Monday, 5 November 2018

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

"Emotional bonding can aid recovery, and this idea has underpinned the concept of support groups for decades."

I couldn't sleep, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to dive into this latest work by the always engaging, Leigh Sales. Naturally, I was more than a little reticent in diving into horrific days in people's lives, and yet I found it oddly soothing.

Resilience is an amazing human ability and one we all have within us. Having suffered, the worst day of her life, Sales sets out to see how others have dealt with unexpected horrors.
Consistent across many of the stories was a sense of hope and purpose - be it in oneself, religion or one's family, and the support one receives in that moment of need. She showcases some truly inspiring individuals both the people subject to hideous tragedies and the tireless support people who supported them in their grief.

Fantastic characters such as Wendy Liu and Father Steve are interviewed with skill and respect, as the author seeks to grapple with some rather big questions.
Unexpectedly, this was a really life-affirming read that left me rather teary and I could not put down. It reflects the character that Sales always personifies - a questioner, a listener, and an all-round fantastic human being with all the challenges and flaws that entails. I am a massive fan, if you couldn't guess.


5 out of 5 because life goes on even after the worst day, so make the most of it.


Sunday, 4 November 2018

Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods came(Agatha Raisin #12) by M.C. Beaton

"Like Ophelia, the girl from the beauticians, who she remembered was called Kylie, floated underneath her on the flowing river"


A floating, dead bride is at the centre of mystery number 12 for Agatha Raisin. Finishing this lovely little morsel meant that I'd finished my reading challenge of reading 110 books this year and its only November - hurrah for public transport - my only chance to read.

I would have enjoyed this story rather more, had the mystery not been taken out of it somewhat. Certainly it offers up a new romantic prospect with the new novelist that has taken over James Lacey's house. Mind you, Mrs Bloxbey has a bit of fun disguising his appeal to an already romantically challenged Agatha. Nevertheless, back from an island holiday, Agatha is drawn into solving the mystery of the floating, frozen bride in the river.

Murder or drug overdose? The problem with this one is I already knew what happened as it has been adapted as part of the TV show and I remember it quite vividly, Very frustrating I must say - rather detracted from the thriller aspects. It still remains an entertaining tale and, like most things Agatha's romantic exploits ( or disasters) remain catastrophic.

Eager to see what develops next with the neighbour and a newly divorced Sir Charles.

5 out of 5, it never rains but it pours.

Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell (Agatha Raisin #11) by M.C. Beaton

“Flies were buzzing about her dead body: heavy flies, sated flies.”

James Lacey might have finally ‘put a ring on it’ and yet domestic bliss is far from reach as we launch into the eleventh Agatha Raisin mystery. Still living apart and unable to find their rhythm, the newlywed couple break into a bit of a stoush at the local and it’s all downhill from there. James suspects Agatha has been up to old tricks with Sir Charles, Agatha believes James has been overfriendly with newly arrived Melissa Sheppard. Next minute, James is gone, and Melissa is dead.

 Can Agatha forgive her husband’s philandering? Is he really capable of murder? Where the heck has he gone? It turns out psychopaths can even make an appearance in the village of Carsely and things will get rather grim before we see hide nor hair of James again. As always, I love time spent with Agatha and I much prefer Bill and Charles to James (he seems like such an old fashioned wet blanket). Nevertheless, Agatha is faced with a dangerous mystery and the prospect of being married to a murder suspect unless she can find her errant husband and clear his name.




Thankfully Charles is up for driving duties. As usual though, he does have a habit of disappearing just when things get interesting. Nevertheless, the adventure grows apace with an unpredictable outcome that may just involve a monastery.

 

5 out of 5, another great visit with Aggie and co.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam (Agatha Raisin #10) by M.C. Beaton


“Agatha, reflected Charles, would never be a beauty, but she carried with her a strong aura of sexual magnetism of which she was entirely unaware”




Agatha is still mourning the loss of her relationship with James and feeling a little vulnerable. The suggestion of a fortune teller that her destiny lies in Norfolk, sees her pack up her house in the charming village of Carsely and rent a cottage in Fryfam. A village she settles on by sticking a pin into a map. Hardly an auspicious beginning and indeed, the new digs have their own sense of mystery.
 Weird lights in the garden support a local myth about fairies who have a habit of making off with bits and pieces from the largely unlocked houses in the area. When an expensive painting goes missing from the appallingly nouveau-riche, Tolly Trumpington-James. Apparently, he doesn’t’ just get on Aggie’s nerves, because the gentleman in question soon provides the body for another page-turning murder mystery.
The adorable, Sir Charles is back. I know he’s a bit of a bounder, but he’s way less of a wet blanket than James. Why Agatha doesn’t just enjoy the toy boy more often is beyond me. Sure, he picks on her, constantly forgets his wallet and trysts around a lot, but he’s always there when she needs a hand and often provides rather sage advice.
Can you expect the usual thrills and spills? Will fish out of water, Agatha endure more hilarious run-ins with the locals? Of course, that and more. Nothing like a little raisin to put a smile on my face. In further good news, apparently there’s a season 2 of the tv adaptations – hurrah! See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUPyO1K5i70. I love Ashley Jensen she’s such a great Agatha.



