Once a month (or so) my husband and I host a get together for our friends. Unfortunately it is not a glamorous cocktail event but instead a casual BBQ...more Once a month (or so) my husband and I host a get together for our friends. Unfortunately it is not a glamorous cocktail event but instead a casual BBQ where beer and wine is consumed in mostly moderate amounts, mindful of our assorted offspring watching the latest Disney movie in the lounge room. We all love the idea of offloading the children on a babysitter and having an adult's only soirée though and Babe Scott's, The Lazy Hostess, offers some great ideas on how to do just that.
I wouldn't say I am a Lazy Hostess but easy, quick and cheap works for me. Peppered with quotes, "I drink to make my friends more interesting - Don Marquis", and fun illustrations, this book is a practical guide to hosting a cocktail party for friends. While I skimmed over Babe's fashion advice, I appreciated her simple suggestions about decor. There are also chapters on 'The 7 Habits of Highly Stress-free Hostesses' and how to get your guests to go home. On Scott's website you can also find invitations to print, Spotify playlists and more recipes.
I happen to enjoy cooking, but not spending hours in slaving in the kitchen, so I was particularly interested in Scott's recipe ideas and I was pleased to find a few new 'Devilishly Easy Hors D'Oeuvres' to try. Scott offers some great tips for planning, preparation and service and many of the recipes have no more than a half a dozen ingredients, most of which you can probably find in your pantry. Some are so simple but very clever like the Tempting Potato Wedges (wrap streaky bacon around frozen potato wedges, secure with a toothpick and bake) and I know I will be trying the Potato-Crisp Crusted Cheese Balls.
Of course there are plenty of cocktail recipes as well, from the classic Pina Colada to the Mafia's Kiss. I particularly like that Babe provides the method for preparing pitchers of the various concoctions. Who wants to be stuck behind the bar all night?
A fun and practical reference book, The Lazy Hostess is a handy resource for any hostess who wants to be the mostest. It would also make a great housewarming or hen's gift.
The finale to The Hunt trilogy by Andrew Fukuda, The Trap begins where The Prey left off with Gene, Sissy and the escapees from the Mission on the tra...more The finale to The Hunt trilogy by Andrew Fukuda, The Trap begins where The Prey left off with Gene, Sissy and the escapees from the Mission on the train to the Palace, dreading the possibilities that await them.
Fast paced and action packed, Gene, Sissy and the remaining dome survivors, Epap and David, are immediately thrown into a whorl of life threatening chaos. Escaping the train is the first challenge, the next is to avoid being harvested by the Ruler, or the rebels, and the last is to confront Ashley June and survive.
While the plot barely hangs together in places, marred by events that require the complete suspension of belief, the story is rescued by a few unexpected and clever twists. The truth about the Origin will stun followers of the series and I have to give Fukuda credit for blindsiding me with that.
The Trap is a satisfying conclusion to The Hunt trilogy and despite the flaws with this series, I was glad to see it through to the end. (less)
In the midst of a raging blizzard, more than a dozen people in the small New England town of Coventry lose their lives. A young boy falls from a windo...more In the midst of a raging blizzard, more than a dozen people in the small New England town of Coventry lose their lives. A young boy falls from a window, a teen is electrocuted while sledding and others simply wandered into the snow, their bodies discovered only after the storm passed, though some are never found at all. Twelve years later another blizzard approaches the town and with it comes the memories of that dark time..and something else.
Despite the heatwave my town is currently enduring, I experienced chills running down my spine as I read Snowblind. This supernatural horror is a slow building psychological thriller, that builds on feelings of unease and dread until it culminates in a fierce life or death battle. The book begins with the deaths in the first storm, hinting at a sinister force, before jumping ahead twelve years as another major storm descends on the town. Here Golden explores the consequences of the previous blizzard for the family and friends who survived before revealing their terrifying fates.
The cast is large and varied, though intrinsically connected by their experiences and losses in the first storm. I found it fairly easy to track them as Golden reveals each character, their fears, their flaws and their desires. They mostly typify small town residents, ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary event. In particular focus is Jake, a photographer, whose youngest brother died in the last storm, and Detective Keenan, who has since felt he failed his community. Both witnessed something during the storm that they have tried hard to forget and now are confronted with something they can't hope to understand.
This came close to a five star read for me except that Golden fell into the trap of trying to explain the inexplicable which blunts the mystique, and quite frankly, once all is said and done, why would the characters not immediately be thinking of relocating to somewhere, anywhere, it doesn't snow, ever?
