Sunday, 23 December 2018

This will only hurt a little by Busy Philipps

“And I come from a fairly long line of dramatic humans and storytellers. And part of being a good storyteller is knowing which parts need to be embellished a bit and which details need to be lost completely.”

I defy anyone to read a copy of this and not want to be best friends with Busy. She is equal parts adorable, successful, bruised and broken. The road to adulthood was full of many of the pitfalls we can all relate to. She matures on television with the added drama of not fitting the miniscule tv body mould or possessing Katie Holmes’ perfect close-up face (although I’d argue Busy is far more attractive). Just check out the cover and I’m sure you will agree.

This is an approachable story with just a hint of stardust. It is unlikely many of us would have the Hollywood touches of say, dating Tom Hank’s son, crashing swanky parties or becoming best friends and red-carpet regulars with Michelle Williams. Somehow, Busy’s charm smooths over any sense of these surrounds. She is like an old school friend, recounting relatable tales and they are just as beautifully imperfect as the ones of that ilk. Here is a girl not afraid to name and shame, making for a captivating read. So often these days celebrities “write” a book that might as well just be a well collated Instagram feed of airbrushing facts and looks. Busy delivers something far more appealing.

Her life may have had some ups and downs, but the journey is one that is both easy to relate to and reassuring. Nobody is perfect or has a perfect life. People worth knowing are ones that understand the difference between the front we all put on and the reality behind it.

5 out of 5, the perfect stocking stuffer for your bff.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly| Insider's Edition by Anthony Bourdain

“My love for chaos, conspiracy and the dark side of human nature colors the behavior of my charges, most of whom are already living near the fringes of acceptable conduct.”

Friends who work or who have worked in kitchens waxed lyrical about this book, their eyes glazing over in that same worshipping manner that you see in kids talking about their football or musical idol. Reading this, I can see why. Certainly, in a post me-too world its problematic to explore an atmosphere that often borders on the abusive, but for someone who has worked in close quarters under tight deadlines with people under pressure, I completely understand the heightened circumstances.

The insiders edition has rather delightful handwritten additions from the author which feel particularly strange given his untimely passing. In some ways it is almost like a voice from beyond and there's something reassuring about that. My path to Bourdain was through his television series and I was quite late to the party. I was rather shaken by his early departure because even watching a few episodes made me feel like a kindred spirit and that always makes these difficult circumstances more troubling.

At any rate, reading this little expose was a delight that I would happily revisit. Bad behaviour has never been more entertaining.

5 out of 5 bad boys are more entertaining and often care more.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

” They met by the headstone. Nathan knew he would have to look down at some point. He delayed the moment by opening his mouth.”


When I heard the author of The Dry and Force of Nature had another novel published, I was chomping at the bit to get a copy. Thanks to the sheer height of my ‘to be read’ pile, I’ve only just got around to it. Let me start by saying how much I missed Aaron Falk as a character and it took a while for me to get into the rhythm of this standalone novel. Was it, I wondered, because the protagonist wasn’t a particularly charming bloke? Was it the fact that the other two books were so good?  Personally, I think both statements ring true. Nevertheless, I persisted, and it really was worth it in the end.

While the novel commences with the death of Cameron in the outback, it takes quite a while before, as a reader, I felt particularly invested in the mystery behind that outcome. The jury was out on the guy telling the tale, however, that distance, once you get to know the character better, is actually quite brilliant. Nathan is remote, distanced, troubled and his narrative painfully reflects that. This is one of those books that, I think, upon re-reading, would elicit even further praise.

The thing about crime novels that draws you in, is rarely the crime. Characters drive the action and as a reader, I felt I was getting to know these characters as the tale progressed. Their hidden secrets, their communication issues, their foibles and their failings trickle out in a slow, but compelling fashion. The development of the relationship between Xander and Nathan was particularly poignant. I also loved the way my perceptions of characters changed wildly as I discovered (through Nathan) what was really going on.

When I closed the last page somewhere around the witching hour, I’d come to the realisation that this was a yet another stellar read from a fantastic author. I’ll be buying whatever she ships next!



