Authored by A.D. Garrett, the collaborative pseudonym of award winning author Margaret Murphy and renowned forensics expert Profess *unfinished draft*
Authored by A.D. Garrett, the collaborative pseudonym of award winning author Margaret Murphy and renowned forensics expert Professor Dave Barclay, Believe No One is the second gripping installment to feature DCI Kate Simms and Professor Nick Fennimore.
UK Detective Chief Inspector Kate Simms is on a six month 'method' exchange with the St Louis PD when her team uncovers evidence of a serial killer dumping bodies along a 600 mile stretch of the I-44. For Professor Nick Fennimore, touring the Midwest promoting his latest book, it is a convenient coincidence that a case he has been invited to consult on in Oklahoma links with Kate's investigation. The details though are a difficult reminder of his own tragedy - the women are found submerged in water having being bound and tortured, and in each case their child is missing. As the ad hoc task force involving Simms and the St Louis PD, Fennimore and the Williams County Sheriff's Office, Team Adam from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and an FBI Behavioural Analyst get closer to identifying the killer, they discover a link to a crime that happened more than two decades before, and a world away. Fennimore is stunned by the possibilities but then another body of a young mother is found in a nearby lake and the race is on to save her son.
The plot of Believe No One is complex and the investigation takes several twists and turns...more
Having enjoyed your second and third publications, Sincerely and Yours Truly, arising from the literary stage show c To the Women (and men) of Letters,
Having enjoyed your second and third publications, Sincerely and Yours Truly, arising from the literary stage show conceived by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire, I was delighted for the opportunity to read this fifth curated collected, titled Between Us.
As with your previous books, I am pleased to see correspondence from such an eclectic group of female and male contributors, 55 altogether, including radio personality Chrissie Swan, news anchor Tracey Spicer, authors Hannah Kent and Peter Goldsworthy, comedian Steady Eddy, political cartoonist Andrew Marlton, and actor Jeremy Lindsay Taylor. There were a few names I didn't recognise, and though helpfully you provide a brief bio of each at the back of the book, I would still prefer the information included at the end of each letter.
What I particularly like about the Letter's collection is the way in which they make me think about how I would respond to the topics. What would I tell my eighty year old self? What is the thing I dream of? What is the thing I'd like to avoid, and which person would I credit with teaching me what I need to know? I especially enjoyed the paired letters, written 'to my other half'.
I enjoy the way in which the tone of the letters veer from the poignant and contemplative to the whimsical and droll. It ensures the collection holds my interest and makes for a comfortable read through, though it would also be easy for a reader to dip in and out of at will.
Just between us, I have enjoyed the time I spent with this celebration of the lost art of letter writing and its collection of 'wit and wisdom'.
Thank you, women (and men) of letters for sharing with me....more
Recently a friend, after a few drinks, confessed she and her husband were experimenting with 'swinging'. I have to admit I was pretty shocked but as s Recently a friend, after a few drinks, confessed she and her husband were experimenting with 'swinging'. I have to admit I was pretty shocked but as she shared some of what she and her husband had learned about the lifestyle, I was intrigued, not only with the logistics of it, but why and how they made the decision. I didn't want to ask too many questions though - lest they mistake my intellectual curiosity as an angling for an invitation to join them - so when I discovered A Modern Marriage I felt compelled to pick it up.
Written by Christy and Mark Kidd, A Modern Marriage is a memoir of their experiences as a couple who have embraced the swinging lifestyle. They stumbled upon the scene at a New Years Party in New York and were both titillated and curious about what they witnessed. After a lot of discussion, some googling, and the laying down of ground rules, they decided to take the plunge. Christy and Mark experienced several false starts with seedy clubs and unreliable partnerships before finally getting in the swing of things.
I think Christy and Mark are quite honest in their telling. They share a little of their backgrounds, both Texas born and raised by mother's who had multiple partners during their childhood (Christy's mother was married 5 times, Mark's mother 4 times). They met, through their work as accountants, when they were both seriously involved with other partners but couldn't resist one another, and by the time they decided to explore swinging had been married for five years. Though Christy and Mark are clearly advocates for the lifestyle they don't entirely gloss over its possible pitfalls, exploring issues such as jealousy, attachment and even the dangers of addiction. They place great emphasis on the need for a strong marriage, honest communication and sensible rules, to partake in the lifestyle without damaging the relationship.
A Modern Marriage is sometimes explicit but not really in a pornographic way. The tone is conversational, and encounters are related largely in a matter of fact manner with the focus more on what the couple was thinking rather than feeling.
I know the swinging lifestyle is not right for me, for so many reasons, but A Modern Marriage satisfied my curiosity about why some couples make the choice. I'm not convinced it will work out for my friend but it seems it is possible, Mark and Christy have now been married for 14 years and are still swinging.
John Marsden is best known for 'The Tomorrow Series' though he has written and published at least a dozen more middle grade to young adult novels as John Marsden is best known for 'The Tomorrow Series' though he has written and published at least a dozen more middle grade to young adult novels as well as a handful of non fiction works.
"Having been asked by the Rvd Mr Johnson to jot down a few notes about my upbringing and the manner of my arrival in the colony, I will attempt to do so, but I should say at the outset that I have little of interest to relate. I have not contributed much worth to the world, as will no doubt become obvious in the pages that follow..."
South of Darkness is Marsden's first novel for adults and features a young man by the name of Barnaby Fletch. It begins in late 18th century London where Fletch is struggling to survive on the streets of 'Hell'. Orphaned at the tender age of 5, or thereabouts, he sleeps under bridges, thieving food to survive, his only friend another street rat named Austin. Though he is a recipient of some kindness by a church priest and later a family who fishes him half drowned out of the Thames, Barnaby is a hapless sort of fellow who often finds himself in dire straits and on one occasion, aged about 12, he sees no way out of a terrible situation other than to get himself transported to New South Wales to start a new life in the land that promises space and sunshine.