Still, if your city is currently in the grip of a snowstorm I would recommend caution before reading Snowblind, you may never listen to the howl of the wind or watch the snow fall without apprehension again. This is a gripping chiller. (less)
The Kissing Season, a short and sweet romance novella by Rachel Johns, is an enjoyable distraction during the busyness of the holiday season.
Hannah E...more The Kissing Season, a short and sweet romance novella by Rachel Johns, is an enjoyable distraction during the busyness of the holiday season.
Hannah Elliot has returned home to Wildwood Point after an ill-advised adventure in Las Vegas. Facing her family's disappointment with her impulsive marriage, and the annulment that followed barely a week later, is difficult enough, so admitting she is going to be a single mother is impossible. Yet Hannah is determined to keep her baby, vowing to make more sensible choices for the sake of their future...until the gorgeous Matteo walks in the door.
I'm not too sure how I feel about the first meeting between Hannah and Matt, it made me a little bit uncomfortable, but the progression of their relationship was good within the constraints of the format. There was definitely that delicious sense of anticipation around the 'sooner or later' question, and the couple sizzle when they finally get it together. I appreciated that there was actual conflict rather than inane misunderstandings (a pet peeve of mine) and of course there is the obligatory happy ending.
This is an entertaining, light romance to enjoy on your next lunch break or commute.(less)
The third book in a loosely linked series, The Girl in the Yellow Vest is another engaging Australian contemporary romance by talented Aussie author,...more The third book in a loosely linked series, The Girl in the Yellow Vest is another engaging Australian contemporary romance by talented Aussie author, Loretta Hill.
Emily Woods was expecting her boyfriend of five years to propose, instead he asked her to move out and with her engineering career, stalled, she is in desperate need of a fresh start so when her best friend, Will, offers to find her work at his current project on Queensland's coast, Emily jumps at the chance. Will is excited at the prospect of Emily joining him in Mackay, for five long years he has been careful to never betray his attraction to her, but now that she is single, perhaps he will find an opportunity to tell her how he feels.
I enjoyed the change of scenery Hill provides in The Girl in the Yellow Vest. Previous books, The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots and The Girl in the Hard Hat, featured Western Australia's Pilbara region while here, Hill sets the book in Northern Queensland, based on a project she once worked at the Hay Point Wharf.
Emily and Will's transition from friends to lovers is slow but lovely, both are afraid of damaging their close friendship and admitting their mutual attraction. Will is especially wary given his long standing friendship with Emily's ex and the possibility they might make up. It takes a good while for Emily to realise that her feelings for Will have changed and their attempts to connect are plagued by miscommunication, poor timing and outside interference.
The subplot involving Barnes Inc boss, Mark Crawford and hotel owner Charlotte Templeton tends to steal the limelight from Emily and Will though. Charlotte, struggling with a failing business, a rebellious teenage sister and ill mother, and Mark, still mired in grief after the death of his wife two years previously, barely tolerate each other to begin with and the complications of their lives affects the way in which their relationship develops.
Really my only complaint about the novel is in regards to Mark, who, apart from being very similar to Dan 'Bulldog' in The Girl in the Steel Capped Boots, his speech in particular is too formal and often didn't sound 'true'.
I did really enjoy The Girl in the Yellow Vest, I love the way the author combines humour, romance and drama in an unique Australian setting. It was also lovely to be briefly reunited with previous characters (the book opens at Dan and Lena's wedding) and I look forward to catching up with these characters again in Hill's next book. (less)
An emotional story of the struggle to survive tragedy, grief and loss, The In-Between Hour probably wasn't the best choice of reading for the festive...more An emotional story of the struggle to survive tragedy, grief and loss, The In-Between Hour probably wasn't the best choice of reading for the festive season, but it was a compelling and thought provoking novel which ultimately reveals a message of healing and hope.
Will Shepard is mired in grief after the death of his five year old son in a horrific car accident, and he doesn't have the heart to repeat the news to his father whose Alzheimer's allows him the relief of forgetting his loss. Instead Will, a bestselling author, tells Jacob a story of young Freddie traveling the world with his mother, a story his father unexpectedly latches on to, a fiction that both sustains, and traps, them. A holistic veterinarian, Hannah Linden has always prided her self on her ability to offer comfort, nurturing and care, but her oldest son, Galen, seems beyond her reach. When Will and his father temporarily move into her guest cottage their broken relationship proves to be the distraction she needs from her own failings, but it cannot shield her from the devastating heartbreak to come.
