If you want to know what to expect from Sharon Sala's new cosy series, Curl Up and Dye, this novella, Color Me Bad, is a great introduction to the qui...more If you want to know what to expect from Sharon Sala's new cosy series, Curl Up and Dye, this novella, Color Me Bad, is a great introduction to the quirky residents of Blessings, Georgia.
Divorcee Ruby Dye owns the towns beauty shop, Curl Up and Dye, staffed by identical twins Vera and Vesta Conklin and Mabel Jean Doolittle. On a quiet weekday morning all hell breaks loose when the wife and mistress of Preacher Clymer Conrad cross paths in the salon. One woman leaves minus her hair and her dignity, the other with a plan that shakes up the entire town.
Funny, heartwarming and thick with southern charm, this is an entertaining and engaging story which will have you looking forward to the first book in the series, due for publication in Feb 2014, The Curl Up and Dye.
After her sixth attempt at rehab, Shannon finally decides to embrace sobriety, faithfully attending meetings and make and effort to rebuild her life....more After her sixth attempt at rehab, Shannon finally decides to embrace sobriety, faithfully attending meetings and make and effort to rebuild her life. In following the advice of her sponsor to cut all ties with her former life, Shannon decides to get a new phone but almost immediately she begins to receive strange texts from an unknown caller which threaten to derail her recovery.
This isn't a story I expected from Jennifer Weiner but it bears the hallmarks of her stylish, tight writing. A dark story of addiction, tempered by a quest for redemption, with a surprise paranormal twist, Disconnected packs quite a punch despite its diminutive length. (less)
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 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)
Bombproof is a stand alone novel by Australian author Michael Robotham, best known for his crime thriller series featuring London psychiatrist, Joseph...more Bombproof is a stand alone novel by Australian author Michael Robotham, best known for his crime thriller series featuring London psychiatrist, Joseph O'Loughlin. First published in 2008, Mulholland Books has chosen to release this novel in the US in e-format.
Fast paced and action packed this thriller is a quick, entertaining read. The plot is fairly simple as the unlikely hero, Sami Macbeth, is caught between a rock and a hard place. Blackmailed by a drug lord, Tony Murphy, hunted by society criminal kingpin, Garza, with the entire metropolitan police force chasing him across London, Sami has nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Though frequently violent and often crude, Bombproof is also unexpectedly funny at times, as Sami's life spins out of control.
Sami is such a likeable character, all he wants is to find his younger sister, Nadia and start over, but he is dogged by a talent to 'turn a desperate situation into a hopeless one'. He reaches out to retired detective, Vincent Ruiz who has some sympathy for the kid, and no love for Garza, helping eventually to untangle the mess Sami is embroiled in.
Bombproof is a quick, entertaining read with a visual storyline that would make a great action flick. Though it's quite different from Robotham's usual crime thriller fiction it is a fun departure for this bestselling author.
Rude Bitches Make Me Tired is columnist and author Celia Rivenbark's seventh book. Though I have never actually heard of her, I couldn't resist the th...more Rude Bitches Make Me Tired is columnist and author Celia Rivenbark's seventh book. Though I have never actually heard of her, I couldn't resist the the title as I was desperate for something light and silly to read after a busy, chaotic week.
Rude Bitches Make Me Tired purports to be an etiquette guide for modern dilemmas discussing appropriate, and inappropriate, behaviour in regards to dealing with, amongst other things, funerals, dance mom's, Facebook, PDA's (public displays of affection) and dinner parties. Mixing personal anecdotes with snarky advice, humour tends to take precedence over wisdom. There are many lines that will make you laugh out loud, several that will make you cringe and a few that will have you shaking your head in disbelief at the decline of polite society. Personally though I'm with Rivenbark on thinking it would be 'as funny as hell' to slam a cart into the chatty b*tches blocking the grocery store aisle knocking them sprawling like bowling pins, and that anyone who does not respond to a RSVP is an inconsiderate loser, and worse.
If you are sensitive to profanity then this is not the books for you, but if you need a laugh, and are curious if it is appropriate to email your condolences to a bereaved family, then Ride Bitches Make Me Tired is a quick, amusing read.(less)
The Good Boy, Theresa Schewgel's fifth novel, is part crime thriller, part family drama unfolding through the perspectives of Detective Peter Murphy a...more The Good Boy, Theresa Schewgel's fifth novel, is part crime thriller, part family drama unfolding through the perspectives of Detective Peter Murphy and his son, Joel.
