I launched into Friday On My Mind, book five of the Freida Klein series by Nicci French, directly after finishing Thursday's Children.
Fast paced and I launched into Friday On My Mind, book five of the Freida Klein series by Nicci French, directly after finishing Thursday's Children.
Fast paced and tense this is another page turning installment of the series. In Friday On My Mind, Frieda is accused of murder when the body of her ex lover, Sandy is found floating in the Thames, his throat slit. While the police focus their investigation on Frieda, she immediately suspects her obsessive stalker, Dean Reeve, is responsible and unable to convince the police of her innocence, goes on the run, determined to expose the killer and clear her name.
Frieda is of course expecting her search for evidence will lead her to prove Dean Reeve is alive and culpable, but as she delves into Sandy's recent past, she begins to wonder if someone else could be responsible. In her methodical and fearless way Frieda insinuates into the lives of those closest to Sandy, doggedly hunting his killer all while trying to keep a low profile but as the mystery unfolds a shocking twist proves the murderer is closer than she thinks. Even though Frieda manages to stay one step ahead of the police, a reckoning with the killer has consequences for all of them, both deadly and unexpected.
"'That's part of Freida's problem. She doesn't want to get off. She wants the truth.'"
Though Frieda is determined to protect her loyal friends from the fall out of the case, they rally to support her, even when it puts them at risk of prosecution. Karlsson in particular faces trouble when he defends Freida against the vindictive police commissioner and his pet psychiatrist. Josef shrugs off threats of deportation, doing everything he can to aid Frieda's fight, and even the emotionally fragile Sasha doesn't hesitate to offer her refuge.
"'I just follow where the evidence leads me, and in this case the evidence suggests that where Frieda Klein goes a trail of chaos follows. What her precise role in this happens to be has always been difficult to pin down. As you will probably discover, Frieda Klein also has some strange associates. How these things happen, I don't pretend to know, but they happen, and they continue to happen'"
I'm looking forward to learning what happens next....more
In Erika Swyler's gorgeous debut novel, The Book of Speculation, Simon Watson receives an old ledger that once belonged to a traveling carnival in the In Erika Swyler's gorgeous debut novel, The Book of Speculation, Simon Watson receives an old ledger that once belonged to a traveling carnival in the mail, along with a note mentioning a connection to his late mother's family. Struggling with his recent redundancy, the inevitable crumbling of his family home into the sea, and the return of his sister, Simon develops an obsession with the book which reveals a troubling history. For generations, the women of his family, all with a talent for holding their breath, including his mother, have drowned on the same date.
Dual narratives reveal Simon's growing concern for his fragile sister as July 24th approaches, and the truth of the tragic curse that has haunted their family since the early 1800's beginning with Evangeline, 'The Atlantis Mermaid'. Similar themes are reflected in both tales - lust, guilt, love, betrayal, loss, and magic, and tangible connections are drawn with a tattered deck of tarot cards and the appearance of horseshoe crabs.
"At the corner of a page, just above a quickly jotted note about oppressive heat and fog, is a delicate brown illustration of a horseshoe crab. I shut the book and leave the house as quickly as my ankle allows. I need to get into the water, to clear my head....On the sand, crabs scramble around my feet and over each other. The tide has come up since the afternoon, hiding the thousands more horseshoes that lurk beneath."
I loved reading about Peabody's spectacular traveling carnival. The characters of The Wild Boy, the Seer, the Mermaid and Peabody himself are vividly drawn, their dark secrets are haunting and tragic.
"Heralded by a glorious voice, a troupe of traveling entertainers arrived. A mismatched collection of jugglers, acrobats, fortune-tellers, contortionists, and animals, the band was presided over by Hermelius H. Peabody, self-proclaimed visionary in entertainment and education, who thought the performers and animals (a counting pig deemed learned, a horse of miniature proportions, and a spitting llama) were instruments for improving minds and fattening his purse."
The pace of the novel is measured, reflecting the melancholic, often close, atmosphere of the novel. The tension builds slowly in both timelines, as the truth of the curse is unraveled. The prose is often beautiful and enhanced by the illustrations that accompany it.
The Book of Speculation an enchanting tale.
"She knows that her name will find its way into his speculations. So will his. Because there are things you do for people you've known your whole life. You let them save you, you put them in your books, and you let each other begin again, clean."...more
Set in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales Palace of Tears is a generational saga of family, passion, secrets and vengeance from debut author Julian Set in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales Palace of Tears is a generational saga of family, passion, secrets and vengeance from debut author Julian Leatherdale.
The shifting third person narrative unfolds from the perspective of several characters, Angie and her mother Freya; Adam's wives, Adelina and Laura; Laura's daughter, Monika; and in the present day, Lisa, Monika's daughter. Only briefly do we hear from Adam Fox, the owner of the Palace and the man who connects these three generations of women.
Lisa's interest in the past is triggered when, during a visit with her ailing mother, Monika laments the mysterious fate of Angie, the 'girl who broke Adam Fox's heart'. The name is unfamiliar to Lisa and curious she decides to investigate, contacting Palace historian Luke Davis. Over the course of the novel, Leatherdale unravels a family history marred by untimely death, adultery, betrayal, heartbreak and revenge. What became of Angie remains a mystery til the very end with a surprising twist.
Leatherdale firmly grounds his fictional characters in time and place. Adam Fox's Palace is modeled on the Hydro Majestic Hotel, opened in 1904 in the tiny township of Medlow Bath in the upper Blue Mountains and he ably describes the opulence of the hotel and the magnificence of the setting. The author also references several relevant historical events of the first half of the twentieth century from the wartime internment camps, to the deadly influenza outbreak that swept New South Wales, to Arthur Conan Doyle's Antipodean tour, enriching the story with intriguing detail.
The tale is well structured, despite shifting between multiple perspectives and time periods. The story is well paced, with plenty of twists and turns in the plot to maintain interest. Descriptions, particularly of the setting are vivid, and
Melding history and fiction, Palace of Tears is an entertaining novel and an impressive debut from Julian Leatherdale.