Exploring grief, love, loss, forgiveness and redemption, Will and Hannah battle the past in order to deal with the present, and find a path to future happiness. They slowly become enmeshed in each others lives, finding unexpected solace and strength in each other, to deal with the challenges they are faced with. With Jacob the victim of Alzheimer's and Galen of severe depression, the tragedy of mental illness is a major theme of the novel. In addition we learn that Will's mother was an(undiagnosed) bipolar and Hannah's father and grandfather both had a history of depression. Claypole-White explores the issues with sensitivity and compassion not only for the sufferers, but also for their loved ones.
Beautifully written, the characters of The In Between Hour are richly and realistically drawn, and the story compelling. A poignant, moving novel, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. (less)
The final installment in Maria V Snyder's 'Healer' trilogy is an entertaining and satisfying climax to a what has a been an enjoyable series.
Avry, Ke...more The final installment in Maria V Snyder's 'Healer' trilogy is an entertaining and satisfying climax to a what has a been an enjoyable series.
Avry, Kerrick and their allies may have won the battle with King Tohon, trapping him in stasis, but not the war, as Cellina and Sepp take control of his troops and a new power, The Skeleton King, arises to bid for control of the Fifteen Realms. Fast paced and action packed there is also plenty of emotional angst as Avry and Kerrick face threats both from without and within.
In terms of the story, new elements are introduced, most notably the Skeleton King, but the focus is on tying up loose ends. Most issues were resolved but some events, like Belen's fate, were glossed over and I thought the finale was perhaps a little rushed, though overall satisfying.
Though headstrong and often reckless Avry has been a likeable heroine. She is loyal to the cause but her priority is always those she loves. Even though she is separated from Kerrick much of the time their romance matures in this installment and their connection becomes vital in the struggle to win the war.
The Monkeys are their usual irascible selves, and Flea plays a surprisingly crucial role in the storyline, so much so I have to wonder if Snyder is considering a spin off with Flea taking centre stage. I was happy that Captain Od opted to support Avry and had a part in this final.
Combining adventure, fantasy, drama and romance the Healer trilogy is a enjoyable read and I am a little sad to see it end. I hope Snyder will provide the opportunity to visit this world, and its characters again. (less)
Most readers enjoy word games, and few are more challenging than a crossword. Cluetopia celebrates the 100 years since the puzzle first appeared in th...more Most readers enjoy word games, and few are more challenging than a crossword. Cluetopia celebrates the 100 years since the puzzle first appeared in the New York World as a column filler on a slow news day in 1913.
This is a book for crossword fans and trivia buffs, broken down into short chapters shaped by, "a landmark crossword for every year", from Arthur Wynne's small kite shaped diagram printed in 1913,to the first crossword puzzle book published in 1924, to the crossword that unwittingly shared national secrets during wartime and the first home-grown crosswords compiled by a Brisbane mum of seven.
The facts are fascinating and the writing is surprisingly accessible. Astle has a fine sense of humour and the tone of the text is almost conversational. Cryptic crossword fans will enjoy the unusual chapter headings titled with clues like, "Mad poet mugged by banjo player sees red while eating pickles (3,4)"
Astle also provides historical context to each chapter with snippets of world events and words added to our lexicon during the period. I would have preferred these had been placed at either the beginning or the end of each chapter rather than at the bottom of the first page, which I found distracting.
Interesting and entertaining I really enjoyed Cluetopia, though I do rather wish Astle had included a few crosswords in the book, just as an added bonus.(less)
In a slight departure from her usual offering of rural romance, Karly Lane blends a contemporary and historical narrative in her fourth novel, Poppy's...more In a slight departure from her usual offering of rural romance, Karly Lane blends a contemporary and historical narrative in her fourth novel, Poppy's Dilemma.
Poppy Abbot is sorting through her late grandmother's belongings after a difficult day at work when she discovers a diary penned by a young woman whom she assumes to be a relative, Maggie Abbot. At first glance the journal seems to be the idle ramblings of a young girl desperate to avoid the chore of milking the cows, with a crush on her brother's best friend, then Poppy discovers a love letter addressed to Maggie wedged between the pages written during the First World War. Intrigued, Poppy finds herself captivated by Maggie's story but frustrated when she discovers a handful of pages missing. In the hopes of finding out what happened to Maggie and her lover, Alex, Poppy decides to finally deal with her grandmother's estate, traveling to the tiny country town of Warrial. It is there where Poppy finds the answers she was seeking to the mystery of Maggie's fate and to the questions she never thought to ask.