I have to be honest and admit that though I enjoyed Barnaby's adventures, my experience of the narrative was not unlike that of reading an extended account from a school textbook as part of a history lesson. South of Darkness is related in the first person past tense by the aforementioned Barnaby Fletch, with not much in the way of dialogue and a tendency to tell rather than show.
I have no doubt that the historical details of Barnaby's experiences are authentic, though his life is fictional. Marsden deftly evokes the grim streets of London, the bobbing transport ship, and the landscape of the fledgling Australian colony. I'm fairly familiar with the experiences of British convicts from an obsession with the era when I was in my mid teens but Barnaby's interactions with the Australian 'Indians' (indigenous) are not something I had read about before.
South of Darkness is a tale of survival, adventure, fortitude and hope. Though I feel it lacks some excitement it is still a fascinating account of the era and a young boys life. I assume there will be more to come from Marsden as the end of South of Darkness leaves room for a continuation of Barnaby Fletch's tale through adolescence and beyond....more
Gemma's Bluff, Karly Lane's sixth novel, is a contemporary story of friendship, love and self discovery set against the backdrop of rural Australia.
Ha Gemma's Bluff, Karly Lane's sixth novel, is a contemporary story of friendship, love and self discovery set against the backdrop of rural Australia.
Having just graduated from university and in need of a break before being press ganged into the family business, Gemma Northcote reluctantly agrees to join her best friend, Jasmine, on a six week working holiday on a farming property in rural New South Wales. While carefree Jazz isn't the least bit concerned about their lack of experience - 'google' will have whatever answers they need - sensible Gemma is worried they are making a huge mistake, especially when it becomes clear that their host had no idea they were coming. Nash Whittaker doesn't have the time nor energy to indulge the 'McLeod's Daughters' fantasies of two city girls, yet he is desperate for some help and reluctantly agrees Gemma and Jasmine can stay, as long as they make themselves useful. Surprising herself, Gemma finds the challenges of the farm invigorating, and the gruff charm of its owner increasingly irresistible. She begins to imagine making a life for herself at Dunoon with Nash, but can Gemma find the courage to defy her parent's expectations and forge her own path to happiness?
Gemma's Bluff has a strong and fairly traditional romantic plot. Gemma and Nash are instantly attracted to one another but their romance develops only as they get to know one another. I enjoyed the build up to the consummation of the relationship but they have only a few short days together before it all goes wrong, and it is more than a year until they are reunited.
I liked Gemma for the most part, she is sensible, capable and kind, and I enjoyed the way she grew in confidence and self awareness during her time at Dunoon. However Gemma does make a decision three quarters of the way through the story that I have to admit soured me on her character somewhat. Though reasons are given which work for the plot and characterisation, the justification doesn't work for me personally.
A secondary plot involves Nash and local boy Ben whose long standing enmity boils over when Ben interferes in Nash and Gemma's relationship. The tragic reason for their hostility plays into the separation of the couple, and adds drama to the novel.
As always, Lane evokes Australia's farming district with vivid description and recognition of its realities, with Nash struggling with drought and the effects of recent government bans on live export. The dialogue is natural and the writing is solid.
Though not my favourite story from Karly Lane, Gemma's Bluff is still an engaging contemporary rural romance that should satisfy fans, and new readers, alike....more
I first discovered Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix on Leeswammes Blog where the quirky cover, designed to imitate a IKEA catalogue, caught my eye. I was f
I first discovered Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix on Leeswammes Blog where the quirky cover, designed to imitate a IKEA catalogue, caught my eye. I was further intrigued when I learned she had given it five stars and I immediately added it to my wishlist based on her recommendation.
After the staff of IKEA ORSK repeatedly find soiled furniture, broken glass ware and other damaged products each morning with no evidence of an intruder, store manager Basil recruits two of his employees, Amy, a reluctant floor leader, and Ruth-Ann, an ORSK lifer, to work an overnight shift. His plan calls for hourly sweeps of each floor and when they stumble across a homeless man hiding under a bed, and two colleagues making out on a couch, they believe they have solved the mystery. But the man vehemently denies he is responsible and Amy's colleagues, aspiring ghost busters, Trinity and Matt persuade them to take part in a seance, and suddenly the 'Bright and Shining Way' is a dark path to an unimagined hell.
Really I am surprised it has taken so long for someone to set a horror novel in a big box store like IKEA which, with its funneled walkways, empty staged rooms, and horse-meat meatballs, has a creep factor even on an ordinary day. It is easy to imagine the magnified eeriness of the echoing spaces at night, especially if you believe someone, or something, is out on the floor stalking you.
The format of Horrorstör includes chapters prefaced by the familiar innocuous blueprints and product descriptions of furniture with names like Müskk (a bed) and Liripip (a wardrobe) which grow increasingly bizarre however as the story progresses. These add a humourous touch which offsets the dawning horror. Also included is an order form, a map and even staff evaluation forms.
Horrorstör is a quick, entertaining read designed to elicit a chill or two in the same way that the store is designed to encourage you to purchase a bookshelf or two. A horror novel with a touch of the absurd, you will never look at IKEA in quite the same way again.
PS. If you need more convincing that IKEA is the perfect setting for a horror novel, check out IKEA Singapore's TV ad to promote its late night opening hours - a tribute to The Shining....more
Laurinda is Alice Pung's first fiction novel and features a teenage girl, Lucy Lam, who is awarded the inaugural 'Equal Access' scholarship to the exclusive Laurinda Ladies College.