"Nothing was achieved without risk and cost. The allure of the mountains had taught Adam that lesson.... The mountains offered up vistas of inspiration, horizons of wonder where the mind dared to leap and the imagination to soar. It enriched the spirit, breathed hope back in to the wounded heart. Yet there was always that reminder of the fall: vertigo's strange seduction that dragged you down the bright waterfall into the shadow of the valley below. Mortality, failure, despair - all these must be acknowledged. Adam realised, over time, that his beloved mountains expressed the inner drama of his own soul."...more
Leap by Myfanwy Jones is a sharply observed story of grief and guilt and the struggle to move on from loss.
Three years after the tragic death of his g Leap by Myfanwy Jones is a sharply observed story of grief and guilt and the struggle to move on from loss.
Three years after the tragic death of his girlfriend, Joe is still wallowing in guilt. Unable to re-imagine his future without her, he simply aims to stay busy, working two dead end jobs, and running through the darkened streets of Melbourne, leaping any obstacles in his way. Elsewhere, Elise's marriage is falling apart and her work is uninspiring, mournful and lonely, she is drawn to the beauty and violence of the tigers housed at the Melbourne Zoo.
In Leap, Jones has created two very different characters deeply affected by their respective losses, angry, heart broken and plagued by inertia they are unable to move forward with their own lives.
So Joe is challenged by the slow return of his desire for life. Moving on feels like a betrayal, but his punishing routine of parkour and work is no longer as satisfying as it once was given his attraction to his newest housemate, an enigmatic nurse. He is further challenged by the charm of his blue-eyed workmate, the ailing health of his Uncle and the needs of the young troubled teen he mentors.
Meanwhile the listlessness pressing on Elise is finally pierced when her husband announces he is leaving her. She escapes, not unhappily, to the home of her best friend for a few weeks and on her return home immerses herself in her obsession with the tigers at the zoo, enjoying being unaccountable to anyone but herself. Alone, she is finally able to confront her resentment and grief, to mourn her lost daughter on her own terms.
While I struggled a little with the narrative initially, which is shared between the two characters and moves between the past and present, I soon settled into the rhythm of the story. The emotion is powerful, yet the story is not without humour. The prose is thoughtful and genuine.
Well written, Leap is a moving novel.
"And maybe no trick he pulls off is ever going to bring her back but this one-it's for her. He is going to make a perfect landing. Breathes: One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Leaps"...more
This slim volume from E.C. Osondu is less a novel and more a collection of short stories, similar to the author's first work, Voice of America.
Set in This slim volume from E.C. Osondu is less a novel and more a collection of short stories, similar to the author's first work, Voice of America.
Set in Nigeria, centered around the 'Family House', the home owned by the unnamed narrator's grandpa, each chapter tells a story linked to one of the many characters that reside there, from a thieving servant, to dissolute 'uncles', to orphaned children, and desperate widows.
The stories are mostly grim with themes such as adultery, murder, poverty, exploitation and rape, though there are flashes of dark humour. Some have a near myth-like edge but essentially reflect contemporary life in rural Nigeria. The stories are also said to reflect Nigeria's political state, rife with corruption, injustice and poverty.
I have to admit that while I found it somewhat interesting, I didn't particularly enjoy This House is Not For Sale.
The Sunlit Night is the story of Frances and Yasha whose paths cross far from home 'at the top of the world'. Frances is completing an art internship The Sunlit Night is the story of Frances and Yasha whose paths cross far from home 'at the top of the world'. Frances is completing an art internship while Yasha is in Lofoten to fulfill his father's dying wish. It is a story of family, grief, growing up and belonging.
I found Yasha to be a more likeable character than Frances, perhaps because his woes were less superficial than hers. His story was more interesting and developed than hers, and I didn't feel I learnt much about Frances at all. Unfortunately I wasn't convinced by Yasha and Frances's romantic connection either, though they had reason to form a friendship, I didn't think there was any chemistry between them.
What I did really like was the novel's unique setting. The Sunlit Night is set in Lofoten, an archipelago of six tiny islands in the Norwegian Sea, ninety-five miles north of the Arctic Circle. During the later spring and summer months, in which most of this tale takes place, the sun never dips below the horizon.
"These hours were characterized by a wildness of colors, the combined power of a sunset and sunrise. It was easy to watch the horizon for hours straight, the sun in perpetual motion, the sky turning orange and cranberry until at three it returned to blue, and I felt ready for bed."
I enjoyed Dinerstein's descriptions of the archipelago, though mere words barely do the beauty of this place justice (*google for photos*).
"The world was perpetually visible, so I looked at it. Conditioned by hours in the Yellow Room, I saw the landscape in colorblock. The midnight sun came in shades of pink. The fjords rushed up onto white-sanded beaches, and the sand made the water Bermuda-green. The house were always red. They appeared in clusters, villages, wherever the land lay flat. Mountains rose steeply behind each village-menaces and guardians. Each red house was a lighthouse, marking the boundary between one terrain and another, preventing crashes, somehow providing solace."
The Sunlit Night is not without its charms, there is humour, genuine emotion, and some lovely prose, but the plot is weak and the pace uneven. My attention wavered during the last third or so of the book, much of which didn't seem to quite make sense and felt rushed.
In the end, I would rate it as an okay read however others may be more appreciative....more
This is the fourth installment of Ace Atkin's crime fiction series featuring former Army Ranger Quinn Colson, now Sheriff of Tebbehah County in rural This is the fourth installment of Ace Atkin's crime fiction series featuring former Army Ranger Quinn Colson, now Sheriff of Tebbehah County in rural northeast Mississippi.
The Forsaken begins a few short months after the tornado that devastated the county as Quinn and his deputy, Lillie, are faced with possible charges for the dramatic confrontation in The Broken Places that left a corrupt sheriff and his deputy from another county dead, and over $200,000 in cash from a decades old armoured car robbery missing.
It's no surprise that Johnny Stagg is behind the investigation into the shooting but his motive is. It seems Stagg's past is about to catch up with him and, needing Colson on his side for this particular battle, he has concocted an elaborate scheme to ensure Quinn's support.
Doing his best to ignore Stagg's machinations, which isn't doing his chances for re-election as Sheriff any good, Colson is drawn into investigating a decades old cold case involving the rape and murder of a young girl, and the subsequent lynching of the black man accused of committing the crime. Finding evidence that the man was innocent, Colson is determined to identify the men and bring the members of the lynching party to justice.