5 out of 5  - snoopy ex-PR mavens make for fascinating reading.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

10:04 by Ben Lerner

"What could be more contaminating than this remote control, which had been in how many sullied hands?"


I am completely torn on this one. Is it brilliant, annoying, or both? Probably both. The novel about a writer in New York suffering from a heart condition and also trying to help his best friend out by fathering her baby is verbose in the extreme. You can almost feel yourself trapped inside his head with thoughts flying around. Stream of consciousness writing bombards the page ( or in my case, in this instance, the e-book page - is it still a page?).

There are moments where this in-depth analysis of every move (every sight, every action)really works. Other moments where it seemed, to this reader at any rate, somewhat self-indulgent and annoying. What it does represent for me is, thankfully, another tick off the 1001 novels list - this one having been recently added to the fold in the latest 2018 edition.

Life is fleeting, maybe it is the minutiae that is important. For some reason the scene where the protagonist babysits a kid at the natural history museum and is desperate to use the loo, but not to leave the child, is one of the more memorable moments. That and the trip to the semen collection facility with the focus on hand washing and panic about the potential impact of Viagra. There's something infuriatingly infantile about him, as though he has zero agency and has to be pushed in any direction of note, or perhaps I'm projecting because of the author's first name.


4 out of 5 - don't drug the pigeons.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness



"Phoebe floated in a velvet darkness, sinking into folds of quiet."

Goodness me I've been awaiting this unexpected delight with anticipation since its announcement. I thought the All Souls Trilogy was all done and dusted. That I would never again enjoy the world of Matthew and Diana, save for the television series - which I've yet to embark upon.

This time Matthew and Diana are very much in the periphery as Marcus and Phoebe take the lead. That's not to say the domestic bliss of Matthew and Diana isn't fraught. Their children certainly bring the drama in this one with a faint whiff of  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  You may think I'm being particularly light on when it comes to details. You would probably be right in this assumption. I'm making sure I don't spoil the read for Nicki when she borrows the book.

The back story of Marcus is an interesting one and I certainly flew through the more than 400 pages. It is, as always, an entertaining world that Harkness creates, and one that I rather enjoy a sojourn within. Now that I've closed the final pages I'm left thinking.... but what next? Will there be more? I hope so!

This represents a nostalgic revisit into the All Souls world with a lot less romance. That being said, it is still great. I love the del Clermonts, although you would want to stay on their good side.


5 out of 5 vampire life is difficult... that's why I wear my sunglasses at night.


Thursday, 18 October 2018

The Devil in Amber (Lucifer Box 2) by Mark Gatiss

"He looked awfully dishy in that nice blue uniform. I gave him an encouraging smile and, not for the first time in twenty-four hours, asked him nicely to take it off."


Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, when I couldn't sleep courtesy of a horrific selection of pillows in my temporary apartment ( the joys of interstate work), I managed to finish this enjoyable read. Certainly, I am currently a little delirious, but don't let that stop you from taking my word for how much fun this is.

The sequel to the delightful The Vesuvius Club,  which I've reviewed earlier in the year, represents a shift in genre. While the first novel was more of a bi-sexual James Bond, here the element of the supernatural is introduced, with the hero, Lucifer Box ( love the name) facing off against that guy who really likes the number 666, amongst others.

During the proceedings Lucifer manages his usual fun romantic interludes with the better looking specimens of both sexes. At first it seems his main concern is the potential of being made redundant, but there is much more at stake. Not to mention we get to meet his rather hideous sister, who seems totally like a Trump voter (USA),  Brexit fan (UK) or admirer of Pauline Hansen ( Australia). You get my drift, my well read friends.


Once again, Gatiss reconfirms my affections for everything he does. I've seen some love it or hate it reviews for this one, I'm definitely feeling the love.


5 out of 5 sexy spies must go through a lot of laundry





Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic


"The taste of tea and something wild and sweet A fierce need stoked inside."

I absolutely ate this one up with a spoon. Such a great Australian thriller writer.
The lead character's deafness is an interesting quirk that lends an extra something to the proceedings. In some ways it is his super power.

This has violence, murder, sex, intrigue,. crooked cops, a trip to Geelong - there's a lot going on. Caleb Zelic just needs to find out what exactly before he, or someone he cares about, becomes the next victim.