After a manufactured scandal nearly ruined his career, Pete was demoted to the K9 unit and forced to relocate his family after sacrificing their home to pay legal bills. Drowning in self pity, anger and guilt, he doesn't have the energy to confront his wife about her excessive drinking, his teenage daughter about her rebellious attitude, or his son's odd behaviour. It is all Pete can do to get through each day, his only comfort his belief that things couldn't get much worse, until they do. Eleven year old Joel doesn't really understand what is going on with his parents, but he knows his sister is in trouble and he desperately wants to help. Trailing McKenna to a party with his dad's canine partner, Butch, at his side, Joel is horrified when everything goes wrong and the only thing he can think to do is run.
The Good Boy is a gritty, character driven novel. The loss of innocence is a major theme of the story played out in the lives of the characters, highlighted by Pete's disillusionment with the justice system and contrasted by Joel's simple faith in his ability to save his family.
Though I thought the pace overall was a little slow and the tension uneven, I was drawn in by the interesting characters and the desire to learn their fate.
Joel is an immediately appealing character, bright, loyal and resourceful but, ignored by his parents who are too caught up in their own issues to pay much attention to their children, he is also lonely and misguided. Joel's effort to traverse Chicago to save Butchie, and his family, is a tense adventure as he tries to avoid being caught before he can reach the one person he thinks can save them.
Mystery shrouds the facts of Pete's transgressions, though it is obvious he, or at least was, is a cop who believes in the truth and privilege of his duty. However, already overwhelmed and disillusioned his son's disappearance pushes him over the edge and suspecting a street gang after revenge is to blame, goes after those he thinks are responsible. Pete is a decent man buckling under the strain of circumstance, despite the mistakes he makes I found him a character deserving compassion and felt that Schwegal portrayed his sadness, frustration and anger in a realistic manner.
Though I was expecting something more plot driven from novel, I did enjoy the strong characterisation and I'm interested in reading more from Theresa Schwegal. Overall, I found The Good Boy to be a good book.
Just Like Other Daughters is a moving and thought-provoking story by author Collen Faulkner, better known for her bodice ripper romances.
Alicia Richa...more Just Like Other Daughters is a moving and thought-provoking story by author Collen Faulkner, better known for her bodice ripper romances.
Alicia Richards should be delighted that her twenty five year old daughter has fallen in love for the first time. She has never wanted more for Chloe than to be happy but Alicia is plagued with misgivings about the relationship because Chloe has Downs Syndrome and her beau, Thomas, is intellectually challenged.
As a parent, Alicia is loving and supportive of Chloe, even if perhaps a little over protective. She doesn't always have all the answers but it is obvious that Alicia has always done the best she can for her daughter's health, safety and well being. Chloe's sexuality and her relationship with Thomas, is a challenge Alicia never expected to face and she finds it difficult to reconcile her daughter's desires with her limitations. Faulkner's exploration of Alica's conflicting thoughts and emotions is compassionate and honest. I could empathise with Alicia's very real concerns about the situation, as well as understand her wish to support her daughter's independence.
Alicia is a well rounded, realistically depicted character, not just Chloe's mother, she is also a respected college professor juggling the demands of her career with single parenting and the vagaries of an old house. She has been divorced from Chloe's lecherous jerk of a father for sometime but is still struggling from the fall out of her marriage collapse and her ex's disinterest in his daughter. With her mother long passed and her father largely absent from her life, Alicia has found support in her friendship with neighbour, Jin but she still hopes to find a romantic relationship.
Though primarily written from Alicia's first person perspective, Faulkner also provides us with brief glimpses of Chloe's viewpoint throughout the novel. I thought these snippets helped to develop Chloe's character, illustrating her emotional range, as well as her cognitive limitations.
The author also touches on the attitudes of others to relationships between those with intellectual challenges, and the conflict between practical concerns and well meaning idealism that surrounds the issue. A scene involving a doctor who refused to provide Chloe with birth control struck me particularly, personally I thought he was totally irresponsible.
Perhaps the only flaw in this novel for me involved the ending, which I thought was abrupt and somewhat unresolved. An epilogue would have been nice simply because I badly wanted things to work out for Alicia.
I found Just Like Other Daughters to be an emotional and affecting read, a story about love in all its permutations, its joys and its sorrows, its rewards and its price. This is a wonderful novel and I am happy to recommend it.
This quirky, satirical tale takes the form of a college admission essay sharing fourteen year old Perry Gonzalez's insights into the privileged lives...more This quirky, satirical tale takes the form of a college admission essay sharing fourteen year old Perry Gonzalez's insights into the privileged lives of her peers.
A precocious Latina scholarship student living in a tiny apartment with her estimable mother, Perry tutors, or babysits, the progeny of the Hollywood neighbourhood to save for her future. In this manner she is exposed to the personification of the seven deadly sins and writes of the inevitable consequences of lust, wrath, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy and pride.