Lucy is the daughter of Chinese/Vietnamese 'boat' immigrants who live in a 'povvo' area of suburban Australia. Her father is a shift worker in a carpet factory while her mother, who speaks almost no English, sews in their garage under sweatshop conditions while caring for Lucy's baby brother. As an Asian-Australian scholarship student without a background of wealth and privilege, Lucy is an outsider at Laurinda in more ways than one, but wants to fit in and take advantage of the opportunities the school affords her.
Initially Lucy feels confident she will be able to hold her own at Laurinda but she soon realises that there is a cultural and social divide she is at a loss as to how best negotiate. In particular, Lucy is both fascinated with and horrified by the dynamics at the school which contrast sharply with her experience at Christ Our Saviour College. Laurinda is in thrall to three young women known as the Cabinet who wield a frightening amount of influence within the school with the tacit approval of the headmistress, Mrs Grey. Amber, Chelsea and Brodie are manipulative and cruel yet have cultivated an aura of power that none of their peers, and few of their teachers, are willing to challenge. As Lucy is absorbed into the school's insular environment she is caught up in the ethos of Laurinda, and nearly loses herself, but eventually finds a way to forge her own path.
The narrative is presented in the form of a series of letters addressed to 'Linh' whom we assume is a friend of Lucy's from her previous school (view spoiler)[ but we later learn Lucy is actually writing the letters to herself, Linh being her middle name (hide spoiler)] The author's portrayal of Lucy is compassionate, sensitive and achingly real. Lucy is smart, capable and strong, but she is also a teenager and as such is beset by bouts of insecurity and vulnerability. Though I do not share the same ethnicity nor background as Lucy, I found her, and several of her experiences, easy to relate to.
Part satire, magnifying the pretensions of private school and the aspirations of immigrant families, part poignant coming of age tale, Pung draws on her own experiences which gives the story a sense of authenticity. Privilege, racism, class, identity and integrity are all themes explores in the novel. Pung also skilfully captures the almost universal experience for teenage girls negotiating high school where a small number of students often have an inexplicable cache of power and wield it without mercy. While Lucy is not the only victim of the Cabinet's bullying, she also has to negotiate the additional stress of cultural discord and the expectations of Laurinda's principal who demands Lucy is suitably grateful for, and repays, the privilege she has been given.
The writing is sharp and witty with characters and scenes that are vividly portrayed. The pace is good and the structure works well to deliver an interesting surprise. Laurinda is a clever, entertaining and insightful novel, suitable for both a young adult and adult audience and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to either.
Liz Trenow uses dual narratives to explore the themes of loss, love, war and post traumatic stress disorder in The Poppy Factory, a moving story of tw
Liz Trenow uses dual narratives to explore the themes of loss, love, war and post traumatic stress disorder in The Poppy Factory, a moving story of two women's experiences of war.
Jess has just returned to London after spending six months as an army medic in Afghanistan. Haunted by both her experiences overseas and the events that drove her to volunteer her services, she is finding it difficult to readjust to civilian life but refuses to acknowledge it. Suffering from flashbacks, drinking too much and lashing out, Jess's behaviour drives away her boyfriend and alienates her friends. It is not until her mother passes on a diary kept by Jess's great grandmother in the aftermath of World War 1 that Jess begins to find the perspective she so badly needs.
A young war bride, Rose is happy to welcome home though her childhood sweetheart, despite his having lost a leg. Alfie however is changed by his wartime experiences and struggles on his return not only with his disability and PTSD but also the depressed economic environment. Rose's written fears, frustrations and fortitude allows Jess to slowly recognise the similarities between Alfie's behaviour and her own and a twist of fate unites Jess with the same organisation, The Poppy Factory, that Rose credits with saving her great grandfather.
The Poppy Factory is written with compassion and insight. It offers a moving exploration of PTSD and I liked the way in which Trenow drew parallels between the generational experiences. I thought perhaps the historical thread was stronger than Jess's modern day narrative but the two stories are woven together seamlessly and present a cohesive narrative.
The Poppy Factory is a real organisation established over 90 years ago to help disabled ex-military men and women find meaningful, rewarding and sustainable employment. You can support the Poppy Factory by visiting www.poppyfactory.org...more
Breaking Beauty is a collection of twenty seven short stories authored by Creative Writing postgraduates from the University of Adelaide, which claims Breaking Beauty is a collection of twenty seven short stories authored by Creative Writing postgraduates from the University of Adelaide, which claims to be one of the pre-eminent creative writing programs in Australia.
Edited by Lynette Washington, this diverse literary anthology explores the theme of beauty, not to define it but to challenge our recognition of it. In most cases the stories delve beyond its familiar construct to find beauty in unexpected forms and unusual places, and often hidden deep beneath ugly truths.
Though the short story format is not a favourite of mine, I found the majority of the stories to be interesting and thought provoking. Those that resonated most strongly with me included Beautiful Girl by Gillian Britton, The Beholders by Sean Williams and A Paper Woman by Melanie Kinsman.
Ranging from the provocative to the poignant, from sexy to startling, Breaking Beauty is a fine anthology from a group of talented Australian writers.