Rather than ruin this great read by giving too much away, I'm just going to heartily recommend it instead. Works fantastically for a plane read, and would be just as easily digested this summer on the beach. If you're a crime fiction fan, get on board.

The good news is it looks like the beginning of a series and I look forward to reading more of the same.


 5 out of 5 - the lips of dead friends are hard to read.

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner




The Russian women undercut the rest of us. They siphoned the money out of all the wallets.”


 

Despite my best efforts to try and get ahead of the game, it seems I’ve only finished one of the shortlist for the Booker Prize this year and the announcement of the winner is imminent. This is my first introduction to Kushner and it is an interesting voice. I’d have to say this isn’t one of those linear narratives, there are a lot of interweaved stories.


Set for the most part in a women's prison (when not in the strip bar of the title), it seemed to be the perfect choice of reading material for this prisoner of deadlines and stress. Fear not gentle reader, this too shall pass and hopefully not in the distant future like a life sentence.


I'm sitting here trying to recall more detail, but to be honest, work has friend my brain. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.




4 out of 5 strippers have a story too.

Friday, 5 October 2018

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

"Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be."

I was feeling a little low this week after a breakup. Not so much over the breakup which is honestly a positive, but that feeling of remorse, of wasted effort and time. In that vein it was really difficult to concentrate on the other books I was reading. I cast them aside momentarily and launched into this. I think mainly to reassure myself that love actually exists, even if it is something that only other people seem to experience for real.

I was late to the Joan Didion bandwagon and yet was well acquainted with the work of her husband. I'd love his writing in Vanity Fair. His style of writing was at once personal and inclusive, while retaining a sense of Hollywood. This depiction of his death and its aftermath is painful and yet beautiful. What a void, a chasm, is created within moments when someone whose whole life is intimately entwined with yours ceases to exist. Is it any wonder that death is such a difficult thing to deal with? One minute you're making shopping lists and discussing the minutiae of life and the next... nothing. Discarded attempts to re-start hearts and noisy sirens.

Dunne's death is not the only horrendous thing that Didion has to deal with; her daughter is, at the same, time, fighting for her life in hospital. Life isn't easy but it seems particularly difficult here. Didion delivers with painstaking eloquence the trauma of her stage of mind and as difficult as it is, there's something reassuring here.

Her relationship with her husband is something so beautifully remembered  that makes the loss all the more palpable. I hope one day I finally find someone like that. Someone smart enough to understand what I'm saying, secure enough to be supportive, rather than to denigrate and at the end, some one who will be missed or will miss me. This is in stark contrast to the Dirty John  podcast I'm currently listening to, which unfortunately rings way more familiar at this point.

Life, it seems can be over well before you are ready for it. We all deserve a good one and to be loved, and missed. By the end of the book, Joan Didion  sounded okay and I think that made the book easier to deal with.

5 out of 5 losses are only possible if you have something to begin with.








Thursday, 4 October 2018

My Purple Scented Novel by Ian McEwan

" I simply enacted what others might only have thought."

A rather amazing short story. It is so delightfully evil. Let's face it I'm feeling a little like misbehaving after one completely disappointing week. On the plus side this slim little book was a win. The depths that the protagonist sinks to are unbelievable and yet believably rendered.McEwan is in top form here.

Ever been jealous of a friend's success? How far would you go to redress the balance? Well, if you are Parker Sparrow a reversal of fortunes requires some fiendish effort. If you want a quick read ( and I mean quick at 34 pages) this will hit the spot. I suggest you put the kettle on, and read this on your tea break, unlike demoralising romantic entanglements, this one will leave you satisfied.


5 out of 5 and the best part of my week.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

the Realms of the Gods, The Immortals IV, by Tamora Pierce

"That's the trouble with being so tall, she thought, not for the first time."

Well I've finally cracked the one hundred mark. That is one hundred books read this year and this happens to be the very book in question. It also happens to be the final chapter in  The Immortals series, one which I very much enjoyed.
Daine has grown in age and ability since the first novel and now she is hanging out with the Gods in the immortal realm.
A fantastic reunion is afoot, along with mystery, war and just a hint of romance. Yes, this one packs a heck of a lot into 347 pages. The questions of Daine's parentage are finally explained and are pretty impressive. Indeed, this is anything but a boring read. My only regret is that I've finished the book and now my time is Daine's world is up.

 5 out of 5 talking beavers gods are unusual to say the least.