The narrative moves between the past and the present, and once again, Colson's professional and personal life become tangled when he learns that both his uncle, the former town Sheriff, and his absentee father, were most likely involved in the crime.
As I have come to expect, the dialogue is genuine, the humour quick and there is enough action to keep things interesting. The rural setting is well drawn and the details authentic. The characters are terrifically well drawn, often deeply flawed but interesting and nuanced.
Though The Forsaken could conceivably be read as a stand alone, I wouldn't recommend it as familiarity with the primary characters and their history adds depth to the story. I continue to enjoy this gritty series and I'm looking forward to reading The Redeemers....more
Even though I am one of the very few book bloggers with no real ambition to write, I can appreciate the wisdom Fiona McIntosh imparts in 'How To Write Even though I am one of the very few book bloggers with no real ambition to write, I can appreciate the wisdom Fiona McIntosh imparts in 'How To Write Your Blockbuster', offering practical, no nonsense advice for aspiring writers.
McIntosh insists discipline is an essential skill for a writer. She encourages dabblers to set themselves up to succeed by developing good working habits and understanding what it is they want to write.
Whether you are a 'plotter' or a 'pantser' she has practical advice for getting started. I really like her 'word count equation', it seems to me that the idea would make the process of writing a first draft much less intimidating.
McIntosh then goes on to discuss technique in developing character, plot, dialogue, pacing and exposition with reference to what she has learned in her own work. Each chapter is also accompanied by exercises to complete.
For those with a completed manuscript, McIntosh advises writers on the next step, including presentation and submission to Australian commercial fiction publishers, and shares knowledge about what might come next for those lucky enough to see their book in print.
'How To Write Your Blockbuster' is a solid resource for a fledgling writer from a talented and accomplished commercial fiction author who writes across several genres. Make sure your browse Fiona McIntosh's extensive oeuvre - my favourites include The Scrivener's Tale and The Lavender Keeper....more
While the tone and style of Blume's writing remains remarkably familiar, the subject of this novel is quite different from what some may expect. Inspired by a series of passenger airplanes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey within a three-month period in 1951–1952, the author brings to life three generations of families, friends, and strangers, who are all profoundly affected by these events, either directly or indirectly.
While Blume employs multiple points of view in the narrative it is teenager Miri Ammerman who has the strongest voice. Against the background of such frightening community tragedy, Miri struggles with the typical trials of adolescence, such as identity, friendship, family and first love. Meanwhile her Uncle Henry makes his name as the journalist who covers the incidents, her best friend, Natalie, is haunted by a plane crash victim, and an elderly man mourning his wife beds down on her grandmother's couch. The large cast may be off-putting to some readers but I felt the the varied perspectives enriched the narrative.
Blume successfully brings to life the facts surrounding the New Jersey plane crashes, honouring the real life victims of the tragedies. She authentically evokes the era that heralded social change in America, exploring issues such as changing morality and political unrest.
Written with genuine compassion and insight, and with finely drawn characterisation, In the Unlikely Event is an engaging story of life's ordinary and extraordinary events. ...more
Kelsea Glynn, now the reigning Queen of Tearling, is p The Invasion of the Tearling is the sequel to Erika Johansen's debut, The Queen of the Tearling.
Kelsea Glynn, now the reigning Queen of Tearling, is preparing for war with The Red Queen, having put a stop to the human tithing practiced by her country's former rulers. As Mortmesme's forces amass on the border, Kelsea struggles to determine a way for her vulnerable country to defend itself from the invasion while dealing with internal strife and the challenges of the kingdom.
'Invasion' also endeavours to explain the origins of the Tearling world, revealing the secrets of The Crossing, through crippling visions experienced by Kelsea. It's quite an unusual story that reveals why Johansen's world blends a feudal society and magic with reminders of modern life.
As a character, Kelsea undergoes some dramatic changes in this instalment, and not for the better. Haunted by the visions of Lily's life, the visits of a mysterious dark spirit, and the seductive power of the emeralds, Kelsea becomes secretive and increasingly dark. I was disappointed by the inconsistencies and sometimes confused by her changing motivations.
I didn't always find it easy to follow the narrative of The Invasion of the Tearling either. The shifts between Kelsea's world and her visions of Lily's were sometimes jarring, additionally there were a couple of minor story threads that seemed to dissolve into nothing, while others contributed little to the overall story. I'm also at a loss to understand Kelsea's physical changes, which seem rather absurd.
The Invasion of the Tearling builds to a confrontation between Kelsea and The Red Queen but again ends with more questions than answers. I'm curious as to how Johansen will choose to end things in the final book of the trilogy, but I'm worried she will be unable to pull everything together in a satisfying manner. ...more
Little Black Lies is a taut, twisty thriller from Sharon Bolton. It begins when a child goes missing, the third in three years from the sparsely popul Little Black Lies is a taut, twisty thriller from Sharon Bolton. It begins when a child goes missing, the third in three years from the sparsely populated Falkland Islands.
The narrative is divided into thirds, unfolding from the perspectives of three unique and complex characters. For Catrin the disappearance is an inconvenience. She has a schedule to keep, plans for the woman she blames for the tragic death of her young sons as an anniversary approaches. Callum, an ex-soldier with PTSD, has a theory about the abducted children that the local police are choosing to ignore. Rachel, who spends most of her days in bed, is largely oblivious until her youngest son goes missing.
The well crafted plot, which I don't wish to elaborate on, reveals the links between these characters, whose lives have been tainted by grief and tragedy, and their connection to the missing children over a period of five days. Though the pace is measured, the story is propelled by cinching tension and breath taking twists.
The setting is atmospheric, the isolated island itself has great presence in the novel from its rugged coastline to its rocky terrain, and its history, as the site of the bloody if short lived war for sovereignty between Britain and Argentina in the early 1980's, also plays into the story.
Fans of poetry should enjoy the references throughout the novel to 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Bolton skilfully utilises the imagery the verses evoke.
Since then, at an uncertain hour, That agony returns: And till my ghastly tale is told, This heart within me burns.