Merging historical fact with her vivid imagination, the wartime narrative involving Maggie and Alex was inspired by a news article Lane discovered about a crime that took place in her home town in 1920. Intrigued by the case, Lane's research led her to a cache of letters written by the perpetrator, further piquing her interest. With the motive for the crime obscured, in Poppy's Dilemma, Lane has created a credible story and characters to explain the tragedy.
The historical narrative is a poignant reminder of war and the tragedy of those that returned mentally and physically damaged, or did not return at all. Lane also explores the sentiments of the time and the social and economic effect on the country, especially in regional areas like Warrial. Maggie and Alex's story is a stirring bittersweet love story, all the more so for the truth behind the imagination.
The contemporary storyline follows Poppy's evaluation of the choices she has made in her life, particularly in regards to her focus on her career at the expense of friendships and romantic relationships. It is Maggie's story, and her grandmother's neighbour, a single father and stock agent, that penetrates the emotional guards she has so carefully constructed which has Poppy reconsidering her priorities.
While I thought the writing was a little uneven in places, in part I think because the historical thread is related both in epistolary format and a third person present tense, the flow and pace of the story is well considered.
Poppy's Dilemma is a wonderfully engaging novel and I enjoyed both threads of the story, with the knowledge that Maggie's story is based partly on fact provides an extra element of frisson. This is another must read tale from Karly Lane who writes from the heart. (less)
Like Trish Doller's debut novel, Something Like Normal, Where the Stars Still Shine is a gritty, contemporary young adult novel favouring realism over...more Like Trish Doller's debut novel, Something Like Normal, Where the Stars Still Shine is a gritty, contemporary young adult novel favouring realism over fairy tale.
Barely able to remember her father, Callie believed her mom when she told her that their life on the run was necessary to protect them from him. So when her mother's lies are finally revealed, and her father reclaims Callie after twelve years, she is overwhelmed both by what she has lost, and gained. Now Callie has the opportunity to lead the normal life she has always dreamed of but can she let go of the past to create a future?
I really like the way in which Doller portrays Callie's conflicted thoughts, emotions and behaviour in a realistic manner. After twelve years of a transient lifestyle, Callie isn't sure she is capable of adjusting to the expectations of her father and her extended family. Callie battles feelings of self doubt, confusion and anger every day, almost afraid to hope that her life can now be different but wants to fit in despite often feeling overwhelmed by the change in her situation.
Callie also keenly feels the loss of her mother. Reconciling her anger with her love for her mom is difficult for her, not only is she now aware of what was lost when her mother took her, she is still dealing with her mother's failure to protect her from abuse. Learning that her mother is mentally ill complicates the issues of blame and betrayal.
While settling in to her new life is made easier by Callie's father's compassion and understanding and her friendship with Kat, it is her unconventional relationship with Alex that gives Callie confidence and perspective.
Where the Stars Shine is an emotional story of family, community and love and I was touched by Callie's challenging journey to find her way home.
In Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There: Detours into Mayhem Pauli has grown older, if not quite up. Though now a middle aged, executive part owner of a successful oil-related company, and a happily married man with young children, British born/Australian resident Paul, continues to seek adventure and challenge, albeit a little closer to home.
Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There chronicles,in the main, Paul's efforts to race in Speed Week on a motorcycle (of sorts) engineered to run on bio-diesel fuel and go very fast on a salt lake in the middle of nowhere. Plagued by cancellations, logistical obstacles, lost keys and broken limbs, it takes three years before Paul finally gets a break.
Paul also writes of a motorcycle touring trip with a friend around Tasmania, a wild conference in the US and his temporary gig as a documentary presenter, marriage, fatherhood and business
Carter's books could be accused of being juvenile and crude, and there is some truth to that. Reading Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There is often like eavesdropping on a 'boy's' only pub night, complete with poo jokes, copious amounts of alcohol, bad language and displays of machismo. Not everyone will appreciate Paul's sense of humour but I found myself smiling widely often, even while occasionally shaking my head with a mixture of disbelief and wry contempt. Yet Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There is not all a 'boys own adventure', Paul also relates several serious moments though often tempered by the surreal, including suffering the side effects of food poisoning while his wife is in the throes of a miscarriage, a court case that drags on and on and on, and a ruined $1000 helmet thanks to a territorial dog and a potty training two year old.