The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North


“When I am optimistic, I choose to believe that every life I lead, every choice I make, has consequence. That I am not one Harry August but many, a mind flicking from parallel life to parallel life, and that when I die, the world carries on without me, altered by my deeds, marked by my presence”

Lately, I have a particular fascination with books about time travel or eternal youth, be they the Outlander series, the book I read this month How to Stop Timeor my ongoing appreciation of all literary vampires. I say lately, but honestly, I think the subject has always held my imagination in thrall. Now that I am beginning to see signs of dreaded ageing, my interest has been amplified somewhat and perhaps that is what drew me to this novel. I’d just finished the book in my bag on the train and was en-route to the dentist’s office without any supplementary reading material. A potentially horrid situation that was put to rights by a quick dash into Dymocks in Sydney. I’d seen this book before and managed not to succumb to buying it, however this was a book emergency and it seemed to fit the bill.
Harry August lives more than one life, none of which are boring. In fact, the first three quarters of the book were spellbinding. I mean a man who never really dies. Well he dies, he just remembers all his lives. He even becomes a spy — it is like this story was devised purely to tempt me. All was going so well, a secret society — oh you know how much I adore a secret society (and with a name like the Chronos Club —  so appealingly steam-punk) — was icing on the cake and then; well then, Victor came along. I’m not a fan of Victor. I’m not a fan of his tale. That didn’t stop me reading and it doesn’t make the book less than stellar, it is a mere quibble of mine about the story in its entirety.
Perhaps you will find Victor more intriguing than I did. Something about him gave me a faint whiff of  errant posh school boy and that was not a positive thought. Now, I’m not alone in enjoying this book, it was nominated for a raft of awards and secured the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2015). I’ll be interested to see what my fellow fan of time-bending fiction, Nicki, thinks of this one when I lend it to her.
5 out of 5 deaths are permanent…or are they?

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Emperor Mage, The Immortals III by Tamora Pierce

 

"This close, the reek of mush and dead made it hard for the girl to breathe."


The third instalment is where things get really exciting. I was sitting on the train seething that I hadn't brought the next book with me to continue the journey - such bad planning on my part. This one has battles, storm wings, rats, gods, goddesses , you name it, Pierce delivers.
Heading to the realm of the evil Emperor to broker peace might seem like a fool's errand. How bad can a guy be who really loves his birds? They are sick and need help from Daine. Is this just a ploy? Who is the hag? What is going on? Will all the furry friends survive? Is someone really crucial to the plot going to die? Oh my goodness, so much going on! This is an intense read and so good. I cannot wait for the next one but unfortunately started a different novel in the interim - awkward.

5 out of 5 storm wings smell rather hideously.


Wolf-Speaker, The Immortals Book II, by Tamora Pierce

"A wolf's nature is opposed to mine, but that does not make wolves evil."

I must admit to absolutely flying through this second instalment of the Immortals series. Daine is called upon by the wolf pack she met earlier. Something is amiss and they need her help. Mining opals has the potential to put everyone at risk and Daine and friends must take on the combined might of the Lord and Lady of Dunlaith who appear to want to use their magical powers to overthrow the King. Things are getting serious, such that the charming Maura, Lady Yolane's little sister, is prepared to run away to resist the evil plans of her sister and her husband.
There's a dragon, Daine finds some new powers, basically it is all very captivating and I suggest you start reading now, or when you have a spare moment.

5 out of 5 times at Chinese New Year, I'm glad I'm a Dragon.

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce


"Her hand was locked around something — a large animal's claw, or a semblance of one."

Sometimes you crack the pages of a series and think, I"m totally not going to be on board for this one. I don't need another fantasy saga in my life. In this, quite deluded state, you persevere, disregarding your initial thoughts that someone that speaks to animals and isn't Dr Doolittle won't hold your interest. This is a mistake because you will fall victim to the powers of this saga.
I''ve not had a decent night's sleep in the three days that I've read the three books in the series.
As such, I'm struggling to recall which events sit within which novel, however, I will give it a red, hot go.

It took a while for me to warm to the character of Daine (or her full name Veralidaine Sarrasi), but once in, I was in for good.Being of questionable parentage and feeling different due to her ability to connect with animals, Daine lives very much in the fringes until she meets the master mage Numair and her adventures begin. Have I mentioned there's a badger god in the mix. I refuse to spoil it for you, hurry up and rustle up a copy, you won't be disappointed.

Yes, I know its young adult fiction, so what. We all remain young adults at heart.


5 out of 5 talking badgers are compelling.




Sunday, 23 September 2018

The Night Sessions by Ken Macleod

"Drew Warsaw was the man, the king of the silent scene. He stood in the pulpit of the Liquid Cosh dance club and looked over a couple of hundred bopping heads."

Sometimes you read a blurb and get rather excited that this book could be the one. By the one, I mean a book that will deliver on its promise of entertainment. Upon reading the synopsis for this book, I was rather intrigued to get my teeth into the novel, so to speak.

It begins promisingly with space elevators and such and somewhere along the line,  I just lost interest. At that point it just became an exercise in getting through the pages so that I could finish and move on to something more entertaining - don't you hate when you read like that? I certainly do. More rational beings would just set the book aside, but I, I like to finish.

