Deadly Curiosities is the full length introduction to a new urban fantasy series by Gail Z. Martin, preceded by seven related short stories self publi...more Deadly Curiosities is the full length introduction to a new urban fantasy series by Gail Z. Martin, preceded by seven related short stories self published by the author.
Cassidy Kincaide is the owner of Trifles & Folly, an antique/curio store and high-end pawn shop in Charleston, South Carolina. Cassidy inherited the family business, in operation since 1670, upon her uncle's death, finally learning of the family secret and the truth about her own unique skill with psychometry - the ability to know the history associated with an object by touch. Her gift allows Cassidy, with the help of her 500 year old business partner, Sorren, to assist The Alliance - a group of mortals and paranormal beings, in identifying and removing dangerous items harbouring supernatural power from public circulation. In Deadly Curiosities, antiques previously assessed as inert are suddenly creating problems for their new owners. It's up to Cassidy, along with friend and colleague Teag, to determine the cause of the black magic igniting Charleston' deadly history and put a stop to it.
I was excited by the premise of Deadly Curiosities, and I still think the concept is strong, but the style of the narrative didn't quite work for me. I struggled with the incidences of repetition, not only in the information presented, but Martin's tendency to state and then restate lines. I also felt the way in which Cassidy's visions were presented, in the past tense with Cassidy as an observer, dampened the sense of immediacy and gave the narrative a somewhat disjointed feel.
I do think there is real potential in the characters for Martin to develop an interesting cast. Cassidy is likeable, and her talent is interesting though I didn't feel like I learned much about her outside of what she is capable of. I was quite intrigued by Teag's abilities as a 'weaver' that not only gives him in an infinity for traditional materials such as fabric and knots but also the world wide web. Sorren is a bit of an enigma however I've since learned that his character is established in the short stories prequels.
I really liked the atmospheric setting, Deadly Curiosities is set in Charleston, a town rich in history, which Martin exploits to good effect, though I have to admit I have no idea how much of what is presented is actually based on truth.
Overall I would have to judge Deadly Curiosities as an 'okay' read for me, though I can see, in the story and characters, the potential. (less)
DNF - partly because the badly formatted ARC Kindle is missing all combinations of ff, fi, fl and th which I thought I could get used to and really di...more DNF - partly because the badly formatted ARC Kindle is missing all combinations of ff, fi, fl and th which I thought I could get used to and really didn't, but also because at 42% in, nothing has happened aside from the girls moaning about their parents, their teachers and school. So I'm not sure it would be keeping me interested even if I didn't have to contend with the eccentric copy.(less)
A Slight Change of Plan is a smart, witty and engaging novel about love and life, wonderfully capturing the challenges of middle age woman reinventing...more A Slight Change of Plan is a smart, witty and engaging novel about love and life, wonderfully capturing the challenges of middle age woman reinventing herself after her husband has gone and her children are grown up. A pragmatist with a romantic soul, Kate is a wholly likeable protagonist and I'd be happy to share a glass of wine, or a spaghetti dinner, with her any time.
The situations Kate are faced with are ones many mature women can relate to from the irritation of hot flushes to the concern for an aging mother, and I think Ernst portrays them in a realistic manner, if sometimes slightly exaggerated for comic effect. I smiled a lot through this story and laughed out loud more than once.
A Slight Change of Plan is chick-lit for the mature woman, well written, funny and full of heart, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to any woman of a certain age.(less)
When sixteen year old Dylan Mint overhears part of a whispered conversation between his mother and his doctor he becomes convinced he is dying and wit...more When sixteen year old Dylan Mint overhears part of a whispered conversation between his mother and his doctor he becomes convinced he is dying and with just six months or so to live, he develops three ‘Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It’. The first is to shag Michelle Malloy, the second is to find a new best bud for his best friend Amir, and the third is to get his father home from the war before time runs out. It’s a deceptively unambitious plan but given anytime he gets anywhere near Michelle he has the irrepressible urge to shout ‘slag’ in her face, Amir is an Autistic Pakistani who smells of curry, and he can’t directly contact his soldier father who he believes is on special ops in the Middle East, it might not be as easy as it seems.
Set in Glasgow (Scotland), this quirky coming of age tale features a teenage protagonist with Tourette’s, a condition that causes verbal and physical tics. A student at a ‘special school’, Dylan is almost seventeen and like most adolescent boys he has his priorities, dictated by his hormones, which forms the basis of his personal bucket list. As a character, Dylan is endearingly awkward with an optimistic and thoughtful nature and though he struggles with his condition, he is determined to not let it drag him down. What did concern me about the portrayal of Dylan was his naivety, I can only assume he has more complex neurological issues related to, or in addition to, Tourette’s, which weren’t, but perhaps should have been, shared.
In addressing the themes of friendship, intolerance and family in When Mr Dog Bites Conaghan often uses humour to temper the more serious challenges Dylan faces like bullying, blackouts and learning the truth about his absent father, but there are also some sweet and poignant moments. The story unfolds mainly as you might expect, with some minor twists in the details. I do I think the language may prove to be a barrier for non commonwealth readers who may find the slang and cockney rhyming difficult to make sense of but I wouldn’t want that to put anyone off.