From the demanding diva whose lust for her every desire results in electrocution, to the gluttonous appetite of a young boy who mistakes his own flesh for a leg of ham, there is plenty of humour, if morbidly exaggerated, in the stories Perry has to share. However in each vignette there is also the dark, sad truth of children corrupted by excess, variously indulged or ignored by their parents, and who ultimately pay a high price for their sinful behaviour.
While I was a little puzzled by the ending and didn't think the twist necessary, I found Seven Deadlies to be an entertaining novel with the potential to find an audience with both young adult readers and a more mature audience. (less)
I adore Fannie Flagg's southern fiction, and was thrilled to learn of a new release. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion is a heartwarming tal...more I adore Fannie Flagg's southern fiction, and was thrilled to learn of a new release. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion is a heartwarming tale of family, idenity and flying.
Sookie (Sarah Jane) Poole is a timid fifty nine year old wife and mother in Pt Clear, Alabama. She has never doubted who she is, despite being a continual disappointment to her mother, the imperious Southern matriarch Lenore Simmons Krackenberry, until she accidentally learns her mothers darkest secret.
The dual narrative alternates between the fallout of Sookie's discovery as she struggles to reconcile what she has always believed to be true with what her mothers secret reveals, and the fascinating story of the Jurdabralinski sisters of Wisconsin, to whom Sookie learns she is connected.
Sookie's identity crisis has her questioning the issue of nature versus nurture, wondering what might have been, had things been different. Though I thought perhaps her angst dragged on a bit too long, there is also a lot of humour and warmth in Sookie's journey, and of course in the sharing of the eccentricities of her Southern Belle mother and the benefits and pitfalls of small town living.
I was, however, always most eager to get back to the story of the Jurdabralinski's, a hardworking, Polish immigrant family of four daughters and one son. Fritzi, the most adventurous and unconventional of the girls, forges an extraordinary career as an aerial wing walker after being swept off her feet by a handsome but roguish stunt flyer. Unfortunately the war interrupts her career and she returns home where she is faced with the challenge of rescuing her family's gas station business while their father is recovering from TB and her brother in serving in the military. At Fritzi's suggestion, the four daughters of the family take over and manage to keep it profitable by exploiting the novelty of the girls being in charge...hence the title of the novel. As the war drags on, Fritzi is finally given the chance to fly again when, due to the lack of manpower available, women were reluctantly recruited by the military to assist in the war effort, transporting goods, including the planes themselves around the country. Eventually three of the Jurdabralinski sisters become fly girls, I was fascinated by this element of the novel, the WASP's, despite skepticism, and sometimes outright opposition, proved they were more than capable of providing crucial assistance to their country, but were never given official recognition by the powers that be and were summarily dismissed when the war finally ended. I love that Flagg has given recognition to this group of unsung heroines.
The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion is a charming story combining southern humour and eccentricity with a fascinating tale of adventure and heroism. Flagg is a wonderful storyteller and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this delightful novel.(less)
The conclusion to Crossan's Breathe trilogy, Resist picks up where Breathe ended. If you don't recall the details of the book, you might want to refre...more The conclusion to Crossan's Breathe trilogy, Resist picks up where Breathe ended. If you don't recall the details of the book, you might want to refresh your memory before beginning Resist as Crossan doesn't look back.
After leaving the Pod, finding The Grove and having it destroyed by the Ministry's forces, Alina, Quinn and Bea along with a handful of others are making their way to Sequoia, the last known haven outside of the dome. But for those that reach Sequoia, nothing is what they had hoped for and now they have no choice but to take a deep breath and fight for their future.
As in Breathe, the story unfolds through the multiple perspectives of Alina, Bea and Quinn with the additional point of view from Ronan, the son of the (former) Pod leader. The rapid shifts in perspective ensure the novel moves ahead at a quick pace but leaves little opportunity for character development and I thought the individuals and their relationships took a back seat to the plot.
The plot of Resist has an intensity Breathe lacked however, with Sequoia proving to be a scary disappointment, the Ministry closing in on the Resistance in the Pod and a revolution inevitable, though not in the manner you might expect. The conclusion is action packed and affecting with unexpected loss but in its final moments leaves the reader with hope for the future.
Resist is a solid finale for the Breathe duology. I recommend if all possible you read it immediately following Breathe which I think will lead to a more satisfying reading experience.
In a series of compelling short stories variously connected by time, place and character, Tim Winton's The Turning explores the trajectory of ordinary...more In a series of compelling short stories variously connected by time, place and character, Tim Winton's The Turning explores the trajectory of ordinary lives irrevocably altered by disappointment, tragedy, struggle and the yearning for something different...something more.
Set in Western Australia, the stories feature residents with ties to the fictional coastal town of Angelus. Though Winton shifts back and forth during the lifetime of of one man, Vic, who appears in nine of the seventeen stories, the stories begin in the 1970's.