Perhaps my issue stems from a surfeit of religious fundamentalists on the daily news, and suggesting that the need for fictional ones is lessened somehow. Certainly, I just had very little interest in the story post the first couple of chapters which posed some interesting questions about Artificial Intelligence taking on a belief system, which is an intriguing conceit.

At least I ticked off another  novel from the Guardian's 1000 novels  you must read list - you know my penchant for lists by now, surely.


3 out of 5 religious zealots can be rather tedious.



Thursday, 20 September 2018

Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw


“It was thrilling to chat with people she barely knew, and she began to imagine what some of them might be like — rich, handsome, successful.”


A gorgeous rich tapestry of stories that was a delight. I don't know if its because I recently read all the Crazy Rich Asians  books, or that I just got back from Hong Kong, but I feel like there's something captivating about Asia as a literary setting and I'm actively seeking out novels from that continent at the moment.

I particularly liked this one because it brought people from various countries together in the fast-paced surrounds of Shanghai, all with a view to achieve wealth and success.
The characters are beautifully expressed and I was particularly unhappy when the novel ended as I just wanted to keep on reading about this lives.

A place of reinvention, high highs and low lows. That makes for entertaining drama. The depiction of Phoebe's dating experiences was written so eloquently- hence my selection of the quote affixed above.

It has taken a while for me to become acquainted with this tome, even though it was long listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2013, and I look forward to reading more by Tash Aw.


5 out of 5, self help books sometimes pan out.






A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines




"And the hawk, alert to every movement, returned their stares until they turned away and passed on."



Life is pretty grim for our poor protagonist, Billy Casper in a poor English mining village. His one joy is tending for the kestrel that he has stolen from its nest. School is hell, and home isn’t much better. This is not the kind of read that will cheer you up my friends. Thankfully it is a very quick read, as I am currently not in the mood for suffering of any kind. Right now I love fiction that transports me to other worlds or happier ones at any rate.

His mother is powerless, his father is absent, and his brother is a horror. In fact, reading about his brother just made me super angry. Not crazily so as I was sitting in the GP’s office and apparently my blood pressure is just fine thanks for asking.

I’m waffling, aren’t I? I think this novel brilliantly captures a torturous upbringing and a feeling of being without options. The sense of purpose and joy posed by a pet brings only momentary respite and as you might imagine, and the ending did not inspire further joy. Having done such a brilliant job of writing this novel, I probably owe the writer the full five star rating and yet, it left me so glum that I had to deduct a point.



4 out of 5 birds can sometimes make you soar.

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami



“Still, when you get to a certain age, and have created your own lifestyle and social standing, and only then start having grave doubts about your value as a human being.” 


My first thoughts upon closing this gorgeous book of seven stories were expressed on the Goodreads website thusly: “His stories speak to the hidden loss, struggles and longings that hide deep behind men’s eyes. A vulnerability that reminds us we’re all just troubled humans deep down.”

A touching selection of short stories that can't help but have an emotional impact. There's something about Murakami's writing that transports you to a more interesting world than the grey, boring, mundane one that we spend our working weeks in.



5 out of 5 - I just want more Murakami please.

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Emerald Sea (The Glittering Court #3) by Richelle Mead


“The Temptation was overwhelming. I wanted to tell her and Mira both, to let out all the pent-up emotion that had tormented me these long months. And I wanted to clear the space between us.”

Finally the third instalment of the Glittering Court trilogy has found its way into my hands, thanks to my favourite book lender, the amazing Nicki. I think I should preface her name with “the amazing” from now on. Anyway, I had been counting down until this fictional fantasy flew my way and I wasn’t disappointed. I stayed up til 1:30am to finish it. It was cold and I was feeling a little lonely and so it seemed perfectly reasonable to lose myself in the world of Tamsin, Mira and Adelaide.

This final novel is from the perspective of, the possibly too good to be true, Tamsin. While she works super diligently she hides a scandalous personal secret that could bring her Glittering Court efforts to naught. Her desire to finish on top also has the potential to alienate.

Off she travels, after a bit of a stoush with Mira and Adelaide, on a separate boat to secure a proposal and the weather, it seems, has different ideas. Shipwrecked in foreign lands, Tamsin’s dreams of providing for Merry seem untenable. Despite the worst that one local woman threatens her with, her new formed friendships with the saintly Gideon Stewart and the rough and tumble, Jago Robinson will provide new sources of adventure.

Join Tamsin on her journey out of the wilderness and into….well, now, that would be telling wouldn’t it. Someone just has to buy the film rights to this series. The opportunity for three gorgeous and interesting female leads should be investigated.


5 out of 5 emerald really is the only green I can wear.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings

"Taking down the target is easy; it's doing so swiftly, silently and without collateral damage that's difficult."