I liked When Mr Dog Bites, and I think it’s weaknesses were balanced by its strengths, but I was hoping for something more. However I think it will satisfy a young adult audience of around 14-18, and would be especially suitable for boys looking for contemporary fiction.(less)
It takes just days for William 'Willa' Chandler-Golden's life to fall apart - first she loses her job, then her husband announces he is relocating to...more It takes just days for William 'Willa' Chandler-Golden's life to fall apart - first she loses her job, then her husband announces he is relocating to Palto Alto for the summer - without her, her parents announce they plan to experiment with an open marriage and her brother, is arrested by the FBI for his role in a Ponzi scheme in her apartment, which leads to her being evicted. If her father's theory, expounded in his best seller 'Is It Really Your Choice? Why Your Entire Life May Be Out of Your Control.' is correct, Willa's life is unfolding exactly as it has been predestined to, but what if...?
The Theory of Opposites is a lighthearted story about challenging fate, taking risks and making of life what you will. With her life in free-fall, Willa reluctantly allows her best friend, Vanessa, to talk her into taking part in a book project whose premise directly challenges her father's lifelong mantra. Instead of endless procrastination and inertia, Willa is forced to reconsider her life, explore the paths not taken, and face her fears leading her to, amongst other things, reconnect with an old boyfriend, Theo. Scotch allows Willa to struggle with change, the way most of us do, unwilling to let go of familiar comforts and envision something different. Willa is a likeable protagonist though beset by anxiety and low self esteem, it is nice to witness her journey as she finds the courage to change her life.
The main theme of the novel is obviously the question of fate vs free will and what part each plays in our lives. Is what we decide an act of choice or has destiny already decided for us? The question is a little like 'Which came first? The chicken or the egg?' Though the story is seemingly light and humorous, peppered with an eccentric cast and sometimes absurd situations, it is also one that makes you think about where you are now, and where you want to be.
Written with heart and humour, The Theory of Opposites is a quick, entertaining read. Interestingly, despite a track record of publication success, Scotch has chosen to self publish this novel under her own imprint and it has already been picked up by Jennifer Garner’s production company -Vandalia Films. Read it - I dare you! (less)
Ash Cameron served as a policewoman in London from the late 1970's before reluctantly retiring due to ill-health after 20 years on the job. In Confess...more Ash Cameron served as a policewoman in London from the late 1970's before reluctantly retiring due to ill-health after 20 years on the job. In Confessions of an Undercover Cop, she shares the highlights, and lowlights, of her career from a stockinged, tea making rookie to an undercover officer investigating, amongst other things, fraud, theft and later child abuse.
Confessions of an Undercover Cop is related in the first person in a conversational style. The series of vignettes illustrate cases and events Cameron was involved in during her career, ranging from the amusing to alarming. Dealing with the drunk and disorderly, the homeless and prostitutes dominated Cameron's time on the street while at the other extreme Cameron brushed shoulders with celebrity. The most harrowing cases Cameron relates involve the abuse of children.
While gun crime was rare during Cameron's tenure, in fact London police were armed only with truncheons and Capsicum Spray, she did have to contend with IRA bombing attacks and citywide riots. She faced knife wielding drug addicts, and offenders who spat, bit and head butted her. Cameron confesses she was also accident prone (she was later diagnosed with dyspraxia) and earned several scars from not only from violent offenders, but also recalcitrant doors and protruding tow bars.
Ash has faced her fair share of sexism as one of the few serving female police officers during her career from both colleagues and criminals alike. It is rarely mentioned though she relates exceptional cases, such as the Sergeant who constantly remarked that women should be at home 'where they belong' and another who deliberately sabotaged her during driver training. Cameron also briefly comments on the failures of the justice system, of cases dismissed on technicalities and offenders walking away after being found not guilty by a jury panel.
What is evident in Confessions of an Undercover Cop is that Ash Cameron was a dedicated police officer. These stories offer an interesting and entertaining insight into her time of service and I enjoyed the read.(less)
Declan's Cross is the third suspense novel featuring FBI Agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan. Set primarily in Ireland, in a village with surprising...more Declan's Cross is the third suspense novel featuring FBI Agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan. Set primarily in Ireland, in a village with surprising links to Rock Point, Maine, this mystery involves theft, betrayal, blackmail and murder.
There are two primary story arcs in Declan's Cross that eventually intersect - a murder and an art theft. Emma and Colin's romantic getaway is interrupted by the death of a young woman in the Irish village of Declan's Cross. The possibility of a link to a decades old art theft intrigues Emma while the dead woman's connection to Julianne Maroney, a marine biologist from Colin's hometown in Maine, and his brother's ex girlfriend, has Colin on guard.
There is history between Emma and Colin that I am not privy to given I haven't read either the first or second installment though Neggers provides some details of the couple's past adventures. Their romance is new and Ireland is a chance for both to spend some time together away from the pressures of their job. Emma and Colin's relationship is just one of the three romantic subplots that are part of this story - Julianne has recently had her heart broken by Andy Donovan, while Irish farmer/garda, Sean, and O'Byrne House Hotel owner, Kitty, have a long history of love/hate.
The plot isn't terribly complicated though it does seem so at times given the the large cast of characters, their various relationships, and the shifts of setting between Ireland and Maine. The only real issue I had with the story is the pacing. It seems to take a long time for anything to actually happen, and there is some repetitiveness to elements of the story. Distracted by the elusive art thief that continues to taunt her grandfather, it is a while before Emma and Colin, with the the help of local man Sean, piece together the motive for Lindsey's murder, resulting in Julianne being vulnerable to the killer.