5 out of 5 dusty trails and backpackers don’t mix.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Wundersmith, The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

“Now that she was a fully-fledged member of Nevermoor’s most prestigious group, was it all right to be honest about the fact that she grew up in Jackalfax, deep in the heart of the Wintersea Republic, among the enemies of the Free State?”

Morrigan Crow is back, and I, for one could not be happier. Well, unless that means there is another volume to this delightful series. Which, let’s face it, the ending suggests ( no spoilers) that there might be. Being part of the Wundrous Society and taking lessons isn’t a case of smooth sailing for our plucky heroine. The spectre of that other, evil, Wundersmith – you know the one that gives all Wundersmiths a bad name – is ever present. Not to mention how boring lessons are.

Fortunately, Morrigan is bound to make some amazing friends, endure some challenging circumstances and entertain those reading with some wondrous feats. This is one of the books that you wish you had kids for, just so that you could read it to them.  The world that Townsend creates is a delight and tinged with the prospect of menace, which makes it all the more appealing. I love that the books central theme seems to be that everything is not black or white and there is a lot of grey in the world. Power is only evil when misused.
Grab your W pin and settle in for over four hundred pages of delight. You won’t regret it.
5 out of 5, if only I could award more points I would, as the crow flies.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

“She was designed to look human, her face the replica of a woman whose image Med’s tissue engineer had licensed from an old Facebook database.”

When I spotted this novel at my local Kinokuniya store, I felt compelled to buy a copy. The premise sounded so intriguing. Unfortunately, I found that the most exciting aspect of the book. Time and time again I’d pick it up, read a few pages and then put it down.
The scene was set early for some interesting action and I looked forward initially to see how it panned out. By the time I was less than a third through, my interest had waned entirely. Perhaps this was due to my usual preoccupations inherent in a busy, stressful life distracting me from the plot. Perhaps it just wasn't my cup of tea. In any case, this review lacks effusive praise.

On a positive note, this is the one hundred and twentieth book I've read this year - hurrah!

2 out of 5 robot drugs aren't as exciting as they sound.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House (Agatha Raisin #14) by M.C. Beaton

“He forgot that he had recently found Agatha attractive. Now he thought of her as a pushy middle-aged woman who might be mad.”

One of the most thrilling aspects of this murder mystery is the promise of what lies in the next book, hinted fiendishly by the author in the final page. That is not to say that this isn’t an entertaining read. It is a gem as all the Agatha Raisin tales have been to date.
Agatha has yet another new neighbour, but this one is married. Admittedly Paul Chatterton’s Spanish wife doesn’t seem to be around and when a haunted house mystery presents itself he calls on Aggie to do some sleuthing. As thirteen previous novels clearly demonstrated, Agatha is not one to say no to a handsome man with a mystery.
A hilarious scare in the night, isn’t quite what the two adventurers have in mind and it isn’t long until there is the usual body count for this otherwise quaint village. Add in a potential historical treasure hunt, passionate historical society and amateur dramatics, and you know things are about to get entertaining. Bill Wong has yet another attractive officer in tow. She and several other women are bound to get Agatha in a jealous frisson.
I just love Agatha and the return of Sir Charles is always a welcome one (ooh look he’s single and trim again). As you might tell, I just love getting lost in the little village of Carsely. It is the perfect respite from the stressful world in which we live. It’s strange isn’t it that villages with a body count seem far more idyllic than offices full of hidden malevolence.

5 out of 5 things that go bump in the night are harmless.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Milkman by Anna Burns

"No one has ever come across a cat apologising and if a cat did, it would patently be obvious it was not being sincere.”

When I commenced reading the latest winner of the Man Booker Prize, I was instantly captivated by the first-person narrative. Burns expertly weaves a spell of ever tightening walls. The walls talk; and the perceptions of others can be a death sentence.

Our heroine is being stalked by The Milkman and he is a dangerous man to know. The locals see his attempts to interact with her and believe that she is having an affair with the married man, rather than actively seeking to avoid his clutches. She’s more interested in maybe-boyfriend.