Little Black Lies is a tense, dark and disturbing story about revenge and redemption, that leads to a stunning conclusion. I could hardly put it down....more
The Secret Years is Barbara Hannay's 49th book, in which she blends a contemporary and historical narrative to present an engaging novel about family, The Secret Years is Barbara Hannay's 49th book, in which she blends a contemporary and historical narrative to present an engaging novel about family, heroism, heartbreak and love.
Army logistics officer Lucy Hunter is relieved to be home in Townsville after her six month deployment in Afghanistan but she isn't prepared for the changes in store for her. Her mother has exchanged her childhood home for a sterile condo apartment she is sharing with a new man, her grandfather's health is failing, and her fiance, Sam, has cold feet. With several weeks of leave ahead of her, Lucy is at a loose end until she discovers a box of wartime memorabilia that contains clues to her family's history that neither her mother or grandfather are willing to talk about. Hoping to understand the secrets of the past, Lucy travels to Cornwall, a place where she just might find her future.
Moving between the past and present, the narrative shifts between Lucy's journey to unravel her family's secrets, and the story of the relationship between Lucy's cattleman grandfather, Harry, and his aristocratic bride, Georgina. Emotions run high in both timelines through scenes of wartime drama, desperate passion and captivating romance.
I liked Lucy and I sympathised with her desire to understand the past. The mystery stems from the discord between Lucy's mother, Ro and Lucy's grandfather, Harry, which Lucy learns is related to her mother's brief time in England. I also enjoyed Lucy's romance with the dashing Nick.
But it was the story of Harry and George's courtship and marriage that I found particularly entrancing. Their love is touching, and their wartime experiences are exciting, if also sobering.
The story takes us from Australia's coastline and outback, to London during the Blitz, from the wild bluffs of Cornwall to the jungles of Papua New Guinea as the Japanese invade. Both the contemporary and wartime settings are vividly described, as are the characters experiences of them.
The Secret Years is well written with appealing characters and a moving story. Another winning romance....more
"The story of forensic science, of that road from crime scene to courtroom, is the stuff of thousands of crime novels."
Val McDermid is the bestselling "The story of forensic science, of that road from crime scene to courtroom, is the stuff of thousands of crime novels."
Val McDermid is the bestselling crime fiction author of more than thirty novels, including her popular series featuring criminal profiler Tony Hill and Detective Inspector Carol Jordan. In Forensics, Val McDermid pays homage to the science that informs her work.
Drawing on interviews with leading forensic scientists about the history, practice and future of their varied disciplines, the latest research, and her own experiences, McDermid delves into the grimly fascinating anatomy of crime.
In exploring a wide range of forensic disciplines; fire scene investigation, entomology, pathology, toxicology, fingerprinting, blood spatter, DNA, anthropology, facial reconstruction, digital forensics, and forensic psychology, McDermid illustrates the science with both historical and modern day landmark cases, from the fire that razed London in 1666, to the dozens of serial murders committed by Doctor Harold Shipman.
The factual and scientific detail presented is easily accessible, clear, concise and not overly complex. I was fascinated to learn about the advances in DNA profiling for example, and the development of the science of entomology, first documented more than 750 years ago in a Chinese handbook for coroners called The Washing Away of Wrongs.
McDermid also takes the time to dispel some popular myths given life by television shows such as CSI and Law and Order. Despite her admiration for the usefulness of forensic sciences, she is careful to explain that no forensic discipline is infallible, DNA can be contaminated, fingerprints can be misinterpreted, crime scenes can be manipulated. Solving crimes, and perhaps more importantly ensuring convictions, relies on thorough investigation along with a combination of forensic disciplines.
Informative and entertaining, Forensics is an utterly engrossing read that should interest crime fiction readers, writers and anyone with interest in the field of forensics or law....more
Fast and Loose is an entertaining sequel to Nicholas J Johnson's first novel, Chasing The Ace.
It begins around a year after Joel Fitch, a young, wanna Fast and Loose is an entertaining sequel to Nicholas J Johnson's first novel, Chasing The Ace.
It begins around a year after Joel Fitch, a young, wannabe grifter, and Richard Mordecai, his world-weary con 'artiste' mentor, have parted ways. Joel has fled Melbourne and is sharing a flat with his father in Sydney when he is identified by a former mark, tabloid news producer Danny Hemming. Hemming, angling for a promotion, blackmails Joel into starring in a series of on camera exposé's, showing the public how easily they can be conned by an accomplished swindler. But whom exactly is conning who?
"Victors. Villains. Victims. Once you figure out which one your target is, the rest falls into place."
As the novel unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Joel and Danny, you can never be sure where the truth really lies in this fast paced story of secrets, betrayal, swindles and surprises.
Joel, who claims to have retired, seems to be floundering, as Hemming, chasing ratings, demands ever increasingly 'flashy' stings, progressing from conning university students in a mystery shopper scam, to swindling a bunch of drug dealers and exposing an insider trader scheme, in which Joel's dad is involved.
There is action, humour, suspense and plenty of twists in the complex plot. The 'cons' are clever, and a little scary. The author draws on his own knowledge and experience as an expert on fraud and deception to show just how easily people can be fooled, and how often we deceive ourselves.
Though Fast and Loose can be read as a stand alone, I'd recommend reading Chasing the Ace first. A quick and entertaining novel, I enjoyed Fast and Loose...you believe me, don't you?...more
I've already informed my family that when I die I want what is left of my body (I'm a registered organ donor) to be delivered directly to the cremator I've already informed my family that when I die I want what is left of my body (I'm a registered organ donor) to be delivered directly to the crematorium - there is to be no coffin, no viewing, no funeral service, and afterwards they are welcome to do whatever they like with my ashes, whether that be keep them, scatter them or inter them in a wall. To me this seem practical, and is as much thought as I have given to the inevitably of my death.
Few people like to dwell on the fate of their 'mortal coil', but Caitlin Doughty has always had a morbid fascination with death, reinforced when, as a child, she witnessed a toddler plunge three stories to her death in a shopping mall. At twenty three, with a degree in Medieval Studies, she secured a job as a crematory operator at Westwind Cremation and Burial, confronting her curiousity and concerns head on.
In Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Doughty blends the tales of her experiences at Westwind, and later as a licensed mortician, with a brief historical and cultural overview of death rituals, and her philosophical musings. She feels strongly that modern day western society is too removed from the processes of death and is an advocate for 'death awareness' - working to redefine culture’s relationship to mortality, grief, and death customs. To this end she co founded The Order of the Good Death and hosts a YouTube series called Ask a Mortician, and the thrust of this book asks the reader to consider their end of life choices, before it is too late.
I applaud Doughty for attempting to engage the interest of a squeamish mainstream. Written with humour, respect and real passion for her subject, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is an informative and thought provoking read.
"Death drives every creative and destructive impulse we have as human beings. The closer we come to understanding it, the closer we come to understanding ourselves."...more
This title has been on my 'to read' list for eons. First published in 2011 this reprint coincides with the launch of CW's new television series, iZomb This title has been on my 'to read' list for eons. First published in 2011 this reprint coincides with the launch of CW's new television series, iZombie. There is some debate as to the source of producer, Rob Thomas's inspiration - there are vague similarities between the show and this novel, but Thomas claims the show is a loose adaption of the Vertigo comic book series of the same name (beginning with Dead to the World).
My Life as a White Trash Zombie is the first book in a series featuring Angel Crawford, an unemployed, high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record, who wakes up in the ER after an overdose she doesn't remember taking. Confused, but accepting the scenario, she is further puzzled when she receives a letter notifying her that a job is waiting for her at the morgue, intimating that failing to follow through will result in her going to jail. Despite her reservations Angel reports for duty and soon discovers that whoever anonymously secured her the job has in fact saved her life, or at least her afterlife, because Angel is now a zombie, and needs to consume brains to avoid rotting away.
A zombie is an unlikely heroine, especially one with Angel's 'white-trash' background, but Rowland has created a surprisingly likeable protagonist. Forced to figure out the rules for her new afterlife on her own, the character growth is really surprising, involving not only staying 'alive' but also getting sober and dealing with her alcoholic father and her 'asstard' boyfriend.
The mystery reveals itself when headless bodies begin turning up and Angel begins to suspect a rogue zombie is murdering the populace to feed, until she learns the dead were also zombies. Angel needs to figure out who is hunting zombies before she becomes the next victim. The answers to Angels' questions are fairly predictable, including who made her a zombie, but I enjoyed it anyway.
My Life as a White Trash Zombie is a quick, fun read offering plenty of snarky humour, as well as some gross descriptions of bodies that might turn the stomach of the squeamish, a touch of romance, mystery and action.
Nicole Trope's fourth novel, Hush, Little Bird is a thought provoking and heartbreaking story.
Hush, Little Bird is told from the alternative first per
Nicole Trope's fourth novel, Hush, Little Bird is a thought provoking and heartbreaking story.
Hush, Little Bird is told from the alternative first person perspectives of two very different women, both serving sentences in a minimum security prison, linked by the actions of one man, Simon, a former television celebrity, Birdy's childhood abuser and Rose's late husband.
It is a harrowing tale that details the suffering of a young, vulnerable girl at the hands of her abuser and the lasting consequences of his actions; and the implosion of a dutiful wife's life when her husband's shocking secrets are revealed. Trope gives each woman, both victims, a voice that ultimately shatters the silence they have taken refuge in to protect themselves.
A story of innocence betrayed, regret, forgiveness and revenge, Hush, Little Bird is told with keen insight and compassion for the victims of abusers. Though this may be a confronting read for some, it is a story that needs to be told.
" I do not want them silenced. I just want them to know that they have been heard"
Amy Andrews is an award-winning, best-selling Australian author who has written more than forty contemporary and medical romances. Limbo, with its ble Amy Andrews is an award-winning, best-selling Australian author who has written more than forty contemporary and medical romances. Limbo, with its blend of romance, suspense, humour and touch of the paranormal is quite a departure from her usual fare.
When the ghost of a murdered mother begs for her help to save her kidnapped daughter, Joy Valentine, country singer and funeral home makeup artist, knows the police won't take her seriously so she reluctantly turns to the one person who might believe her, disgraced ex-cop turned private investigator Dash Dent. The police think baby Isabelle is probably dead but Joy and Dash are convinced Joy's ghostly vision was genuine and set out to find the missing infant.
Though still a romance novel at its core, Andrews establishes an intriguing mystery surrounding the disappearance of the murdered woman, and her missing daughter. Dash and Joy slowly piece together the scant evidence available to determine exactly what happened on the day Hailey and Isabelle went missing, and where the pair have been for the six months prior to the discovery of Hailey's body.
The characterisation is wonderful, I really liked both Dash and Joy, who are well rounded protagonists with interesting back stories. I loved their chemistry, the sexual tension between the mismatched pair is palpable and there are a couple of intimate scenes that really sizzle. The cast of quirky supporting characters including an unconventional clergyman, a brothel madam and two horny goldfish, are equally delightful.
There is lots of humour, often found in unexpected places and while there is a little in the way of action, there is plenty of tension and suspense. The inner city setting gives the story a modern urban feel.
I finished the book in one sitting and I'm hoping Amy Andrews will follow up Limbo with another soon....more
I would probably not have given this book a second glance except that just days before it was offered to me for review I had read Turtle Reef, an Aust I would probably not have given this book a second glance except that just days before it was offered to me for review I had read Turtle Reef, an Australian contemporary romance novel, in which the heroine, working at a marine park, befriended an octopus. I was intrigued by the relationship and was delighted by the opportunity to learn more.
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, is written by Sy Montgomery, an author, naturalist, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator. It offers a very readable and rather unique blend of personal experience, scientific knowledge and philosophical opinion about what is understood, and unknown, about the nature of octopuses.
I knew little about octopuses—not even that the scientifically correct plural is not octopi, as I had always believed (it turns out you can’t put a Latin ending—i—on a word derived from Greek, such as octopus). But what I did know intrigued me. Here is an animal with venom like a snake, a beak like a parrot, and ink like an old-fashioned pen. It can weigh as much as a man and stretch as long as a car, yet it can pour its baggy, boneless body through an opening the size of an orange. It can change color and shape. It can taste with its skin. Most fascinating of all, I had read that octopuses are smart."