As a personal aside, Ireland is one of the few places I would one day like to visit and Neggers makes the prospect even more inviting with lovely descriptions of the country's rolling green farmland, rugged coasts and quaint villages steeped in history.
A quick and entertaining read, I think fans of the Sharpe and Donovan series will particularly enjoy Declan's Cross for its romantic resolutions, but the mysteries should hold the interest of those unfamiliar with the characters. (less)
I enjoyed the debut of Suzanne Johnson's Sentinels of New Orleans series, Royal Street and made sure I picked up the second book, River Road shortly a...more I enjoyed the debut of Suzanne Johnson's Sentinels of New Orleans series, Royal Street and made sure I picked up the second book, River Road shortly after it was released. Unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to read it before the review for this third installment, Elysian Fields was due, luckily though the gap didn't seem to matter much.
Elysian Fields opens with DJ and Jake attending a bloody crime scene, the most recent of a string of homicides linked by an axe left at the scene. The police think the murders are being committed by a copycat but DJ suspects they are dealing with a Historical Undead, an axe wielding serial killer who has crossed over from the Beyond. Tracking down the Axeman becomes easier when he turns his murderous attention to DJ but capturing the Undead figure becomes far more complicated when she learns he is being controlled by a Necromancer. Trying to figure out who wants her dead, while under the threat of turning furry at the next full moon and being forced to take lessons in elven magic from the wizard she holds responsible for Tish's death has DJ reeling.
It's a busy plot combining preternatural political intrigue, murder, betrayal, strained friendships and romance, but Johnson handles it well.
I really like DJ, despite her propensity for chaos. Mostly she isn't at fault, as a New Orleans Sentinel, and a Green Wizard with Elven ancestry, trouble seems determined to find her. DJ is smart, resourceful and willing to throw herself into the breach to protect those she cares about.
The setting of this series, in post-hurricane New Orleans and Johnson's unique mythology is a huge part of the attraction for me. I like the way in which the author mixes wizards, vamps, elves, shifters and the Historical Undead like Louis Armstrong and of course the notorious pirate, Jean Lafitte.
Fast paced and action packed Elysian Fields is an entertaining urban fantasy adventure with great combination of interesting story and appealing characters. I am looking forward to the next one (and promise to get Rive Road read before then!) (less)
In Sinéad Moriarty's ninth novel, Mad About You, she revisits Emma Hamilton and her family. First introduced in The Baby Trail, we followed Emma and h...more In Sinéad Moriarty's ninth novel, Mad About You, she revisits Emma Hamilton and her family. First introduced in The Baby Trail, we followed Emma and her husband James in their quest to become parents in A Perfect Match and then From Here to Maternity. In their ten year marriage, Emma and James have weathered the heart break of infertility, the joy of new parenthood and the stress of unemployment but when the family is forced to move from Ireland to London cracks begin to form. James is working all the time and Emma is lonely, despite finding a job with her sister, so when James begins to receive racy texts, and Emma threatening messages, Emma grows increasingly suspicious of her husband and their marriage begins to buckle under the strain.
The tension in the novel isn't sustained by identifying the stalker but by the question of if the marriage can survive the suspicion and mistrust that eats away at Emma. Who is responsible for the texts, notes and packages is glaringly obvious from the moment the perpetrator is introduced into the storyline. I found that disappointing to be honest since it renders the plot entirely predictable even if it makes sense that she is the one person Emma would overlook.
I liked Emma more in the previous novels than in Mad About You. Here she tends to be a little self righteous, especially when she lectures Lacey and Babs about their choices, and later becomes rather shrill and hysterical in response to the stalker's harassment. I understand her distress but Emma seems determined to believe the worst of James.
The novel also addresses the challenges of motherhood, especially in regards to juggling the needs and demands of children with individual desires and career ambition. The marriage of Emma's best friend Lacey to Donal is disintegrating under Lacey's indifference to motherhood and the satisfaction she gains from her demanding job. Babs, Emma's sister, ends a pregnancy that could derail her career. Emma is slightly horrified by her neighbour's choice to never use babysitters, something that Emma has no qualms about whether it is to provide care for her children while she is at work, give her time alone with James or just a few hours to herself.
I did enjoy Mad About You, it was a pleasant day's distraction and an easy read though ultimately offered nothing particularly memorable.(less)
Part police procedural, part cozy mystery, Deadly Virtues is an engaging crime fiction novel from prolific British author Jo Bannister.
When Jerome Ca...more Part police procedural, part cozy mystery, Deadly Virtues is an engaging crime fiction novel from prolific British author Jo Bannister.
When Jerome Cardy dies in police custody, brutally beaten to death by his cellmate, the incident seems likely to be written up as an unfortunate accident. But the law student's last panicked words referencing Othello, nags at Gabriel Ash with whom the young man briefly shared a cell. Rookie cop Hazel Best is inclined to dismiss the word of the man known as 'Rambles with Dog' but when Ash is the subject of an attempted kidnapping, and then a journalist curious about the case is killed in a fatal hit and run, Hazel is forced to consider that Jerome's death was not an accident at all.
There aren't too many surprises in this tale of murder and corruption but it is an engaging, well plotted mystery. The small English town of Norbold boasts one of the country's lowest crime rates attributed to Chief Superintendent John Fountain's zero tolerance policy but Gabriel Ash and new recruit, Constable Hazel Best soon discover that all is not as it seems.