Jogging with her brother in law is a means of escape. She is an outsider reading books and taking French classes, where others fill their days with gossip and violence. Her mother’s inability to believe her is particularly frustrating and initially quite funny. That is until the humour takes on a more dangerous tone. Perhaps that is the most interesting aspect of the novel the black humour that tinges the fight or flight terror of the everyday.

As I read the latter parts of the novel in a piecemeal fashion on my way to and from work, I think it lost something. It was too easy to drift out of the peculiar parlance of the book and having to constantly re-acquaint myself with it was frustrating. That aside, this is a great read and an intriguing character exploration.


5 out of 5 - the dead cat scene is visceral.


Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

“I like the idea of keeping my world in these little compartments where there is no risk of collision.”  

I had this book in the to be read pile for quite some time and yet it was only when the trailers for its adaptation bombarded my Netflix feed that I decided it was time for action. This is an easy read, which you would expect given its young adult subject and audience.
Growing up as a gentle giant with an extremely svelte mother (not that she is anymore), I could really relate to Willowdean’s story. Actually, Willowdean seemed way more popular than me and self-assured, which was a delight to read. Clearly, she had a lot more success in high school with the opposite sex too – me, I was a late bloomer in that department by comparison (don’t worry I made up for it later).
When the pinnacle of your mother’s existence is the local teen beauty pageant and you definitely don’t fit the mould, life can be challenging. Couple that with feelings of grief for a recently deceased, much-loved aunt and confusion around a rather spunky workmate at an after-school job and you have ample fodder for a great teen story. I’ve seen some rather negative comments about aspects of the story online and yet I found it refreshingly honest and rather adorable. It captures perfectly that prickly time when everyone takes offence as they’re trying to work out who they are in the world.
If you like drag queens and Dolly Parton, double down on this little book, you won’t be disappointed. It is tailor made for Trixie Mattel fans (guilty).
5 out of 5 lip synch for your life.



Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate by M.C.Beaton

“Sol MacGuire was another Adonis, but a black-haired, blue-eyed one.”

She’s "raisin" hell again (sorry, pardon the pun). Agatha’s quiet village life is turned upside down by the arrival of a rather stunning Curate. All the local women are beside themselves, as they do get with the arrival of any good looking new man in Carsely. Indeed, the church has never been so full. Feeling a little burnt from the James saga and trying, rather unsuccessfully, to avoid her new neighbour, Agatha believes herself immune to his charms. Next minute dinner, next minute, dead body and poor Mrs Bloxby’s husband is the prime suspect.

A delight as ever as Agatha teams up with her writer neighbour to try and unpick the mystery. Not to mention to clear the name of Mr Bloxby’s husband. I could go on about the plot and the murder, which do make for some thrilling set pieces in this particular outing and yet, Agatha’s domestic woes are far more entertaining. Blackmail, adultery, there are multiple mysteries going on here and just when you think the killer has been captured…well you’ll have to read and find out – I don’t wish to spoil it for you.

I do wonder how many good looking, single men could possibly move in next door? Surely there’s a limit. Will Agatha ever learn that this pattern isn’t working out so well?

5 out of 5 much better than Agatha’s microwaved meals.

Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #26) by Laurell K. Hamilton

“It was as if his human body was turning into a mass of serpents”.

The latest Anita Blake was released in August of this year and yet again, I’ve fallen victim to its siren’s call of weird sex, magic and violence. The novel is indicative of a proven combination that the author has been pounding out with amazing regularity for many years now. Is it formulaic, certainly, but it still has its charms.

Edward (Ted) is getting married and Anita will be the best man. Not only that, all your favourite marshals will converge for the island wedding. I mean who doesn’t love the creepy psychopathy of Olaf – such a spooky, demented character. Naturally, there’s more going on in this idyllic island paradise than just nuptials. A strange curse sees one particular family shift into snakes – think Medusa.

Now young women are disappearing, is it Olaf, what’s the go with Peter, why is the local constabulary blaming Nathaniel and what about the snake people? All will be revealed in what I have to say is a far more plot driven outing than the previous book. Here we have action and suspense, along with a lot of the best characters back in play.