With stories by Katherine Arguile, Lesley Beasley, Gillian Britton, Rebekah Clarkson, Jessica Clements, Katherine Doube, Annabel Evitts, Ruby Ewens, Matthew Gabriel, Corrie Hosking, Rosemary Jackson, Melanie Kinsman, Stefan Laszczuk, Jo Lennan, Gay Lynch, Mary Lynn Mather, Amy T. Matthews, Rachael Mead, Lilliana Rose, Bernadette Smith, Anna Solding, Reg Taylor, Heather Taylor Johnson, Lynette Washington, Bryan Whalen, Sean Williams and Kimberley Zeneth....more
It takes just a handful of ingredients and a few minutes in a microwave to make one of the 40 cakes in Mima Sinclair's Mug Cakes. These single serve t It takes just a handful of ingredients and a few minutes in a microwave to make one of the 40 cakes in Mima Sinclair's Mug Cakes. These single serve treats are ideal for a quick sugar fix or delicious dessert and
Mug Cakes is presented in a small format hardcover book with full colour photographs accompanying most recipes. The ingredients and method for each recipe are well set out, with additional tips highlighted. Both of my daughters (18 and 10 years old) easily followed the instructions to make their own mug cakes without any supervision.
Sinclair begins Mug Cakes with some useful tips about choosing ingredients, how to check a mug is appropriate for use, and some essential advice on how best to prep, cook and enjoy the recipes. One tip we can pass on is to heed Sinclair's advice about the size of the eggs. We only had extra large eggs to prepare one of the recipes (Sinclair recommends medium sized eggs only) and there was a distinctly 'eggy' taste to it.
The cookbook is divided into four sections: Classics, Occasions, Happy Hour and Treats and Puds. You need little else other than a spoon, mug and microwave and ingredients you likely already have in your pantry or refrigerator. From Carrot Cake to a Chocolate Brownie, Black Forest to Mojito, Rocky Road to Lemon Curd Cheesecake, the recipes are varied and most take less than five minutes to prepare and bake. Included also are recipes for a Gluten-Free and Egg-Free cake which can be tweaked with flavour and topping to suit.
My daughters enjoyed the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake (the recipe can be found HERE), the Triple Chocolate Cake and the Red Velvet Cake. I liked the Apple & Cinnamon Cake with caramel sauce. My best friend tried both the Mocha and Baileys on the Rocks recipes and was delighted with the results.
Offering quick, easy and delicious recipes Mug Cakes is a treat of a book. I know it will be used often in my household and I think it would also make a wonderful gift, accompanied by a mug cake of course!
In Fiona Higgins' Wife on the Run, Paula McInnes has been married to her husband Hamish for 17 years and is the mother of two teenage children, fourte In Fiona Higgins' Wife on the Run, Paula McInnes has been married to her husband Hamish for 17 years and is the mother of two teenage children, fourteen year old Caitlin and thirteen year old, Lachie. The family lives an ordinary, comfortable life in the Australian suburbs which is irrevocably changed when first Caitlin is the victim of a Facebook 'sex' scandal, and then, when Hamish is injured in an accident, Paula discovers what her husband has really been doing during his late nights 'working' from home. Shocked and angry, Paula makes a snap decision to pull her children out of school and, along with her father Sid, embark on a three month caravanning tour around Australia, leaving Hamish behind. Freed from their structured routine, and with a ban on technology enforced, the family quickly embrace the pleasures of the journey - beautiful scenery, friendly locals, 'drinkypoo's' at sunset and for the teens, a growing sense of independence thanks to Grandpa Sid's 'life lessons'. With her guard down, Paula is surprised to find herself susceptible to the charms of a charismatic Brazilian they meet on the road. Meanwhile, after a ten day bender, Hamish decides his life is empty without his wife and children in it, and sets out to catch up with them, but ends up making a detour or two along the way. Both Paula and Hamish are on the run, but neither of them are exactly sure if it is from or to one another.
Told from the dual perspectives of Paula and Hamish, Wife on the Run unfolds at a quick, entertaining pace. Part social commentary, part 'road trip' farce, Higgins tempers the serious themes of the novel - the perils of social media, marital breakdown, aging and self discovery - with some slightly absurd plot twists including an ever obliging tour bus operator, an illicit rendezvous, a Brazilian (of both types), and a lucky bet on the Melbourne Cup.
Strong but flawed characters, and the complicated dynamics between them, should resonate in one way or another with most readers. There is no denying that Paula is a bit of a control freak but she is largely a sympathetic character despite the mistakes she makes. Hamish is often a boorish sleaze but not entirely irredeemable, Sid is a treasure, and the children are fairly typical teens. The supporting cast is rich and varied, including 'Doggo', Marcelo, 'Farken' Frank, and Lisel17, all whom offer surprises you probably won't see coming.
Natural, if often earthy, language and dialogue is spiked with 'Australian-isms' and more than one surprisingly explicit sexual scene. There is plenty of humour, both overt and sly, but also astute and serious observations. The landscape, as the characters travel through South Australia, Western Australia and up to the Northern Territory, is familiar with a hint of the exotic.
Provocative, sharply insightful and wildly entertaining, Wife On the Run is not what you may expect from the synopsis but it is an engaging journey through love, heartbreak and self discovery. ...more
A sweeping saga spanning three generations, and two continents, Nicole Alexander's fifth novel, The Great Plains, is an absorbing tale of love, loss, A sweeping saga spanning three generations, and two continents, Nicole Alexander's fifth novel, The Great Plains, is an absorbing tale of love, loss, betrayal, belonging and freedom.
The story begins in Dallas, Texas in 1886, before moving to the plains of Oklahoma, and then to the Queensland bush, nearly fifty years later. It follows the trials of three generations of beautiful and strong willed women, Philomena Wade, abducted and raised by Apache Indians, her granddaughter Serena, claimed by her wealthy uncle, successful Texan business man Aloysius Wade, and Serena's eldest daughter, Abelena, whose fates are inextricably entwined with the obsessions of three generations of Wade men.