I particularly liked the well developed main protagonists of Deadly Virtues. Gabriel Ash is considered the town's 'crazy' due to his mumbled conversations with an adopted stray Lurcher, hence the label 'Rambles with Dog'. But four years ago Ash was a government official whose diligent work in counter terrorism resulted in tragedy and subsequently an emotional break down. Ash is a sympathetic and intriguing character and I really enjoyed the way in which he evolved through out the story. Hazel Best is an idealistic new constable who is torn between honour and duty. Doing the right thing is important to her but when the cost may be her career, and even her life, Hazel is faced with some difficult decisions. Though I find it hard to believe Hazel could be quite as naive as she seems to be at times, I felt her internal conflict was believable and admired her strength of character.
I thought the issues that were posed with the denouement of the story were interesting and gave the story additional depth. Nothing is ever as black and white, or as simple as it seems - even the truth.
Deadly Virtues is an entertaining and satisfying mystery with appealing characters and I expect dog lovers will find it hard to resist Ash's faithful hound, Patience. Though written as a stand alone, there is potential for Bannister to revive these characters and I would certainly be interested in seeing Gabriel, with the help of Hazel, find answers regarding the fate of his family.
Clean Burn is a gripping crime fiction novel introducing Private Investigator Janelle Watkins. An injured ex-cop, Janelle mostly makes a living from e...more Clean Burn is a gripping crime fiction novel introducing Private Investigator Janelle Watkins. An injured ex-cop, Janelle mostly makes a living from exposing cheating spouses but a personal plea for help has her reluctantly agreeing to search for two missing children. The cases seem unconnected but both lead Janelle to her hometown of Greenville where she enlists the aid of her ex-partner, and ex-lover, Sheriff Ken Heinz. Heinz has his hands full with a series of arson attacks in the small town but when two more children go missing, and a fire is discovered at each scene, Janelle begins to suspect their cases are connected...
Psychologically and physically damaged heroines are increasingly common in crime fiction, and Janelle Watkins is no exception. Her personal history of abuse at the hands of her father has led to an unhealthy fascination with fire, she regularly burns herself with matches to, among other things, relieve stress. PTSD from a previous case involving a murdered boy is also a factor in Janelle's fragile emotional make-up and the reason she attempts to refuse her client's pleas for help. In addition an accidental firearm discharge by a rookie cop all but destroyed her leg, leaving her with a painful limp, and forced her resignation from the police force. Despite Janelle's self loathing and disturbing affinity for fire, I found her a likeable protagonist. She is both a sympathetic character and an admirable one, many would have buckled under the weight of dysfunction Janelle is forced to live with.
While much of the novel is narrated in Janelle's first person voice, a third person perspective fills in the missing pieces of the story. In terms of the plot, the reader knows from the start of the link between the missing children and the fires, something which is not immediately obvious to Janelle. Janelle's painstaking investigation to identify the abductors is believable, and the tension remains consistent, especially as we are privy to 'Mama's' increasingly disordered behaviour and the circumstances in which the children are being kept.
Clean Burn is grim at times, delving into family dysfunction, child abuse, addiction and pyromania but there are lighter moments. Janelle's secretary isn't afraid to speak her mind and Ken's niece is as rebellious as all teen's are. There is also the relationship between Janelle and Ken which sizzles with unresolved attraction.
This is a promising debut series from an author better known for her Silhouette Romance novels. Despite its dysfunctional characters and dark themes, Clean Burn is an entertaining read. I was engrossed and I'm looking forward to Janelle's next case. (less)
This isn't the first novel I have read by Cathy Lamb, in 2011 I borrowed Henry's Sisters from the library and though I never wrote a full review I gav...more
This isn't the first novel I have read by Cathy Lamb, in 2011 I borrowed Henry's Sisters from the library and though I never wrote a full review I gave the book five stars and wrote "I would give it more if I could." When I finished If You Could See What I See, the first thing I did was make a note that read "I laughed, I cried, I loved!" and the second thing I did was to order the author's entire back list.
Articulating why I so adored this novel is difficult because I can't isolate one particular element that I can identify as extraordinary. There is just something about the way in which Lamb writes that works for me.
In simplistic terms, the story of If You Could See What I See begins when Meggie O'Rourke, still struggling with the fall out from her disastrous marriage, returns home to Oregon to rescue her beloved grandmother's failing lingerie company from financial ruin. Buffeted by her grandmother's indomitable will and her sisters rivalry, Meggie has to find a way to secure both herself, and Lace, Satin and Baubles, a future.
But If You Could See What I See offers so much more than this neat summary reveals. The shocking truth of Meggie's marriage, the complex dynamics of her family and their relationships, the foundation on which the company was built and the lives of the people who work for it, all create a story that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. Similarly, the characters will shock and surprise you, from Brianna O'Rourke's frank discussions about sexual satisfaction on national TV to Hayden's revelation that he is a girl stuck in a boy's body.
There is grief, pain and tragedy, deeply felt and sensitively explored, but all tempered by heart, humour and even romance. A story about love, family and courage, I laughed, I cried, I loved! (less)
The strength of Poisoned Waters lies in its plot, which is complex yet easily navigated. The mystery surrounding Helen Gardener's death twists and tur...more The strength of Poisoned Waters lies in its plot, which is complex yet easily navigated. The mystery surrounding Helen Gardener's death twists and turns forging a complicated path though a melange of deceit, greed and blackmail. As the wealthy and enigmatic cruise host, Mr Phillips, pushes his own agenda, Helen is not the only passenger to meet an untimely end aboard the Diamond Royale, and the identity of her killer not the only secret revealed.