I'm not that interested in motor racing or the specifics of alternate fuel (though I believe we should be investing in it) but I still enjoyed Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There. It's a quick read, mostly light and amusing and is as advertised -a detour into mayhem. I imagine this book will particularly find an audience amongst fans of the television show 'Top Gear' and its ilk and, with Christmas coming up, it would make a great stocking stuffer for your father/husband/brother etc.
"My first name is Hilda, which my children have always told me sounds like a witch's name, but I'm called Hildy. I live alone; my daughters are grown...more "My first name is Hilda, which my children have always told me sounds like a witch's name, but I'm called Hildy. I live alone; my daughters are grown up and my husband is no longer my husband. I talk to animals..some people think I have powers of intuition, psychic powers, which I don't. I just know a few tricks...I tend to know everyone's business...[and] I'm the top real-estate agent in a town whose main industries are antiques and real estate." p5
This is how our narrator, fifty nine year old Hildy Good, introduces herself in The Good House. She seems like an ordinary woman, a lifelong resident of Wendover, Massachusetts, sipping a club soda with lime at a housewarming party, chatting cheerfully with other guests. She mentions in passing she is in "recovery", and has recently returned from rehab after an intervention staged by her daughters, an over-reaction on their part she assures us. A few hours later Hildy is at home, finishing a bottle of wine from the stash she hides in the garage, before stripping off to skinny dip in the icy cold river at the bottom of her garden, laughing under the moonlight.
Related in the first person by Hildy, The Good House is a character driven novel, a story of small towns, family, love, deception and denial. It reveals tensions and prejudices, infidelity, elitism, and dysfunction but focuses on Hildy's alcoholism and its effects on herself and others.
While we are inclined to trust Hildy's observations about herself and others initially, we soon learn that she is an entirely unreliable narrator. In order to deny the truth of her alcohol addiction, Hildy's perspective on her family, friends and the community is slightly warped. She claims her daughters are ungrateful, prone to exaggerating the effects of her drinking, she fails to recognise the instability of newcomer Rebecca, too relieved to find someone she can drink with who won't pass judgement, and imagines the concern of her lifelong friend, psychiatrist Peter Newbold, to be for sinister reasons of his own. Few will find Hildy a wholly likeable character, but I thought Leary portrayed her in a compassionate manner. Hildy is a supportive mother, a doting grandmother, and an intelligent, successful woman but her addiction is all consuming and everything she is, is tainted by alcohol. As Hildy continues to drinking heavily she begins to suffer blackouts and hallucinations but is convinced she is still in control, her secret safe, until the coincidence of a damaged fender and a missing child shatters her illusions.
There is little action in the novel, with the suspense largely stemming from Hildy's gradual slide to 'rock bottom', still I found the narrative compelling. Leary's depiction of alcoholism is subtle rather than sensational, foregoing high drama for a realistic exploration of what addiction looks like amongst a demographic ignored by the media. The supporting characters and some of the minor subplots orbit around Hildy, never really having a life of their own, but add interest to the story.
The Good House is an interesting, poignant and surprisingly witty portrayal of a woman's struggle with alcohol addiction and I found it both engaging and entertaining.
FYI, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro have signed to star in the screen adaption, and I will be eager to see the film when it is released.
"I'm the strongest, I'm the fastest, I'm the best"
Swimming is not only what Danny Kelly does, it defines who he is and who he will be. His talent win...more "I'm the strongest, I'm the fastest, I'm the best"
Swimming is not only what Danny Kelly does, it defines who he is and who he will be. His talent wins him a scholarship at an exclusive private boy's school where, amongst his privileged rivals, he earns the nickname of 'The Barracuda'. Danny is a winner, on track to be an Olympic champion, until the day he loses and it all falls apart.
Shifting between Danny's past and the present using a first person and third person narrative, Tsiolkas drives the story towards the event that divides 'before' and 'after'. Before, Danny was a young boy, confident, aggressive and ambitious, with the talent and the drive to be a champion. After, Danny was a young man, ashamed, bitter and directionless, alienated from his family, his friends and himself.