If you loved the tv series Killing Eve as much as I did, then you are going to love the source material. This rather slim volume contains non-stop action and a welcome return to the intense world of female assassin, Oxana, otherwise known as Villanelle.

Whether she's executing her kills with a hair clip or kitchen equipment, Villanelle is one scary lady and a particularly effective assassin. Who she works for is more of a mystery and one that serves to drive the novel into the territory of potential sequels.

While the story is far more developed in the small screen version, this novel more than holds its own. I wonder if I would feel the same about the book, had I not seen the tv series. I guess I'll never know.

This was the perfect remedy for my post races hangover - it turns out one can really have to much french champagne.. just ask my stomach. 

I see that a sequel is in the works and due for publication next year.


5 out of 5 dangerous women can do anything.








Snap by Belinda Bauer


"Jack didn't want to play. But he also didn't have the words to tell her that their mother was dead."

I'm one of those people who want to read all the potential Booker prize winners before the announcement, just so that I can make my own mind up. With that in mind, I eagerly secured a copy of this novel, due to its inclusion in the longest, and got cracking reading it. I finished it in under a weekend and it makes for a thrilling and easy read. That being said, I have notes.

The writing has great pace, and yet seems like predictable, crime-thriller, beach-read in substance. It is procedural in nature and the cops are the least well rounded characters in the story.

The climate of fear is well established and the character of Jack, the child whose pregnant mother is killed, is perhaps the most intriguing character. In any case, the action maintained my interest as I sped through the pages.

So if you are a fan of crime thrillers you will undoubtedly enjoy this one. Just don't expect prose that will completely rock your world.

4 out of 5 custom made knives should serve as a red flag.




Friday, 14 September 2018

Noir by Christopher Moore

"I watched the Cheese step off the streetcar and look back over he shoulder, eyes hooded, like she was ashamed, and I felt as if I just threw a rock and busted out the streetlight that was the only light in my miserable life."


I am a keen fan of the Noir Genre and the comic talent of Mr Moore, so I was eagerly anticipating the release of this novel. So you can imagine my disappointment when I was just a little underwhelmed. I've given the matter some serious consideration and come to the conclusion that the style just seems to jar with Moore's humour a little. Part of the gumshoe style of the noir genre is its over the top tone and for me that jarred with Moore's style.

I wonder whether this was just a case of high levels of anticipation leading to disappointment. Sure there are some amusing notions, I just wanted something a little different and to be honest I can't put my finger on it. Certainly the snake was engaging and what's not to like about a dodgy visit to Bohemian grove?

Maybe I just wasn't in the frame of mind to be concerned with a skirt called the Cheese? Perhaps it stemmed from the annoying invisibility treatment I had to endure in Hong Kong from wait and hotel staff. Who knows?

I absolutely do love the cover though and I'm still a fan of Moore, I think I prefer his more supernatural efforts and perhaps that's due solely to my personal taste.

3 out of 5 deadly snakes should be safely stowed.










Thursday, 13 September 2018

Zoo Time by Howrd Jacobson

"Those were no small transgressions: stealing a book, leaving out a comma, and scheming to misappropriate my wife's mother."

This was probably not the best choice for a holiday read. There were moments where I laughed out loud, and moments when I really hoped no-one was reading over my shoulder. A strange tale of a kind of grubby author who isn't sleeping with his wife (due to her disinterest) and is obsessed with sleeping with her mother. 

Guy Ableman, as a character, really annoyed me. He seemed so self-absorbed, grubby and just really annoying. He feels over-entitled and jealous and small. The few chuckles I garnered as I read, didn't really seem enough for me.

 3 out of 5 dirty old men bore me.


You're on an Airplane by Parker Posey

"I was sceptical about Blade: Trinity  but when I got my fangs, I got more into it."

I have been a long term fan of the theatrical stylings of Ms Parker Posey. In particular here work in Best in Show, For Your Consideration, A Mightly Wind and Waiting for Huffman. When I heard that she'd written a memoir, I quickly jumped online and grabbed myself a copy.
My friend purchased the audio book and apparently that is even more delightful thanks to the words coming straight from the artist's mouth. I just loved how delightfully scattered this book was and I have to say the photos are a hoot. Everything from aliens to puppies and yoga poses, prepare for a wacky ride.

I mean who doesn't love a woman with the balls to wear a turban!


5 out of 5 great comedic actresses are hard to find.


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig


"I have only been alive for four hundred and thirty-nine years, which is of course nowhere near long enough to understand the minimal facial expressions of the average teenage boy."