The author's enthusiasm for writing is evident but not yet polished. This shows in Alvarez's overgenerous use of adjectives and the uneven rhythm of the narrative. Overall Poisoned Waters would benefit from a professional edit to reign in some of its excesses, though I think Alvarez does demonstrate talent, which still has plenty of time to mature.(less)
This funny, smart and sassy chick lit novel, March, is Sunni Overend's impressive self published debut. The owner of her own designer boutique, Sunni...more This funny, smart and sassy chick lit novel, March, is Sunni Overend's impressive self published debut. The owner of her own designer boutique, Sunni writes what she knows, setting March in Melbourne against the backdrop of the fashion industry.
Once, Apple March was the star pupil at the famed Emmaline Gray Academy but scandal ruined her promising fashion design career before it had already begun, and now the twenty nine year old Melbourne hipster is stuck in a dead end fashion retail job, trading quips with the elegant Jackson about their conspicuously wealthy clientele and their insufferable boss, Veronica. It isn't until her sister announces her engagement and begs Apple to make her wedding dress that her dreams are reawakened and Apple begins to stitch together a new future.
I have to be honest, fashion does not interest me in least (nor shoes) but that didn't stop me from enjoying this entertaining, light-hearted novel. The third person narrative is enlivened with witty dialogue and good description. I loved the humour and the distinct 'Aussie' flavour of the story.
In terms of plot, Apple is hiding a secret from family and friends and Overend takes her time in revealing it. Romance is a fairly strong element of the story with Apple and Charlie's undefined relationship simmering away, despite the presence of Charlie's (horrible) fiance, Heidi and Apple's casual liaisons with Henri and Noah. Plus Mena is getting married and Apple's flatmate, Chloe, is contemplating the same. Perhaps the only flaw for me in the story stemmed from the subplot involving Apple and Mena's father. I think it should have been developed more, or perhaps left out all together, as I didn't find it particularly relevant in terms of story or character development.
The characters are wonderful. I really liked Apple, who is lovely and down to earth. Jackson made me laugh, and so did Veronica (well I mostly laughed at her). I found I could easily envision all three of these women, though I thought Mena and Chloe were fairly interchangeable. Charlie, the croquet playing heir apparent is just gorgeous and his younger sister, Jill, a delight.
I am impressed with this appealing debut novel. March is an enjoyable, funny and stylish read which I would happily recommend, particularly to fans of the chick lit genre. (less)
I really liked Throne of Glass and I have been looking forward to this sequel, Crown of Midnight. I was a little worried that the novel might succumb...more I really liked Throne of Glass and I have been looking forward to this sequel, Crown of Midnight. I was a little worried that the novel might succumb to the dreaded second book syndrome but all for nought, Crown of Midnight is a terrific read which I enjoyed even more than the first.
Picking up a few months after Celaena was named King's Champion in Throne of Glass, the book opens as Celaena drops the rotting head of one of Ardalan's enemies at his feet. As the King's personal assassin, indentured for four years, she is expected to follow his orders or risk the lives of those she loves, but Celeana walks a fine line between obedience and rebellion.
There is much tragedy for Celaena in Crown of Midnight, the death of a close friend, a betrayal she doesn't think she can ever forgive and separation from those she cares for. Celaena's prodigious talents are called upon often but the most deadly action takes place as Celaena seeks revenge and absolution. Bloody, fast paced and Celaena's adventures left me breathless.
While magic is largely assumed to be extinct in Erilea it begins to make its presence felt in Crown of Midnight. A hooded figure radiating evil lurks in the castle's library, the spirit of Queen Elena makes another appeal for Celaena's assistance and an animated doorknocker helps her to solve the mystery of King Ardalan's power base. Blood outs Celaena, and the Prince, revealing stunning truths in an exciting plot that twists and turns.
Romantically, Celaena makes her choice but betrayal soon tears them apart. *Sigh* I could fall in love with Kings Guard, Captain Chaol Westerfield and their romance is joyful and heartbreaking. However I liked seeing Prince Dorian begin to come into his own in this installment, his loyalty to Celaena and Chaol is admirable given his feelings for them both.
Though ostensibly written for a mature young adult audience I think this fantasy series has plenty to offer to adults of both genders. Crown of Midnight is fast paced, action packed, with great characters and an entertaining story. It is going to seem like a longgg wait for the next book (due out in 2014)! (less)
While A Distant Land is the third book in Alison Booth's Jingera trilogy, it works surprisingly well as a stand alone novel. Here, the focus is on Zid...more While A Distant Land is the third book in Alison Booth's Jingera trilogy, it works surprisingly well as a stand alone novel. Here, the focus is on Zidria Vincent and Jim Cadwallader, childhood friends now in their mid 20's.
Zidria is an ambitious journalist for the Sydney Morning Chronicle and when her friend, aboriginal activist Lorna, approaches her about a policeman's threats and blackmail attempts, Zidria is intrigued by the potential of the story. Finally, here is the exciting investigative opportunity she has been craving.