The Great Plains is a multi-layered novel with complex characters believable for both their virtues and their flaws. The major theme of the novel is the notion of belonging with Alexander exploring the bonds created by family, and within that the debate of 'nature versus nurture', the spiritual attachment to the land felt so deeply by the indigenous peoples in both North America and Australia, and finally the idea of belonging to oneself.
The story references some of the historical events of the time including the development of the Wild West, the abolition of slavery, the Great Depression and World War 1, as well as key figures, most notably the legendary Apache Indian, Geronimo. Alexander also explores several social issues and beliefs raised by both time and place.
The Great Plains is grand and involving fiction blending history and family drama, skillfully crafted by a consummate storyteller.
Irish author Marian Keyes has published a string of bestselling chick lit novels since the mid 1990's including the popular Walsh Family series.
The W Irish author Marian Keyes has published a string of bestselling chick lit novels since the mid 1990's including the popular Walsh Family series.
The Woman Who Stole My Life is a stand alone title featuring Stella Sweeney, a Dublin wife, mother and beautician, whose ordinary life is turned completely upside down when she falls ill with a rare illness.
The timeline is a little messy to begin with, starting with a fender bender that happened a few weeks before Stella got sick and then jumping to the 'present day' almost two years later and then back in time - heralded by a quote from the book Stella wrote after her recovery - to the day her illness was diagnosed. It becomes slightly less confusing as the novel progresses, with one narrative thread moving forward from the time of her diagnosis and the other through the present day, until they eventually merge.
The tension in the novel is supposed to stem from learning what happened to irrevocably change Stella's life not once, but thrice. Unfortunately the 'mystery' is stretched a little too thin to sustain the length of the story and though I was riveted during the first half or so of the novel my interest began to wane during Stella's time in New York. There is a lot of emphasis on 'karma', and fate, but oddly not a lot of examples of this playing out in the storyline. Gilda certainly doesn't get what you would think she deserves, neither does Stella's ex-husband, or her son.
I should have been able to relate to Stella easily, we are of a similar age and stage of life, and I did in some respects, but I soon found I didn't like her much once she recovered from her illness. She was so insecure, particularly in her relationship with Mannix, and lacked any real gumption in general. I also found most of the other supporting characters were shallow constructions, though Stella's dad, Karen, Stella's sister, and Roland, Mannix's brother, were favourites.
There is some of Keyes humour in The Woman Who Stole My Life, particularly in the first half, but overall I feel it lacked the trademark wit and warmth I expect from Keyes. There is an edge of bitterness here that is never explicit, but nevertheless present.
Talon is the first in a new contemporary fantasy young adult series from author Julie Kagawa.
Centuries ago, dragons Ut omnes segimus. As one, we rise.
Talon is the first in a new contemporary fantasy young adult series from author Julie Kagawa.
Centuries ago, dragons were forced into hiding, hunted near to extinction by the legendary dragonslayers, The Order of St George. Shifting into human form allowed dragonkind to survive and even thrive in secret, building a network which has successfully infiltrated human society, biding their time until the day Talon will rise up and reclaim the world. Ember and Dante Hill are hatchlings who have lived their whole lives hidden within a Talon facility learning the skills they will need to survive as operatives within the organisation. Their last training task requires them to seamlessly assimilate into human society and so for one summer they will live as human teenagers on the sunny coast of LA. Ember is delighted with her new found freedom, but her experiences living among humans, as well as a chance meeting with a rogue dragon, causes her to begin to question the dictates of Talon and when she learns of the organisations plans for her, she is forced to make a difficult choice.
Talon unfolds through the perspectives of Ember, the teenage St George soldier, Garret Xavier Sebastian, tasked with discovering the human identity of the dragon known to have been seeded into the locale, and later, Riley aka Cobalt, a rogue dragon on the run from both Talon and the dragonslayers.
The pace is a little slow to begin with, allowing Kagawa to establish character and back story. There are elements of suspense, intrigue and drama as Ember defies Talon, her scary trainer, Lilith, and her brother, Dante, in search of the truth, while the Order of St George grows ever closer to exposing her. I enjoyed the action as it develops and the last few scenes are tense and fast paced.
Though the love triangle has a bit of a twist in that both Garrett and Riley - one a St George soldier, the other a rogue dragon - are 'bad' boys, it is still, well, a love triangle, not my favourite trope. That said, I liked both of them and there is chemistry between each boy and Ember.
Talon isn't as strong as I perhaps hoped, the plot lacks some originality, but there is potential for Kagawa to create something more unique as the series develops. Talon is a light, quick and entertaining read, but be warned, there is a cliffhanger ending and the second book, Rogue, won't be published for another six months or so....more
In 1989, Samantha Platt, a nineteen year old American arts student, was traveling through Europe with her best friend, Tracey, when, on their second t In 1989, Samantha Platt, a nineteen year old American arts student, was traveling through Europe with her best friend, Tracey, when, on their second to last day in Paris they met two handsome young Frenchman, Jean-Luc and Patrick. Though their time together was brief, Samantha and Jean-Luc both admitted to feeling a strong connection, and though Samantha chose to continue their planned journey leaving Jean-Luc behind, she did so with no small amount of regret.
Twenty odd years later, Samantha has been made redundant and her marriage is disintegrating when Tracey reminds her of their summer in Paris and the seven letters full of romance and longing she received from Jean-Luc after her return home. Wondering 'what if?', Samantha gathers her courage and decides to contact Jean-Luc, awkward emails soon became more intimate, leading to long phone calls which eventually results in Samantha accepting Jean-Luc's invitation to visit him in Paris. It is a chance Samantha feels she has to take...