Barracuda is a story about character, the way in which it is formed, influenced and changed by family, by friends, and enemies, by experience and knowledge, and for Danny especially, by life's triumphs and failures. It is also a story about identity and when what Danny believes about himself is proved false, he struggles to deal with the consequences. Tsiolkas exposes Danny's dreams and hopes, his vulnerabilities and his faults with unflinching honesty and keen insight into the thoughts and emotions of both the boy, and the man.
Wider themes of the novel include those of identity, class and status in modern day Australia. The Kelly's working class background, dad is a truck driver and mum a hairdresser, contrasts with the privileged lives of his wealthy classmates. Similarly Danny is half 'wog' (Greek) and half Scottish while the majority of students at C***s College are white with "their perfect smiles and perfect skin". Danny acutely feels the divide and he is both scornful and envious.
Barracuda also raises the issue of sport and it's contribution to Australia's national identity. Sport is one arena where wealth and class become irrelevant, with innate talent leveling the playing field. It is Danny's ability to out swim his peers that allows him to hold his own, and when he loses that, he also sees his opportunity to one day be of 'them' slip through his fingers.
Tsiolkas's casual use of crude language has the potential to offend but I thought the distinctly Australian dialogue to be natural and appropriate. What surprised me were the moments of poetry in Tsiolkas's writing, lyrical phrasing and evocative description contrasting sharply with the blunter passages. I do feel Barracuda was a little overlong, though I admit only rarely did I find my attention wandering.
Barracuda is a powerful novel, less sensational than The Slap, but similarly provocative and thought provoking. I enjoyed it, but I think it is a book you will either love or hate.
Werewolf Sings the Blues is the second book in Jennifer Harlow's Midnight Magic Mystery series but not at all what I expected after reading the first,...more Werewolf Sings the Blues is the second book in Jennifer Harlow's Midnight Magic Mystery series but not at all what I expected after reading the first, What's a Witch to Do?
“Vivian Frances Dahl, daughter to Frank and Michelle, I am here to protect you and deliver you to safety. No harm will come to you, I swear on my life, but we must leave now. Please get in the car. Now.”
When a pair of US Marshall's turn up at a gig to ask singer Vivian Dahl questions about her father, she is surprised, given she hasn't seen or heard from the man in nearly thirty years, but it's not until one draws a gun and the other forcefully grips her arm and starts dragging her through the underground car park that she realizes something isn't quite right. Moments later, her captors are trading gunfire with the hot, built, blonde Adonis -with a paw?! -she suspected of stalking her and she is forced to make a quick decision. What follows is a wild cross country road trip as Vivian learns her estranged father is a the Alpha of the North American werewolf pack, her saviour, Blondie aka Jason, his second in command, and adopted son, and she is in grave danger from a rogue wolf making a bid for power.
Luckily Vivian is no princess, her rebellious teen years and party hard life style as a wannabe singing star means she can hold her own when things get difficult. Vivian is not your typical heroine, self absorbed, not averse to (more than) a few drinks, a hit of cocaine or a casual shag, I didn't warm to her initially. She carries a lot of anger due to her father's desertion, her mother's disinterest, the failure of her career to launch and the breakdown of two marriages. Viv freely admits she is selfish and bitter but spending time first with Jason and then the Pack in her father's Virginian compound her attitude begins to change.
I was surprised by the increase in action and violence in this story, particularly during the final scenes, when contrasted with the first book. What's a Witch to Do? had a paranormal romance/ cosy mystery feel, this is much darker in content, more like urban fantasy, though with more focus on the romance than is usual for the genre. I felt there wasn't a lot of mystery in the story either, the identity of the mole is obvious from the moment of his introduction. It does still have the snark and biting humour familiar to readers of the author's backlist though.
I also found it odd that this installment takes place eight years earlier than What's a Witch To Do? Though Adam and Mona, amongst other characters from the F.R.E.A.K.S. series, make an appearance, the link between the two books in the series isn't clear and I'm wondering in which direction the author plans to take the series next.
Despite the unexpected direction in which Harlow chose to take this series, and the unconventional characterisation of the protagonist, I did enjoy Werewolf Sings The Blues. It's a fast paced, action packed easy read with plenty of humour to balance the darker moments. (less)
The parallels between the real life case of a young American student (Amanda Knox) accused of the murder of her British flatmate in Italy, and Jennife...more The parallels between the real life case of a young American student (Amanda Knox) accused of the murder of her British flatmate in Italy, and Jennifer DuBois' novel, Cartwheel, are strong, despite the fictionalizsation of characters and details.