Jim is a correspondent in Cambodia, but he has had enough of the war zone and plans to return to Australia and accept a position with the Human Rights Center at Sydney University. However a colleague's last minute crisis means Jim has to endure a few more weeks in Indochina, a fateful twist of chance that will change everything for him, and for Zidria.
Exploring the larger issues of human rights, civil liberties and antiwar sentiment, A Distant Land is an interesting and realistic portrait of the political and social unrest in 1970's Australia. While aboriginals were agitating for land rights and the 'commie' threat had the government on edge, the war raging in Vietnam was attracting growing protest. These issues provide fertile ground for Booth to weave a story of suspense as Zidria works to expose the corrupt practices of the government and ASIO.
Amongst the national and international issues, Booth also explores the personal implications of the conflicts such as fear, loss and grief. Though Lorna is concerned by the threats of physical harm if she refuses to cooperate with the police, she is more afraid of their threats against her young sister and when Jim goes missing in Cambodia and is presumed dead, his family and Zidria grieve deeply.
I thought perhaps the romantic element - the relationship between Jim and Zidria - got a little lost within the story, partially because they spend little time together but also because the reticence of both Jim and Zidria in confessing their feelings didn't seem to fit either their characters or their circumstances, though perhaps, had I read the previous two novels, it would have made more sense to me.
Regardless, I found A Distant Land to be a well crafted, interesting and enjoyable read. I found Zidria to be an appealing character and I particularly liked the era and the socio-political background in which the novel was set. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the two previous novels in this trilogy, Stillwater Creek and The Indigo Sky.(less)
I have been a fan of the Beatles since I was quite young and inherited some of my aunt's vinyl album collection when she passed away at a tragically y...more I have been a fan of the Beatles since I was quite young and inherited some of my aunt's vinyl album collection when she passed away at a tragically young age. It was the promised connection between their music and Chad Gayle's debut novel, Let It Be, that convinced me to agree to a review.
It is the summer of the late 1970's in Amarillo, Texas and Michelle is trying to rebuild her life after fleeing her abusive husband, Bill, with her two children, ten year old Joseph and thirteen year old Pam. Joseph doesn't like Amarillo, doesn't like that his sister in charge during the long summer days while his mother works and doesn't like, or understand why, his father stayed behind.
Let it Be unfurls through several points of view tracing the events of the summer as relationships reach a crisis point. Though it is not always immediately clear when the perspective shifts as who it belongs to, each voice is distinctive . Given that the characters range across age and gender, I think the author has done a remarkable job to create such individuals. I feel as though their thoughts and feelings are appropriate and genuine, from Michelle's distress to Joseph's bewilderment and Bill's seething anger.
Each chapter is referenced by a Beatles song from the Let It Be album. From 'I Me Mine' to 'The Long and Winding Road' to 'Get Back', the song lyrics relate in some manner to the journey of the characters. Ultimately the lesson for Joseph, his mother and father are the 'words of wisdom', let it be.
A short yet intense novel exploring the themes of change, betrayal and redemption, Let It Be is an impressive literary debut. (less)
Hunter is the second book by Chris Allen to feature Interpol black ops agent, Alex Morgan. This fast paced, action packed thriller pits the INTREPID s...more Hunter is the second book by Chris Allen to feature Interpol black ops agent, Alex Morgan. This fast paced, action packed thriller pits the INTREPID soldier against Serbian war criminals determined to evade justice.
Hunter opens with Morgan in the midst of a clandestine mission to take into custody known Serbian warlord, Serifovic, from his compound in Corfu, Greece. But the agent's well planned, solo assault goes awry when he is surprised by one of guards and a vicious fight ensues. It's not the last time Morgan is forced into hand to hand combat, but in the way of all hero's, Morgan prevails and the villain is apprehended.
The arrest of Serifovic brings the INTREPID team one step closer to the capture of General Dragoslav Obrenovic, their ultimate target. The Slavic despot has declared war on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) resulting in its presiding judges being placed under protective custody. Yet despite the precautions, Judge Madeline Clancy is attacked in broad daylight in her Washington suburb of Sunset Hill and her daughter, Charly - a celebrity classical pianist, is abducted during a pleasure trip with a wealthy businessman. Cue Morgan, who is charged with rescuing Charly and ensuring her safe return home.
Roaming the globe, from Greece to America, London to Malta with a few more stops in between, there is plenty of action that leaves Morgan variously concussed, bruised and bleeding after taking on three enemies at a time or dangling from the floats of a seaplane.
Honestly, as a girl, I don't need to know the caliber of every bullet fired, or the power ratio of every vehicle driven at speed, but it is a minor quibble and I am guessing for those readers who know what the numbers mean, these details add a layer of authenticity to the action.
In between the life or death crises, Allen reveals the operations of groups like INTREPID and introduces other team members who are doing their part to ensure their mission is achieved. Meanwhile, General 'Drago' and his enforcer 'the Wolf' are heading for a power struggle. Morgan even finds time to kindle a romance with the flame haired Charly.
In general I think Hunter is well written though it could be a little more polished in places, occasionally an adjective didn't quite fit. I certainly can't complain about the pace which is cracking even with the short chapters and frequent shift of setting.
If you are a fan of cinematic action thrillers then this high octane action adventure novel is sure to have you turning the pages at breakneck speed. Hunter is an entertaining escape into the world of the anonymous groups that ensure justice is done.