Seven Letters From Paris is the true tale of an extraordinary second chance love story. Twenty years after their day long romance in Paris, Samantha and Jean-Luc are reunited, and less than 12 months later are husband and wife.
Samantha's story may have a fairytale ending, but it is a life and love hard won. She has dealt with an absentee father, a difficult divorce and bankruptcy to then moving to France with only rudimentary language skills, and becoming not only a wife, but also a full time stepmother of two young children.
Written in a friendly, almost conversational tone, Seven Letters From Paris is an easy read. Romantics will swoon over the seven letters Jean-Luc sent Samantha in 1989, francophiles will enjoy reading about Samantha's new life in France.
As my own love story is entirely prosaic - he was 20 and a co-worker of a friend, I was just 16 and still in high school when we got together, we married when I was 22 and next week we will celebrate 19 years of marriage - I appreciated the romance of Samantha and Jean-Luc's relationship and their almost too-good-to-be-true reunion.
My French is very rusty but: Je vous souhaite de nombreuses années de bonheur (I wish you both many years of happiness)
*Please note: I choose not to rate memoirs*...more
Our Kind of Love is the third and final book in Victoria Purman's wonderful coastal romance trilogy, The Boys of Summer, set on the Fleurieu Peninsula Our Kind of Love is the third and final book in Victoria Purman's wonderful coastal romance trilogy, The Boys of Summer, set on the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia.
This sweet and sexy installment sees Joe, Lizzie's brother, who has recently returned to Middle Point after his wife left him for his best mate on the same day that he was made redundant from his job as an investigative newspaper journalist, fall hard for Dr Anna Morelli, a 'good Italian Catholic girl' reeling after discovering her husband has been cheating on her for most of their marriage, who breaks all of her own rules when she spends the night with Joe after Ry and Julia's wedding.
Joe and Anna's story is all about giving love a second chance. There is plenty of chemistry between them, illustrated by a couple of toe-curling encounters, but their romantic path is strewn with obstacles. With the romance genre, it's important to me that I believe in the reasons for conflict between the couple. I felt that Purman managed this well, creating realistic emotional and practical issues to divide Joe and Anna, and as the story is set over a period of about nine months or so, the relationship is given the time to evolve naturally.
I love that Julia and Ry (Nobody But Him), and Lizzie and Dan (Someone Like You) play such a big part in this novel. It's lovely to see how their relationships have developed past their 'happy ever after' endings.
Our Kind of Love is a delightful read and I have enjoyed the romance, drama, humour and heat that has characterised the trilogy. I'm a little sad to say goodbye to The Boys of Summer but I am excited to learn what we can expect next from Victoria Purman....more
There is nothing I love more than freshly baked bread. My one weekly indulgence is buying bread from my local bakery instead of plastic wrapped loaves There is nothing I love more than freshly baked bread. My one weekly indulgence is buying bread from my local bakery instead of plastic wrapped loaves from the supermarket. Occasionally I will also make my own dough to bake but since I don't have, and can't afford, a decent stand mixer it is a laborious process, made more difficult by the time it requires to serve up fresh baked goods exactly when you want them.
Make Ahead Bread by Donna Currie aims to make baking easier by dividing the process into two parts, allowing you to prepare the dough and then refrigerate it until a day or two later when you can bake it. This is a much more convenient method for busy people who don't have an entire day to devote to baking.
Currie begins with some useful advice about ingredients, equipment and methods to get the best from her 100+ recipes. The first chapter of the book starts with her recipes for loaf breads using wheat, sourdough or rye, both sweet and savoury flavoured such as Fresh Corn and Cheddar Loaf and Peanut Butter Spread with Raspberry Swirl. The next chapter explores Buns, Rolls & Breadsticks, then Flatbreads like focaccia. Her recipes for Pastries include Lemon Danish and Cinnamon Croissants. The final sections offers recipes to use with leftover bread like a Cherry and Goat Cheese Strata and recipes for flavoured spread combinations like Orange and Ginger, Cinnamon Honey and Wine Jam. NB: You can see a complete recipe listing HERE
The recipes are well laid out (even in my digital version) with clear instructions and ingredients lists. Not every recipe is accompanied by a photograph of the result, which is a bit of a shame I thought.
I've bookmarked quite a few recipes I plan to try like the Strawberry Jam Swirl Loaf, Pre baked Herb and Cheese Buns and Pineapple Sweet Cheese Danish. I will actually be making the Maple, Bacon and Onion Loaf later on during the week to contribute to a friend's BBQ - I'll have to retro post pictures.
There are only a couple of gluten free recipes so this cook book is not suitable for those with gluten intolerance. Some recipes seem quite simple, others fairly complex so I think it would suit a range of people from the first timer to the regular home baker interested in Currie's make ahead method.
Forbidden Fruit is the third fabulously entertaining book in Ilsa Evans' cozy mystery series set in the small fictional Australian town of Majic, feat Forbidden Fruit is the third fabulously entertaining book in Ilsa Evans' cozy mystery series set in the small fictional Australian town of Majic, featuring the middle aged accidental sleuth, Nell Forrest.
Forbidden Fruit picks up not long after Ill-Gotten Gains left off. Nell has moved into her newly purchased and renovated home, once the storefront for her absentee father's butcher shop, and is digging a hole to plant an apple tree in her backyard when she uncovers human remains. The body is eventually identified as a young wife and mother who once lived in the adjoining premises and disappeared in the early 1970's. The police suspect Nell's father murdered her, prompting his return from England where he has been living for over thirty years, but Nell is convinced they have it wrong and sets out to prove his innocence.