What Montogomery is able to show in The Soul of an Octopus is that octopuses are complex creatures who exhibit personality, intelligence and emotion, despite having neural systems completely alien to our own. During her time spent at the New England Aquarium she befriended several individual octopuses including Athena, who was the subject of a popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, "Deep Intellect" which went viral and was the inspiration for this book, Octavia, Kali and Karma. Through her study of, and interaction with, these extraordinary creatures she shares what she learns from both science and her experiences, while musing on the mystery of the 'inner lives' of the octopus, who grow from the size of a grain of rice and live for, on average, just four short years.
The Soul of an Octopus is as smart, playful, curious and surprising as the creature it features. A fascinating read I'd highly recommend. ...more
In her introduction to Eat the Week: Every Meal Every Day, Anna Barnett, blogger (www.annabarnett.com), columnist ('The Reluctant Vegetarian' in the U In her introduction to Eat the Week: Every Meal Every Day, Anna Barnett, blogger (www.annabarnett.com), columnist ('The Reluctant Vegetarian' in the UK newspaper Independent) and pop up restauranteur writes,
"This book is drawn from all my enthusiasms and experiences; it's food from and for the lives many of us lead. It's aim is to serve as inspiration for fun, delicious dishes that you can dip in and out of, and that reflect real lives and lifestyles."
Offering a good mix of dishes suitable for singles, couples and families with a liking for fresh, (and mostly) healthy ingredients, Eat the Week is a good resource for a home cook looking for a simple way to add a gourmet touch to everyday meals.
The large hardcover cookbook is illustrated both with full page photographs of the dishes as well as some 'lifestyle' shots of the author. Neatly formatted, with a sentence or two of introduction, the recipes include both metric and imperial measurements, as well as a guide to prep and cooking time as well as serving size.
What I really like about Eat the Week is the way in which it is organised. For each day of the week, 'Budget Mondays', 'Lazy Tuesdays', 'Make it Fancy Wednesdays', 'Cooking for Company Thursdays', Barely in the Kitchen Fridays', ;Something Special Saturdays' and 'Slow Sundays', Barnett offers two menus which both include a Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Dessert and Leftovers.
A mixed sampling of the dishes includes Muffin Tinned Huevos Rancheros; Beet and Blueberry Smoothie; Asparagus, Parmesan & Pesto Crostini; Chilli Kale Chips; Pub Peanut Noodle Salad; Haloumi & Chorizo Salad Wrap; Fishcakes with Spicy Roasted Tomato Salsa; Cheat's Aubergine Parmigiana; Peanut Butter & Cherry Chocolate Cups; and Pineapple & Gooey Coconut Macaroon Stack. There are around 100 individual recipes, many of which are suitable for vegetarians. Few are labour intensive, most requiring a minimal amount of prep or cooking time, and appeal to varied grocery budgets.
Founded in March 2013, My Food Bag is a service that aims to provide simple and healthy recipes, along with the all of the ingredients to create them, Founded in March 2013, My Food Bag is a service that aims to provide simple and healthy recipes, along with the all of the ingredients to create them, to families in New Zealand and Australia. Firm believers in the real (or whole) food philosophy, My Food Bag recipes rely on 'farm-gate to plate' ingredients which are ethically sourced and delivered fresh to subscriber's doorsteps.
Easy Weeknight Meals is the company's first cookbook. While all of the recipes have been developed by professional chef's, a team led by Nadia Lim, My Food Bag claims all of the recipes have been tried and tested by home cooks.
The cookbook is organised seasonally, taking advantage of in-season produce in line with the company's whole food policy. The recipes are well set out with a bolded list of ingredients (metric measurements), and have clear instructions for prepping, cooking, and serving the dish. Prep and cook times are included as well as the nutritional information for each recipe.
Each recipe is a complete main meal often including vegetable or salad sides, as well as sauces. Almost all claim a serving size of 4-5 persons (2 adults and three young children or 2 adults and two teenagers). All of the meals can be prepared and served within an hour, most within 30 minutes.
There is a strong Asian influence amongst the recipes in the cookbook with dishes like Asian Pesto Fish with Sesame Spring Toss and Coconut Rice, Korean Beef and Shitake Mushroom Bibimbap, Sticky Hoisin and Ginger Pork with Rice and Bok Choy and Chicken Katsu Skewers with Cabbage and Sugar Snap Soba Noodles.
Middle Eastern inspired dishes are also popular including recipes such as Baked Lamb Kofta with Tomato Pilaf and Yoghurt Dressing, Harissa Chicken with Fennel, Orange, Baby Beet and Feta Tabouleh, and Hummus, Grilled Haloumi with Israeli Couscous, Yams and Herb Vinaigrette.
Traditional recipes are 'upgraded' with meals like Fish and Crispy Potatoes with Apple and Rocket Salad and Lemon Caper Aioli, Giant Pork, Pumpkin and Sage Sausage Rolls with Coleslaw, Venison Burgers with Roast Pepper and Blue Cheese, and Pizzettes with Olives, Feta, Oregano Oil and Greek Salad.
If I'm honest most of the recipes in Easy Weeknight Meals are too 'gourmet' for my family's taste, but for parents whose children are adventurous eaters, this cookbook could be a great resource for weekly meals. I also think Easy Weeknight Meals would be a useful reference for busy professional couples.
Though Hush Hush is the 12th mystery to feature journalist turned private investigator Tess Monaghan it can easily be read as a stand alone given its Though Hush Hush is the 12th mystery to feature journalist turned private investigator Tess Monaghan it can easily be read as a stand alone given its encapsulated story line.
In Hush Hush, Tess and her new partner, retired Baltimore P.D. homicide detective Sandy Sanchez, are hired to assess the security needs of Melisandre Harris Dawes, a woman who ten years previously had been charged with the wilful murder of her infant daughter. Having returned to Baltimore with an ambitious documentary maker in tow, Melisandre claims she wants to tell her side of the story and reunite with her estranged teenage daughters, Alanna and Ruby, but a series of sinister notes threaten both the project and the reunion.
The past and the present are on a collision course in this tale of madness, betrayal and murder.