I wouldn't advise beginning The Bone Season with the intention of reading just a few chapters before bedtime or you may find yourself still turning th...more I wouldn't advise beginning The Bone Season with the intention of reading just a few chapters before bedtime or you may find yourself still turning the pages at dawn as I did. With all the hype surrounding this novel written by twenty one year old debut author, Samantha Shannon I have to admit I was a little wary going in but The Bone Season, though not perfect, is an impressive and engrossing fantasy novel.
Set in future London following a timeline that splits from ours in the early 1900's, The Bone Season introduces nineteen year old Paige Mahoney. Paige is a dreamwalker, fighting to survive in a world where possessing any clairvoyant ability is considered high treason. Forced underground, London's clairvoyant's have formed criminal enclaves and Paige has given her allegiance to Jaxon Hall, who collects those 'voyants' with the rarest and most useful talents. During a rare journey to visit her father in London's suburbs, the train Paige is traveling on is boarded by Scion Underguards searching for voyants and Paige is forced to flee but quickly caught, drugged and taken to the Tower. Paige expects to be executed, for no one that has been taken by the Scion has ever returned but is horrified to learn that captured voyants are handed over to a enigmatic otherworldly race that call themselves the Rephaite, to serve them as slaves or food or soldiers. Paige's unique ability results in her being assigned to the Blood-Consort, Arcturus Warden, whom she is expected to obey unquestioningly. Paige though is not the type to meekly accept the strictures of her new life in Oxford, she wants to go home and she is determined to take as many other voyants as she can with her.
The plot of The Bone Season is actually quite straightforward and though there aren't a lot of surprises, I still found it compelling. There is plenty of tension and a good mix of action and intrigue with just a touch of romance (thankfully left nearly to the end of the novel).
I liked Paige as the heroine - she is smart, resourceful, feisty and both her talent and her personality is interesting. Despite the inherent contradiction she has a core of incorruptible humanity, she cares even when it is in her best interest not to. We learn only a little about her employer, Jax, and her colleagues given that she spends most of the book separated from them, but I am looking forward to getting to know more about them. Paige's allies and enemies in Sheol I are reasonably well drawn but obviously temporary. Warden is necessarily enigmatic, his allegiances unclear and his motives suspect. The issue of trust between Paige and Warden is a crucial element of the story and I think Shannon develops this very well.
The world building of The Bone Season is creative and interesting, though at times a little dense. I found it took a little while to get it all straight but I was intrigued by the variety of clairvoyant talents introduced ranging from Cartomancers to Binders and the ways in which the voyants are linked to the aether - the plane of existence where spirits dwell. The introduction of the enigmatic Rephaite, hidden in Oxford, adds another layer of interest especially as exactly what they are is shrouded in secrecy.
Despite it's length, The Bone Season is well paced without much of the the forced compression most stories are hostage to. I think the writing is impressive, especially given Shannon's age and experience. She is a natural storyteller and though a little more polish wouldn't hurt, the flaws in the narrative are minor. I would think it would be harder for Americans than readers from the Commonwealth to understand some of the slang used in The Bone Season, though a glossary is available to be made use of.
The Bone Season is easily one of the most enjoyable paranormal/distopyian novels I have read, though admittedly I have read few - distopyia is not usually my thing. I'm excited about the development of the series and hope that Samantha Shannon can live up to its potential. I will definitely be picking up the next book.
Having enjoyed The Defector by Mark Chisnell, I was happy to agree to a review of Powder Burn, the first book in a new adventure series featuring jour...more Having enjoyed The Defector by Mark Chisnell, I was happy to agree to a review of Powder Burn, the first book in a new adventure series featuring journalist, Sam Blackett.
After two months in southern Asia chasing her dream of becoming an investigative journalist, Sam is tired, frustrated and nearly broke. On the verge of admitting defeat and returning home to New York, a chance encounter with a handsome Brit, Pete Halland, has her agreeing to join him and his mates on their expedition to 'Powder Burn', deep in the Himalayan ranges, where 'Lens' plans to film 'Vegas' skiing the legendary mountain run.
The real action in Powder Burn begins when, nearing the run, the group find two men claiming to be refugees trying to escape from Shibde, a tiny region ruled by a brutal regime which forbids entry by foreigners. One of the men is suffering from severe altitude sickness and so Sam and Pete feel there is no other choice than to offer them their help, unwittingly involving themselves in a dangerous bid for revolution. With the weather on the mountain worsening, Chisnell cranks up the tension and the pace as Sam and her companions try to avoid capture in a perilous race down the mountain.
Sam is a strong protagonist, and in this introduction, proves to be likeable, intelligent and resourceful, important traits for a featured character for a series. Her companions on the journey are well developed, with distinct personalities and believable motivations for being part of the trek.
Powder Burn offers plenty of twists and turns and one or two surprises to its readers. I think it is an entertaining action thriller sure to please adrenalin junkies and adventurers alike.
“Just wanted to say, this wasn’t how I imagined the start of my grand adventure; a prig for a housemate and some unidentifiable (possibly Mexican) amp...more “Just wanted to say, this wasn’t how I imagined the start of my grand adventure; a prig for a housemate and some unidentifiable (possibly Mexican) amphibian called Duncan. My vision of studio loft apartments, spacious and bright come nowhere close to describing this disturbing student housing. I mean, I’m paying a fortune, I have to find a job, and all I get is some crummy, two bedroom apartment with paint peeling off the walls, a cupboard for a kitchen and a bathroom that makes a moss infested cave network look like a barren desert plain. Seriously, there is enough mould on those tiles to start producing our own penicillin tablets.”