The stories in The Turning focus on moments of change for the characters, sometimes as a result of a significant event or deliberate decision but more often simply as a result of circumstance, a chance meeting, or a seemingly trivial act. There is a strong thread of fatalism through the stories, the idea that a persons journey is predestined. Winston's characters are largely resigned to their past and their future, any hope for escape, for change, glimmering just out of reach.
I found Winton's child and teenage characters the most affecting, empathising with their confusion at changes thrust upon them, pitying the erosion of their innocence and dreams. The adult male characters are generally grimly working class, from fishermen to abattoir workers. The women are often mothers, though not always housewives. The Turning is often bleak and depressing as Winton exposes domestic violence, addiction and corruption.
Though nominally a collection of short stories, I feel The Turning is essentially an unusually structured novel and as such it is best to consider the individual stories as chapters, though they are capable of standing on their own. The connections are sometimes subtle but they are there for the discerning reader to discover, ensuring continuity and flow. The writing is effortless, eloquent and emotive, capturing the essence of place and people without unnecessary flourish.
Though first published in 2005, The Turning has been republished to coincide with this month's (September 2013) movie adaption release in Australian cinema's starring Rose Byrne, Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Miranda Otto and Hugo Weaving among others. The Turning is moving and compelling reading and I will be interested to see how it translates to the big screen.
I've had a a bit of a mixed relationship with the Cassandra Palmer series. I enjoy the way Karen Chance writes, her sense of humor and the crazed pace...more I've had a a bit of a mixed relationship with the Cassandra Palmer series. I enjoy the way Karen Chance writes, her sense of humor and the crazed pace of these books but Cassandra often gets on my nerves. It helps to remember that despite this being the sixth book, it has only been a few weeks in Cassandra's timeline since her life imploded and she became the world's chief seer without the years of preparation and training usually afforded to those who are named Pythia.
Tempt the Stars picks up shortly after the events of Hunt The Moon which ended with an epic battle and the loss of Pritkin, who sacrificed himself to save Cassandra, thus being dragged back to hell to serve his father. Cassandra isn't willing to abandon Pritkin though and despite the risks of manipulating time is determined to find a way to rescue the half demon, even if it means descending into hell itself.
The pace of Tempt the Stars is as frenzied as ever, over a period of just two days (I think - it gets a little confusing with the addition of several shifts back and forth along the timeline) - Cassie breaks into Tony's house, confronts her parents and crazed ghosts, sneaks into hell, faces down the Demon council and its guards, and rescues dozens of young initiates after a bomb destroys her court, and that's not even the half of it. It's a breathless action packed thrill ride but not entirely without moments of reflection as Cassandra is forced to contemplate the loss of Pritkin, her relationship with Mircea and exactly how much she doesn't know - about everything.
And OMG the single sex scene - so hot!
Fast paced and action packed this is an entertaining installment and despite its length, a quick read. Tempt the Stars ends on the inevitable cliff hanger and the fact that it will likely be another year before we find out what happens next may tip some fans over the edge, so be prepared. (less)
A loose sequel to Mr Chen's Emporium, author Deborah O'Brien revisits the small Australian town of Millbrooke in The Jade Widow.
As I found the histor...more A loose sequel to Mr Chen's Emporium, author Deborah O'Brien revisits the small Australian town of Millbrooke in The Jade Widow.
As I found the historical thread of the story in Mr Chen's Emporium more interesting than the modern day plot, I was happy to discover this novel is set entirely in 1885. It has been twelve years since Charles's tragic death and Mr Chen's Emporium continues to thrive in Millbrooke under the stewardship of his widow, Amy Chen. With her son nearing twelve, Amy has turned her attention to her dream of establishing a hotel in Millbrooke. Amy is an interesting character in that she believes a lady should act as such, yet is a single mother and successful business owner, uncommon for the times. The conflict plays nicely into one of the main themes of the novel, women's rights.
Eliza was one of my favourite characters in Mr Chen's Emporium, a headstrong young lady eager to challenge to patriarchy of the day. In the Jade Widow, Eliza has returned to Millbrooke after studying medicine at the Sorbonne for three years, though she still has a year of study to complete before graduating. Eliza is a staunch supporter of the equality movement and through her, O'Brien explores the challenges women faced a hundred years ago from the refusal of the Australian colleges to allow women to study medicine alongside men, to the debate that still rages today regarding marriage/motherhood vs career.
Both real characters, such as Sir Henry Parkes, and events, like the Mahdist War, are woven into the story and the historical details feel authentic. I always appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Australian history given the serious lack of education about our country's past I received at school.
I think The Jade Widow is an appealing novel, a charming and engaging read and like its predecessor, I think would particularly appeal to readers of historical and romantic fiction.