Nell has her hands full in Forbidden Fruit what with two of her five daughters about to give birth, new in-law's-to-be to entertain, her part time lover, Detective Ashley Armistead, demanding a commitment, and her ex husband parading his newborn daughter around town, yet she can't help but get involved in the investigation when her father is charged with murder. Aided by her sister, Petra, and with clues provided by the gossipy residents of Majic (including Grace June Rae - the character I won naming rights to), Nell uncovers some disturbing secrets about the early years of her parents marriage, and unmasks a killer.
The mystery is well plotted with a trail of red herrings and surprising twists. It was well over halfway before I figured out the identity of the real killer, though not their motivation until the final scenes.
I have loved the humour in this series, from the 'fan' letters (Nell writes a syndicated newspaper column called Middle Aged Spread) that preface each chapter, to the exasperated snark Nell mumbles under her breath. The barely restrained chaos of Nell's family life is a real feature in all three books, as is the eccentricity of the residents of Majic.
Forbidden Fruit, like the entire series, is a delightful blend of mystery, humour and domestic drama. Sadly this will be the final installment in the Nell Forrest Mystery series unless Nell finds a stronger audience. I implore readers whose interest is piqued to purchase a copy from your favourite ebook retailer.
* As of Nov 2014 the first book, Nefarious Doings is free to download from Amazon and both books 2 and 3 are just a few dollars ...more
Frog is the latest novel from contemporary Chinese novelist Mo Yan, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012.
The novel is presented in five par Frog is the latest novel from contemporary Chinese novelist Mo Yan, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012.
The novel is presented in five parts, with each prefaced by a letter from our narrator, Wan Zu/Xiaopao/Tadpole, an aspiring playright, to his Japanese mentor. Set in a rural community in the Shangdong province of China, the events he relates spans several decades from 1960 to around 2000.
Frog deals largely with the controversial themes of China's one child policy with Tadpole writing about his Aunt Gugu, a skilled and popular midwife who later, as a loyal communist, becomes a reviled militant enforcer of the country's one-child policy. Wan Zu, who plans to write a play about her, relates his observations about the effect of the reform over time on his Aunt and the members of his rural community.
It is important to note that the author, as a Chinese citizen, is forced to skirt government censorship so there is no direct criticism of China's one child policy, which he personally opposes, and some consequences of the law, such as infanticide - where girl baby's were murdered in order for family's to try for a boy- are never referred to. There are some harrowing and brutal scenes, including women dragged from their homes to undergo forced late term abortions and some general examples of draconian political practices including public shaming and punishment.
Surprisingly perhaps, there is also a generous amount of humour in the story, from Wang Gan's crush on 'Little Lion' to a hand drawn watch, from the rivalry between Gugu and the traditional midwives, and later her supervisor, and the often farcial events and conversations at family gatherings.
I was interested to learn that the title 'Frog' has multiple meanings which underscore the themes of the novel. The obvious association stems from he narrator of the story who, when writing to his mentor, signs his name as Tadpole. Less obvious to readers unfamiliar with the Chinese language is that the Chinese character for frog is a homophone for a legendary Chinese goddess who created human beings and patched up the sky, and in English the pronunciation is similar to 'wah', as in a baby's cry. Additionally, in some areas of rural China, frogs are revered as symbols of fertility.
I have to admit I struggled to keep the characters straight at times, hampered by unfamiliar and similar sounding names amongst a large cast. The first three parts of the novel held my interest but it begin to wane during the last two, which includes the play Tadpole has been promising his mentor.
Frog is is not an easy read but an illuminating one, essentially a tragicomedy, exploring the collision of China's politics with the personal. ...more
There would be few women who have never picked up a copy of The Australian Womens Weekly magazine during their lifetime, I grew up reading its mix of There would be few women who have never picked up a copy of The Australian Womens Weekly magazine during their lifetime, I grew up reading its mix of celebrity features, hard luck stories, recipes, and regular columns, my favourite of which was always Pat McDermott's 'Family Matters'.
For thirty years McDermott chronicled the chaos of her family life as the wife of the MOTH (Man Of The House aka Dennis) and as the mother of five children, Reagan, Flynn, Patrick, Courtenay and Rowen (aka Ruff Red), and more recently also as a mother in-law and grandmother.
Family Matters is a collection of some of her columns spanning the time from which her children were rambunctious toddlers to grunting teenagers, to adults who left to make their own way in the world, and then came back. Her anecdotes, and confessions, are warm, funny, honest and so easy for me, as a mother of four, to relate to. As it happens, I have a 'Ruff Red' of my own!
Family Matters is a wonderful, laugh out loud read for any parent in the trenches or those with fond memories of raising their family. Personally I was left wanting more of Pat's charm and humour and I hope there will be more collections from her column published in the future. ...more
Five Minutes Alone is the fourth book in Paul Cleave's crime thriller series set in New Zealand, featuring private detective turned police officer, Th Five Minutes Alone is the fourth book in Paul Cleave's crime thriller series set in New Zealand, featuring private detective turned police officer, Theodore Tate.
I didn't realise when I chose to read Five Minutes Alone that it was fourth in the series, I was simply intrigued by the synopsis. Six months previously, Detectives Theodore Tate and Carl Schroder were badly injured in a confrontation with a serial killer. Now, while Theodore has all but recovered and is back on the force, Carl, fired for his role in the case, is left with a bullet in his brain and a death sentence hanging over his head. When a newly paroled rapist is found, in pieces, along the railway tracks, Theodore is happy to dismiss the case as 'suicide by train' but a post mortem proves the man was already dead. Just a day later the bodies of two more rapists are discovered at an abandoned asylum along with the husband of their victim and it becomes obvious there is a vigilante hunting these criminals and giving their victims the chance for 'five minutes alone' to extract their revenge. Personally Tate would be happy to let the anonymous killer continue, he knows better than most how consuming the need for retribution can be, but as a police officer he has no choice but to investigate the crimes, even if they lead him to his old partner's door step.