And so begins The Grand Adventures of Madeleine Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire in New York where Madeleine will be studying photography at a prestigious private arts college. Having left behind her friends and family in Australia she is on her own, adjusting to her new life while lurching from one hilarious encounter to another.
I have to admire Craven's creative approach to storytelling, and admit to being somewhat surprised it actually works. The Grand Adventures of Madeleine Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire is told entirely in Facebook status updates, notes and private messages as Madeleine communicates with her friends and family. From the descriptions of her first day at college, where her housemate's stowaway chameleon causes havoc, to her photographic study of cross-dressing little people and her crush on her cute, if self absorbed neighbour, Kevin, Madeleine apprises everyone of every step of her journey. Her family and friends are variously supportive, concerned and disbelieving in their replies, and each update earns Madeleine more 'Likes' from an unseen audience.
But it's not all about Madeleine, from afar she is called upon to defend her wayward genius brother, comfort her hypochondriac best friend and continue to tease Tim about his relationship with his toaster. These 'conversations' give the story added depth and develops a uniquely connected cast, especially as her New York friends join her friendship circle.
Despite the unconventional format, The Grand Adventures of Madeleine Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire reads well. Anyone familiar with Facebook will quickly become comfortable with the rhythm of posts and comments. It's a short read at just about 150 pages yet there is plenty happening to ensure the reader's interest.
I was disappointed at the rather abrupt ending though, even with the knowledge that Craven expects to continue Madeleine's adventures. In fact Craven is hoping that readers will become involved in shaping the story by joining the various Facebook pages she has established for her characters. It is an ambitious idea and though one I admire, I'm not sure it's one readers are ready for quite yet.
The Grand Adventures of Madeleine Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire is a funny, lighthearted story of a twenty something Aussie making her way in the Big Apple. Well written and entertaining it is a unique contemporary read and I hope to be privy to Madeleine's next adventures.(less)
Fever is a fascinating novel that mixes historical fact and a fictional narrative to tell the tale of 'Typhoid Mary', the woman held responsible for s...more Fever is a fascinating novel that mixes historical fact and a fictional narrative to tell the tale of 'Typhoid Mary', the woman held responsible for several deadly outbreaks of the disease in the US around the turn of the nineteenth century.
In 1907, Mary Mallon was arrested at the direction of the Department of Health. A forty year old, unmarried, Irish immigrant cook she stood accused of spreading Typhoid, a bacterial disease transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person, among the New York households she worked for over a period of several years. Her role was identified by Dr George Soper, a health researcher who discovered that Mary was the link between outbreaks, despite the fact she remained asymptomatic. Mary felt victimised by the state who tried to force her to have surgery to remove her gallbladder (thought at the time to be the host of the disease) and when that failed exiled her to North Brother Island, a Quarantine hospital in the middle of the East River where she eventually spent over 30 years in isolation until her death in 1938.
There was little sympathy at the time for Mary Mallon, who caused the illness of as many as 50 persons, the death of three and likely more. Mary Beth Keane attempts to humanise Typhoid Mary in this novel and illustrate the possible thought process of the woman accused of willfully spreading deadly disease. I am familiar with only the basics of the case (see Wikipedia for an outline) so I am not sure where exactly Keane's imagination merges with known facts but the author brings some balance to the prevailing view of the 'evil' woman who fought the Health Deapartment every step of the way, and later flaunted their decree she was never to cook again.
Mary does prove to be a sympathetic character in Fever, even though she has a temper and a tendency to make poor decisions. Keane focuses on the period between Mary's arrest and her second period of exile, sharing the details of Mary's ordinary day to day life with her common law relationship with Alfred Breihof, a feckless drunk who was often unemployed. Personally I found the chapters focusing on her relationship, or following Alfred, a distraction from Mary's story though it does add depth to her character. Still, I was far more intrigued by Mary's reaction to her vilification as Typhoid Mary. It's understandable that Mary would find it difficult to believe Dr Soper's claims that she was the cause of Typhoid outbreaks, especially given it was a common disease whose cause and mode of transmission was unknown. Accused of creating a trail of illness and death Mary fought the medical establishment, dodging the Dr Soper, refusing testing and denying her culpability. It is also clear that Mary was victimised by the Health Department which took advantage of her status to impose unreasonable demands on her. Despite several larger outbreaks being traced to other asymptomatic carriers soon after Mary's arrest, she was the only one arrested and forcibly exiled, mainly it seems because the other identified carriers were men with family and money, who could not be as easily bullied.
Mary's case raises interesting moral and ethical questions about public health and safety, asking for example, if the rights of one individual outweigh the safety of many. It is also a fascinating glimpse of medical knowledge and sanitation in the early 1900's. Remarkably most of the cases of Typhoid fever could have been avoided with the simple act of hand washing. Fever is also a vivid portrait of New York City at the turn of the century and particularly of the lifestyle of the 'servant' class. From streets heaped with garbage to rooms crowded with tenants, basic hygiene and sanitation was practically non existent, encouraging diseases that could have been easily eradicated.
The provocative tale of an enigmatic historical figure, Fever is a compelling read. Keane skillfully infuses historical fact with imagined personality to creating an entertaining and intriguing tale which should appeal to a wide audience. (less)