What a delightful and unexpected surprise this little treasure was. I noticed the signed copy at Kinokuniya, it is always dangerous for me to walk in there. Let's face it, I never walk out empty handed. So the premise here seemed irresistible, a man who doesn't really age; well he does, just at a fantastically slow rate. Given the fact that he looks 41 and is actually over four hundred years old, he's had to change names and locations often. It is interesting that he isn't a vampire, this is some kind of rare genetic awesomeness that is so secret it requires a dark organisation to keep it cloaked in the darkness.

Avoiding religious zealots and the prospect of loves that will age and die while you remain looking virtually the same is no mean feat and makes for an entertaining read. Believe the comments of the illustrious Stephen Fry, Graham Norton and Marian Keyes on the cover - this one is a keeper.

5 out of 5 lifetimes can be a wild ride.

Monday, 3 September 2018

House of Versace by Deborah Ball

"The medusa was an apt symbol of the Versace brand's sensibility, at once classical, alluring, theatrical, garish, and dangerous."

Late last night I reached the final pages of this interesting look back at the meteoric rise and untimely demise of Gianni Versace and his fashion label. Ball tells a compelling tale and provides intriguing insides into the business and emotional heart of the eponymous label.

The nineties were supermodels, George Michael's Freedom and Liz Hurley in a daring safety pinned Versace dress.To this day I can recall the footage of the funeral of Versace with Elton and Lady Diana. Ball provides an interesting insider perspective of these iconic moments in recent history. I was inspired to read this by the recent release of the mini -series , The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story , prompting my interest in securing a copy before I got around to watching it. I still haven't managed to watch and yet I'm looking forward to it after this.

In case you're wondering why I didn't give this particular book the full compliment of marks, I guess I just wanted more. I realise that's terribly unspecific and possibly unhelpful. What the book does fantastically is describe the family dramas and machinations, behind the scenes, in growing the Versace brand from its origins in southern Italy to its nineties worldwide peak. What is absent is much detail about the murder. The series is apparently based on Maureen Orth's Vulgar Favors, and now I think I want to read that.


4 out of 5 well draped clothing maketh the woman.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Women and Power: a Manifesto by Mary Beard

"Telemachus' outburst was just the first case in a long line of largely successfully attempts stretching throughout Greek and Roman antiquity, not only to exclude women from public speech, but also to parade that exclusion."

Just the other day I made a suggestion in a meeting, which got no response until a man parroted it in his own voice and claimed it as his own. My blood boiled, as per usual. I'm a firm believer in the equality of the sexes and at its heart is an equal voice.
Mary Beard eloquently underscores this current dilemma and traces it back through time to illustrate that this is not something new and to query why that is the case and how to resolve the issue.

This is a rather slim volume that you can knock over in next to no time. That is not to detract from its power. Size is no determinant there. An important read that so beautifully demonstrates the issues we still unfortunately face today and their genesis back in classical times.

I will be heard and we all deserve to be. A recent illustration was the appalling treatment of Lucy Zelic during the SBS coverage of the World Cup - the beautiful game - the treatment was inhuman and undeserved. The lens that women are viewed through as compared to men is a worry. We need to re frame the discussion to merit and move away from keeping the girls down at heel. Mary is clearly on the ball here.

5 out of 5 women's voices, men's voices, they all deserve a listen.



The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty


"She threw the rest of the paperwork back into one of the shoeboxes and took the piece of the Berlin Wall and the letter back downstairs."

I just loved the cover, let me get the superficial comments out of the way first. After thoroughly enjoying, Big Little Lies, both the novel and the mini-series, I was eager to dig into more Moriarty ( so to speak). 
Apparently, as I was reliably informed by my favourite cafe owner, the author also frequents my favourite cafe - clearly she has great taste.
Now to this novel, let's start with the positives. It is a quick, easy read. The characters are intriguing, the secret ( which I picked way too early on) isn't quite as compelling as it could be and yet you will still be turning the pages at a cracking pace.
What this novel suffers from, if anything in particular, is the comparison with the author's more famous work. In this case, its not that this isn't eminently entertaining, its just not quite as compelling as the other.

You may sense my reluctance to get into the actual plot, because that seems like something experienced by the reader. So my recommendation would be to check this out. Perhaps before you read the more well rounded Big Little Lies.

 4 out of 5  secrets never stay buried.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Ma'am Darling : 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

"As she grew older , Princess Margaret  turned pickiness into an art form, snubbing  hosts who offered her items of food and drink that were not exactly what she wanted."

My favourite Aunt shares a name with Princess Margaret and let's face it, after The Crown,  I was intrigued to learn more about the black sheep of the family. One black sheep of a family to another, so to speak.

Given that this "biography", and the inverted commas are intentional, was awarded the James Tait Biography award, you might expect more of a typical biographical setup and yet, this is something else. Having said that, it is delightfully entertaining and certainly easy to swallow.