Tate is caught between his professional and complicated personal life in Five Minutes Alone. As he investigates the vigilante, he has to re examine the decision he made when his daughter was killed by a drink driver. Meanwhile his wife, severely injured in the same incident, is struggling with her recovery and inadvertently places Tate in a difficult situation.
As the identity of the killer is known fairly quickly the suspense in the novel stems largely from his confrontations with his victims and his attempts to evade the law. Due to Carl's brain injury he makes a lot of mistakes in the commission of his crimes which leads to some black humoured slapstick and violent scenes.
The central question of the novel, is Carl a good guy or a bad guy? Cleave explores the grey areas between justice, law and vengeance in a manner that is exaggerated, but with a pointed edge. It is difficult to begrudge victims their desire for their 'five minutes alone' when, as Carl points out, the perpetrators go on to live their lives after destroying so many others. Yet it isn't that simple and all of Carl's 'good deeds' have unintended consequences. Playing out in the background of the story is the vote for reinstating the death penalty in New Zealand.
From what I can tell, this book also ties in with Cleave's The Cleaner series, I think I probably would have found Five Minutes Alone more compelling had I been familiar with the characters. The pace felt a little uneven but it was a fairly quick read and I enjoyed the mix of action, suspense and drama.
A distinguished Australian poet, Kate Llewellyn has published six books of poetry and is the co-editor of The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets. A distinguished Australian poet, Kate Llewellyn has published six books of poetry and is the co-editor of The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets. She is the author of nineteen books, including Lilies, Feathers & Frangipani on the Cook Islands and New Zealand; Angels and Dark Madonnas on India and Italy; and Gorillas, Tea & Coffee: An African Sketchbook.
A Fig at the Gate is written in the tradition of her bestseller titles The Waterlily: A Blue Mountains Journal and Playing With Water: A Story of a Garden. Now in her seventies, Kate has settled in Adelaide near where she was born and is establishing a new garden to nourish, sustain and delight.
Journal entries chart the evolution of Kate's garden over three years, the planting of plum trees and cabbages, of wisteria, cumquats and rosemary, along with the addition of chickens and ducks. Kate also shares her musings and learned wisdom on life, aging, family and friendship, her prose interspersed with her poetry.
A Fig at the Gate is warm, gracious and wise chronicle of nature, beauty and life.
As Australian Light Horseman Jamie Wren collapses under the weight of his badly injured mate slung over his shoulders onto the sands of Gallipoli, he
As Australian Light Horseman Jamie Wren collapses under the weight of his badly injured mate slung over his shoulders onto the sands of Gallipoli, he imagines it is an angel he sees on the beach amongst the carnage of war. Claire Nightingale, briefly permitted on shore to assist with triaging patients, is stunned by the sight of the muddy and bloody man who, ignoring sniper fire and his own wounds, carried his friend down the treacherous escarpment in search of medical help. For the young South Australian farmer and lonely British nurse it is love at first sight, and though their time together is brief, they make promises they have every intention of keeping, if only they can survive the war.
From the trenches of Gallipoli to the bustling cities of Cairo, Istanbul and London, Fiona McIntosh takes us on a journey of love, faith, heartbreak and hope in her latest romantic historical fiction novel, Nightingale.
The opening chapters with their harrowing descriptions of life, and death, in Gallipoli are affecting, highlighting the everyday heroism and tragedy of the ANZAC assault. McIntosh captures the chaos of war, and the shocking circumstances in which soldiers, half starved, ill and injured, were forced to fight what was essentially a no-win battle, and reminds us of the brave work done by the nurses and doctors who volunteered to witness the carnage to save and care for the wounded.
"...she watched in silent horror as men, some of whose boots had barely left their print on damp Turkish sand fell, fatally injured. The mules were crazed with terror and the screams of injured animals joined the cacophony of explosions, gunfire... and the groaning, dying men..."
An integral part of storyline involves Jamie speaking with a young Turkish soldier, Açar Shahin, during the truce declared to clear No Man's Land of the dead. During their brief meeting Shahin extracts a promise from Jamie to deliver a letter to his father when the war is over, convinced he won't survive the trenches. This is a touching reminder that the 'enemy' were men just like 'our boys', and this is further underscored when Claire, honouring Jamie's promise, meets Açar's father.
"The momentousness of this hard-to-imagine truce after such cruel and vicious fighting began to tingle through his body as though forcing him to mark it. It would never come again, he was sure, and only the men experiencing this intimacy with the enemy would ever know this extraordinary sense of sharing and camaraderie."
Jamie and Claire meet under horrific circumstances, when love is the furthermost thing from their minds, yet their instant bond is believable given the situation. Their separation is heartbreaking and when it seems likely these two lovers will never find each other again I felt a little breathless.
"And so he hadn't been ready in this moment of hell- in this place of cruelty and blood, of sorrow and hurt - for an angel to materialise and touch him..."
The writing is of McIntosh's usual high standard, though occasionally a little florid. The historical details and various settings feel authentic with vivid description evoking time and place. I was quickly invested in the emotion of this engaging novel, even though historical romance is not my favoured genre.
A captivating story of love and war from one of Australia's best loved storytellers, Nightingale is wonderful read.