....more
Anna Olmstead is just nine when she meets Asher, a dashing, centuries old vampire who rescues her from her father pimping both his daughter's magical talent and more to any one with a few dollars. Asher is her saviour, he provides her a life of wealth and privilege, love and protection and as Anna grows she is determined to always be at his side. At fourteen she becomes Asher's legal consort and later his lover, believing all of her dreams have come true. Eventually however the relationship begins to sour as Asher's true nature asserts itself, and things begin to spiral out of control. Still she can't let go, and Asher refuses to free her, until one murderous, bloody night. Almost a decade later Anna is happily married and the mother of two young sons, her life with Asher behind her, when an attempt is made to kidnap her and Anna has no choice except to confront the man she once loved with all her heart.
Witch Upon a Star is actually a story of corrupted innocence and dark obsession. There is little humour, and the themes are confronting touching on child abuse, drug addiction and exploitation. Don't get me wrong, the novel is well written and the story is quite affecting but I was thrown by the unexpected seriousness.
To be fair the synopsis hints at the seriousness of the story but the whimsical title, cutesy cover and the reputation of the author for snarky humour, contradicts it. As long as the reader is aware of what they are getting into, Witch Upon A Star is a good read....more
Emergence is a darkly funny, action packed fantasy adventure from Australian author John Birmingham.
An oil rig off of the coast of New Orleans is und Emergence is a darkly funny, action packed fantasy adventure from Australian author John Birmingham.
An oil rig off of the coast of New Orleans is under attack, not from terrorists, but from a group of terrifying monsters who have clawed their way up from the deep. Dave Hooper, the rig's safety engineer, is hungover and pissed when he finds a hairless, scabrous ape like creature that calls itself a Hunn snacking on the ribcage of his best mate and in a fit of rage crushes its skull with a splitting maul. Hours later he wakes in hospital and discovers his battle with the monster has somehow triggered super hero like abilities... and now Dave must save the world.
Dave Hooper is an anti-hero, who works hard but plays even harder. He takes his job seriously but he spends his downtime partying with hookers and blow, dodging the IRS and calls from his wife's divorce attorney. He is a lousy father with a crude vocabulary and politically incorrect opinions. Dave is not a man you could expect to count on, but the world it seems will have little choice.
The fast paced, explosive action sees the military struggling against the frenzied attack of an advance troop of Hunn as they storm their way through the tears in the veil and set upon New Orleans unprepared citizens. It has been centuries since the Hunn last roamed the earth and they don't expect any resistance from mankind so they are dismissive of what they encounter, for though armed only with primitive weapons and basic armour, the Hunn possess enormous strength, speed and thick hides. As New Orleans threatens to become overrun by the man eating demons, Dave is forced to step up and vanquish the Hunn back to the Underworld.
Emergence won't appeal to everyone but I found it richly imaginative, hugely entertaining and inappropriately hilarious. I'm looking forward to Dave Hooper's next adventure in Resistance...more