Ultimately what we have here is a brief sojourn into a weird and wacky, other world, removed from the hoi polloi, but unsure of where it stands. Unusually, as a period of history, the life of Margaret corresponds with that strange time where the media became omnipotent and the untouchable nature of royalty was called into question. It is a notion writ large in Brown's book and to great comic effect.

I can't really describe what exactly was lacking here; I just wanted something more.




4 out of 5 royals detest bad hats.



Friday, 24 August 2018

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang



"But how exactly did you practice sex? It wasn't like men we're throwing themselves at her like women apparently did to Philip."

I absolutely devoured this gorgeous little romance novel. I'm almost embarrassed to admit it. Who would have thought that a novel about a girl with Asperger's who hires a male escort to overcome what she sees as her sexual failings. What happens is surprisingly engaging and delightful. I feel kind of guilty for liking a Pretty Woman  style story with a gender twist.

Stella has an endearing innocence by virtue of her inability to understand people's motivations and emotions. It puts an interesting spin on what had the potential to otherwise be a small, sordid story. Here, this unsuspecting love story transforms into something utterly delightful. 

I don't know that I can say too much more about this tasty morsel. Check it out for yourself.



5 out of 5, this one went down so well.


The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss


“I thought at first it might be some undigested fancy from the CafĂ© Gambrinus but I finally recognised it as an almost alien emotion. Fondness.”

Mark Gatiss is one of those character actors you would undoubtedly recognise by sight, even if you perhaps aren’t overly familiar with his name. He’s been a star and writer for Doctor Who (oh you know I’m a massive fan) and he plays Sherlock’s brother opposite Benedict Cumberbatch (ah… heaven), not to mention his work on Game of Thrones and The League of Gentlemen. You might get my drift that I think he’s rather fab, so I was exceedingly interested to see his efforts in novel form.

If I thought I would miss the world of parasols and hats that I’d just left in finishing Competence, I was lucky to have discovered this delightful spy / detective / bisexual Edwardian romp which was just the ticket. I realise that is a lot of genres in one; although, come to think of it, I’ve always been a “the more genres the merrier” kind of girl.

How to describe our hero. He’s irresistible, flirtatious and more than a little bit dangerous. He’s just as popular with the boys as the girls and a rather natty dresser, when he’s not minus a valet. One thing Lucifer Box (seriously – what a name!) excels at is getting into trouble – as the name might suggest. When he sets off to discover the reasons behind the disappearance of some eminent scientists, it seems not only his life will be in danger. Equal parts James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and just a dash of Eddie Izzard. Seriously, what’s not to love?

Throw in some weird underground establishments (namely the club of the title - think devious sexploits hidden behind password protected doors); a volcano and... “Bob’s your uncle”, you are in for one rollicking adventure. Although, one would think Lucifer far too posh to rollick as it were. I shall practice a little restraint with the superlatives, other than to say I entirely enjoyed this little jaunt. So much so, it would seem, that I immediately got online and bought the next two offerings upon closing the final page. Oh impulse control!!! Are you a myth?

5 out of 5 clubs with strict entry protocols mask something beneath.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Competence by Gail Carriger

“Primrose suspected that she was the only one to notice that there appeared to be an enthusiastically moving bulge in the back section of the fishtail.”


Dearest reader, I have been counting down the days with reckless abandon until my freshly minted copy of Ms Carriger’s latest tome graced my mailbox. “Hurrah” I shouted with glee at the sight of the familiar trimmings of a Book Depository delivery (they don’t pay me to advertise, I’m just an avid fan, particularly in my most stressed hours).
In any case, it wasn’t long before I was completely ensconced in the adventures of Prim, Rue and co and the frisson begins immediately. It had been such a time since I enjoyed the company of the crew of the Spotted Custard, that I had quite forgotten where they had landed last. Never mind, it took minutes to be back in the world of dastardly parasols, proper hats and cups of tea.
The action in Singapore is a delight – particularly if you’ve been there before. The central theme of the novel seems to be mistaken appearances, beginning with Tasherit, the werelioness, being mistaken for a Merlion, the official mascot of Singapore.
When not being mistaken for other mystical creatures ***Spoilers ahead ***, Tasherit’s longing for Prim, is anything but Prim and may lead to some unexpected outcomes, all of them tinged with delight.
Our fearless crew also veer way off into uncharted territories in South America to find a lost tribe of Vampires and save them. Their tastes differ vastly from the hives at home. Lard anyone?
Will our fearless adventurers survive the lengthy journey? Will there be intrigue and romance? Will there be battles? Will your reviewer cry (come on you know I will)? I don’t think it is too much of a spoiler to say an emphatic Yes, Yes and Yes. Oooh I just can’t wait for the next one and now…. The waiting game begins until the next delicious instalment. 


5 out of 5 pale vampires make the best dieticians.