Five weeks after arriving in Buenos Aires on a study abroad program, nineteen year old Lily Hayes is arrested and charged with the brutal slaying of her roommate, Katy Kellers. Painted as a remorseless monster in the media, condemned by her own thoughtless behaviour and pursued relentlessly by the prosecutor on circumstantial evidence, Lily's guilt seems indisputable.
Dubois shifts between varying characters perspectives of the events leading up to the crime and I felt this was a clever technique to demonstrate how easily our judgements of people and places are swayed by biased opinion and partial facts. From the very first pages I began to build a view of Lily as a spoiled, narcissistic and promiscuous b*tch, but as the story progresses it becomes clear that while Lily may be all of those things, but they are also only a part of who she is. Lily is a far more complex person than the media, Eduardo (the prosecutor) and even her parents credit her with, and no single view seems to represent the truth.
Whether or not Lily is guilty of being involved in Katy's murder is still a question unresolved at the end of the novel. Though the ambiguity may bother some readers, it is thought provoking and has the potential to stimulate lively debate and discussion. Cartwheel is an interesting, well written story about perception and truth, faith and doubt and guilt and innocence.
Murder and Moonshine is a debut mystery for Carol Miller. Set in rural Virginia, it begins when a reclusive old farmer stumbles in to the H&P Dine...more Murder and Moonshine is a debut mystery for Carol Miller. Set in rural Virginia, it begins when a reclusive old farmer stumbles in to the H&P Diner and dies, foaming at the mouth. Waitress, Daisy McGovern, is horrified, and even more so when ATF Agent Ethan Kinney shows up to investigate his death. Daisy bears a grudge against the FBI who, in the wake of her father's tragic death five years before, seized her family's farm and she is determined to ensure Agent Kinney doesn't stay long. Then Hank (the H is H&P Diner) is murdered and suddenly Daisy finds herself in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy, and Ethan may be the only person she can trust.
There is a touch of humour, romance and moments of high tension in Murder and Moonshine. The story has more authenticity than I usually expect from a cozy mystery and the plot is well thought out, twisting in unexpected directions. While I found the pace a bit slow initially, the story does gather momentum as it unfolds and I was surprised by the denouement. At its heart lies family secrets, murder and a conspiracy of greed.
Daisy proves to be feisty and resourceful with a history of tragedy - from the death of her father and the loss of her family home, to being abandoned by her husband, and to now coping with her mother's prolonged illness. Her motivation to become involved in the mystery makes sense, the murders are linked to her old homestead and both she and her mother are in danger.
Of course, no southern murder mystery would be complete without a cast of quirky characters from the gun toting Aunt Emily to the moonshine brothers, Rick and Bobby.
I enjoyed Murder and Moonshine, and I look forward to seeing how the series develops. (less)
The third book in Molly Harper's Naked Werewolf series, How to Run with a Naked Werewolf features Dr Anna Moder (AKA Tina), a woman on the run, and Ca...more The third book in Molly Harper's Naked Werewolf series, How to Run with a Naked Werewolf features Dr Anna Moder (AKA Tina), a woman on the run, and Caleb Graham, bounty hunter and werewolf. Those familiar with the previous books, How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf and The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf will recognise the names though here, both Anna and Caleb are far from Grundy, Alaska.
This paranormal romance series is all about well, romance, and humour - lighthearted, fun, escapist entertainment, but there is a sombre side to this installment, Anna (AKA Tina) is on the run from an abusive, obsessive husband and he is a real and ever present threat to her.
The way Harper builds the romance between Anna and Caleb is lovely, from wariness, to friendship to flirtation and lust and despite the compressed time frame, it all seems to evolve naturally. Though Anna is understandably slow to trust him, the chemistry with the sexy and charming Caleb, is believable.
I enjoy Molly Harper's sense of humour which often demonstrates perfect timing. There is snark but without a mean spirited edge and the banter between characters is laced with quips, without being overdone.
I think Harper makes a good effort of portraying domestic violence with the seriousness it deserves and Anna as a strong and resourceful woman, more survivor than victim. I also really liked that Caleb doesn't rescue Anna, he supports her, and that is an important distinction.
I enjoyed How to Run with a Naked Werewolf, it is a quick, fun read, even with its serious side. Despite it being part of a series, the installment reads well as a stand alone and fans are sure to be satisfied.