Melisandre is manipulative and demanding and Tess suspects she is not being completely honest with her uncle, Melisandre's lawyer, Tyner Grey. Despite being found not guilty in the death of her child, due to postpartum psychosis, questions remain about Melisandre's past and the true motivation behind her current actions. Melisandre's surviving daughters, now teenagers, are conflicted about their mother's attempts to reach out to them, especially as their father is reluctant to allow contact, for both the obvious reasons and to keep his own secrets.
Lippman extends the story beyond the crime exploring the effects of Melisandre's actions on both her family and the wider community. She also examines the experience of motherhood and the ways in which women can struggle with it.
Events in Tess's personal life adds another layer of interest to the story. Tess is still adjusting to juggling motherhood with her career, and nurturing her relationship with Crow. She, like Melisandre, is also being taunted by a series of anonymous notes that grow increasingly threatening.
Hush Hush is a solid story of suspense with interesting characters, and though there is very little action, the pace is brisk with events taking place over a period of about two weeks. It is an easy and enjoyable read....more
Kingdom of the Strong is the fourth crime thriller by Tony Cavanaugh to feature ex homicide detective Darian Richards. In Promise and Dead Girl Sing, Kingdom of the Strong is the fourth crime thriller by Tony Cavanaugh to feature ex homicide detective Darian Richards. In Promise and Dead Girl Sing, Darian reluctantly came out of retirement, on his own terms, in order to stop a serial killer and a human trafficker respectively. In The Train Rider, he faced off with his nemesis, and lost. In Kingdom of the Strong, Darian is asked by his oldest friend and mentor, Police Commissioner Copeland Walsh, to return to Melbourne to investigate a decades old cold case.
Deputising QLD officer, Maria Chastain, Darian finds himself down the hall from his old squad, tasked to prove that the coroner's open finding in regards to the death of eighteen-year-old Isobel Vine in 1990 in no way implicates any of the four officers who were present at the original crime scene, one of whom is about to be named Walsh's successor. The pair quickly rule out suicide, but given the scant evidence, uncovering the truth more twenty years after the fact is a tremendous challenge.
As in previous books, Cavanaugh presents a rather cynical view of policing where ego and politics makes a mockery of the service. Darien is perhaps predisposed to believe the worst of the four officers who he can prove behaved questionably as young constables, but not definitively responsible for murder. There are plenty of twists and turns as Richards and his team are sidetracked by one of Isobel's former teacher's, an aging drug dealer, a hit man who takes a run at Maria, and Casey Lack, Maria's boyfriend. Few will be able to unravel the carefully crafted mystery before Darian does.
Kingdom of the Strong is a dark and gritty crime novel, but flashes of humour relieves the bleakness. I particularly enjoyed Isosceles frustration with the 'old-school' investigation, and Darien's rather macabre 'murder' tour of Melbourne.
In my review of The Train Rider I wrote that I hoped the author would reconsider his depiction of his 'uniformly beautiful, bright and sensual.' female characters, and I was surprised when the author got in touch to thank me for the criticism, promising to do better. Though there are few female characters in Kingdom of the Strong, I'm pleased to say I think Cavanaugh has done just that. The teenage victim, though long dead, is a nuanced character, and Maria has a more defined role in the story (with Isosceles ogling her cleavage far less often).
While Kingdom of the Strong can be read as a stand alone, I'd encourage readers to seek out Cavanaugh's backlist, you won't be disappointed.
*P.S. Thank you Tony, for your generous acknowledgement in Kingdom of the Strong....more
"I was used to being invisible. People rarely saw me, and if they did, they never looked close. I wasn't shiny and charming like my brother, stunning "I was used to being invisible. People rarely saw me, and if they did, they never looked close. I wasn't shiny and charming like my brother, stunning and graceful like my mother, or smart and dynamic like my friends. That's the thing though. You always think you want to be noticed. Until you are."
Saint Anything is a thoughtful contemporary tale exploring the themes of family, self discovery, belonging, and change.
Sydney Stanford is used to living in the shadow of her charismatic, if rebellious, older brother Peyton, but when he is convicted and imprisoned for a drink driving offense that left a fifteen year old paralysed, she struggles under the burden of his reflected guilt. Hoping to escape the gossip, and ease her parents financial burden, Sydney opts to transfer from her exclusive private school to a local public high school, where she befriends Layla Chatham and her brother Mac, after a chance meeting in the pizza parlour their parents own. Welcomed by the Chatham's, and their friends, Sydney's burden lightens but escaping her brother's legacy will not be that simple.
Sydney feels as if she is the only one that carries the burden of Peyton's actions. She is angry and frustrated by her mother's seeming failure to acknowledge her brother's guilt, or Sydney's feeling about the situation, but can't discuss the matter with her, as her mother is focused only on supporting Peyton.
"When she spoke again her voice had an hard edge to it. "It's very scary. Especially for your brother, who is locked away, alone, with no support system other than us, his family....If he can deal with that for seventeen months," she continues, "I think you can handle being slightly uncomfortable for a few hours. Don't you agree?"
With her parents distracted, and Sydney unwilling to make demands on them, she finds freedom to be herself in her friendship with Layla, and her burgeoning romance with Mac. I really liked the way Dessen developed these relationships, which are warm and realistic and equally as important to Sydney.
But with a single mistake everything begins to fall apart. I was itching for Sydney to stand up for herself, both with her parents and Ames, but I think Dessen stays true to her character. Sydney has to develop the confidence and a surer sense of self before she can stand her ground.
"Why are you being like this?" I asked her. "I'm not a bad kid, and you know it, This was one night, one thing. One mistake. And I'm sorry. But you can't-" "Your brother started with one mistake as well, she replied. "Which led to another. And another." "I'm not Peyton" I said. It seemed crazy I'd have to say this, as all my life they'd made it clear it was the one thing they knew for sure.
Sydney's story is one that would often be overlooked in favour of Peyton's drama or his victim's tragedy, but Dessen ensures it is just as important and affecting. Saint Anything is a quiet but emotionally powerful novel, thoughtful and beautifully written. ...more
Picking up a year after the events of the first book, Dora Witherspoon is called back to Collier County by an urgent telegram from Delores Simpson who asks for Dora's help in stopping her ex husband from building a development over the 'glades. Dora isn't entirely sure how Delores expects her to do so but with the support of her friends, she is determined to at least try.
I enjoyed reuniting with the members of the Collier County Women's Literary Society, Jackie 'Miss Dreamsville' Hart, Plain Jane, murderess Mrs Bailey White, Robbie-Lee and his alligator hunter mother, Delores nee Bunny-Anne McIntyre, and Priscilla, along with her precious new baby, Dream. Dora has been absent for a year, searching for information about her late mother's family in Mississippi but she is welcomed back with open arms, and the group is all too happy to join Dora's cause to save Delores's home.
With it's charming southern accent and lighthearted wit, you might be fooled into thinking this novel is nothing more than light entertainment, but it includes an important message about environmental protection, and again touches on the intolerance, racism and sexism that typified the far south in the early sixties.
The plot is entertaining as Jackie stirs up trouble in the local newspaper, provoking the ghost of Seminole Joe and the ire of the town's investors. Dora is also struggling with the secrets she learned in Jackson about her family, unaware that she will find the surprising answers to her remaining questions in Collier County.
Teagan Bliss is devastated when her father gambles away the family prope The Falls is Cathryn Hein's sixth novel, loosely linked to Rocking Horse Hill.
Teagan Bliss is devastated when her father gambles away the family property, Pinehaven, and with it her future hopes and dreams. Betrayed and heartbroken, she seeks sanctuary at the home of her Aunt Vanessa in the Falls Valley, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. It takes time but slowly the idyllic surrounds of Falls Farm, the loving concern of her aunt, a new job, and the attentions of local farrier, Lucas Knight, encourage Teagan to see beyond what she has lost, but how can she trust in the vision of a new future, when she can't trust in herself?
Teagan is not an easy character, though she engenders sympathy for the losses she has endured, her spiraling depression means she is closed off, prickly, and with her self esteem at rock bottom, always expecting the worst. Hein ably explores Teagan's experience as she tries to fight off the 'blackness' that threatens to overtake her.
The romance between Teagan and Lucas is fairly low key given Teagan's fragile emotional state. Though their attraction is mutual, Teagan is unable to believe Lucas could be interested in her and it takes Lucas a while to convince her otherwise. I liked Lucas, he proves to be kind and responsible, though perhaps a little naive in dealing with Teagan's depression.
The chemistry between Vanessa and Domenic add interest to the plot along with Vanessa's reservations about Domenic's motives, and Domenic's relationship with Lucas. So to does the complicated relationship between local vet, Bunny, and Duncan.
As always, Hein supports her protagonists with a community of colourful people and animals, from local busybody Colin, to Merlin the ram, and Falls Valley is vividly depicted from the rolling rural landscape to the main street of town. While cricket unites the Valley, plans for the expansion of a nearby exclusive 'wellness' center threatens to tear it apart and the tension affects Teagan who gets caught in the middle.
A little more ambitious in scope than her previous novels, The Falls is an engaging contemporary story about family, love, romance, belonging and healing, blending heartfelt romance with impassioned drama in rural Australia....more
Adrian Wolfe is devastated when his wife, Maya, is hit by a bus and killed. A year later, a mysterious woman and the discovery of a cache of nasty ema Adrian Wolfe is devastated when his wife, Maya, is hit by a bus and killed. A year later, a mysterious woman and the discovery of a cache of nasty emails sent to Maya, addressed 'Dear Bitch', are discovered and Adrian begins to wonder if Maya's death was simply a drunken accident or by deliberate design.
Moving between the past and the present, giving voice to Adrian, Maya and various other family members, The Third Wife examines the complicated dynamics of family, relationships, and love.
The story pivots around architect Adrian Wolfe and his family - ex-wife number one, Susan, and their near adult children Luke and Cat; ex-wife number 2, Caroline, and their three young children, Otis, Pearl and Beau; and his third wife, the recently deceased Maya. Adrian is an immature man without any understanding of how his choices have affected his his ex-wives and his children until matters are brought to a head after Maya's death. Prompted by his third wife's secrets, revealed to a stranger, he realises that he had simply ignored anything in conflict with his own preferred view of things, from Maya's unhappiness, to his sons' anger.
"He'd expected everyone to be happy, just because he was. Who the hell did he think he was?"
Though initially we are led to believe that the members of Adrian's ex-family's appear to be largely unaffected by his serial desertions, they even spend vacations together. However it slowly becomes clear that beneath the veneer, resentments have festered and his idealised life is beginning to fall apart around him.
"Where had he been? Where on earth had he been?....Everyone so angry and unhappy. And where had he been? Sitting cross-legged in the middle of this toxic tornado of human emotions humming la la la with his hands over his ears?"
Though the ending is a little facile, with interesting and well drawn characters, keen insight into the complexities of relationships, and a touch of intrigue, The Third Wife is a good read. ...more
The final novel to feature rig engineer turned superhero monster slayer Dave Cooper, Ascendance picks up right where Resistance left off.
Super Dave, n The final novel to feature rig engineer turned superhero monster slayer Dave Cooper, Ascendance picks up right where Resistance left off.
Super Dave, newly teamed with the katana wielding Russian spy Karen Warat (aka Colonel Ekatarina Varatchevsky), is in New York. Dismissing Trinder, they race to defend areas of the city under siege but are nearly overwhelmed as the Hunn continue boiling up from the underworld realm. The powers that be soon realise that the Horde is using Professor Compton's theoretical model for collapsing western civilisation, and the world is in real peril. However Dave's primary concern becomes his sons when he learns New Harbour is under attack and if he can't save the world, he is determined to at least save his children.
Dave suffers badly in comparison to Karen whose training and discipline allows her to exploit her gifts, which includes an empathic ability. Not only does she wield her deadly katana like a master, she thinks strategically and seems to have her powers sussed out. Dave is pretty much left trailing in her wake like a meat-head while the choices he made in Resistance come back to haunt him.
The action in Ascendance is non-stop, violent and bloody. This is not a story for the squeamish what with splattering ichor and demon flesh and babies being tossed from buildings like confetti. To be honest I got a little bored with all the fighting, though the final confrontation was tense and exciting.
There is plenty of the bold and crass humour I've come to expect in this series. Dave is still a dick, Threshy's thinkings are riotously confused and Karen adds her own brand of dry humour.
While this is supposed to be last book of a trilogy, the story definitely feels unfinished. It has been fun though....more