Rather than just being about taking on some other new supernatural bed partner, this one is more about consolidating her ties with her already overcrowded schedule of paramours and solving a mystery before anyone else meets a horrific end.

So why have I given this a 5 – well it seemed great when I couldn’t sleep during the wee hours of the morning and I was entertained. Sure, I knew what I was getting into when Anita was busting out of bridesmaid’s dresses, but I’m used to it. Actually, that could me in a change room these days – why are clothes made for boy like figures?

Yes, there are troubling aspects to Anita’s relationships. Nathaniel might be hot, but man is he needy. I can’t handle him anymore – unless he’s sniffing out clues in wereleopard form and even then, he whinges about sore feet. Notwithstanding, this one got me through the cold, lonely night.


 5 out of 5 because shapeshifting strippers are a girl’s best friend.


Crimson Death (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #25) by Laurell K. Hamilton


“I was told I was beautiful and some days I believed it, but looking down at the three of them I was still amazed that everyone and everything in the bed was mine, and I was theirs”

I thought I had sworn off the vampire killing, necromancing, sex pot that is Anita Blake and yet here I am, back on the horse. To be fair, I’m more than a little bit jealous of Anita and her menagerie of hot men (and now women) that she absolutely must sleep with or all hell will literally break loose. I admit I am a massive fan of Nicky, Jean-Claude, Nathaniel and Micah. Let’s face it they are all impressive supernatural specimens. My only query is to how big Jean Claude’s room is to fit a bed that big in?


Back to the plot line though and it is time for Damian, another vampire, to really enter the mix. Pairing with Anita and Nathaniel as yet another supernatural power up coupling. Blah blah more writing about polyamory – I don’t’ know why this has to be explained in such painstaking detail in every book. We get it… move on.

Anyway, there are two saving graces to this furry love fest and they are EDWARD (got to love that cold steel killer) and a trip to Ireland. Baby vampires seem to be wreaking destruction in Ireland and Edward has put in the call for his favourite of the four riders, to come and save the day.

Naturally there are fey, which makes for a fun new supernatural being in the mix, along with supernatural seals who are (go figure) beautiful too. There is also way too much talk about therapy. So much talk about therapy – need I go on?


Still, we find a way for Anita to get over (momentarily) her fear of flying. We get some action and before you know it, 720 pages have flown by. It can’t have been all that bad, I admit I stared on the next book straight away.



4 out of 5 because vampires and werewolves need love too.


Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Black Butterfly (Lucifer Box #3) by Mark Gatiss

“All pleasure should be a little bent, don't you think?”

Well it has been quite a few days since I finished the final instalment of the Lucifer Box trilogy. I'm struggling to recall what happened. Poor Lucifer isn't getting any younger and it seems that spycraft is a young man's game. Enter... a young man, who seems most perplexing and rather tasty, and his name is Kingdom Kum ( I mean!!)
Anyway, Lucifer's old stalwarts are inconveniently being bumped off and it all has to do with the mysterious Black Butterfly. Will Lucifer retire.... will he make it out alive? What the heck is going on.?? Read on MacDuff and find out. Well no, not here, grab the book -  I'm not about to spoil it for you.
I've got to say I prefer the younger, more agile / virile Box from the first two novels. He's a little bit of a lame duck here and I found that frustrating ( as did he during the narrative).
In short.. still good, just not as good as the others. So worth exploring and what a gorgeous cover!

4 out of 5 butterflies are normal under stress.

Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope

“Then, in a cascade of bad luck, taking all of ten minutes, he lost $2 million. The stunned entourage couldn’t compute the way he parted with money—seemingly without breaking a sweat—and some began to whisper about this guy, and how he acted like the cash wasn’t his own.”

So I have a bit of a confession to make here. Please don't judge me gentle reader. I'd heard snippets about this 1MDB scandal on the news and had absolutely no idea what it entailed. Knowing my father's penchant for non-fiction, I had a feeling that it might make for a great stocking filler - yes Christmas is a-coming.
I then committed the faux-pas of sneaking a peak - yes alright - reading the entire book, before wrapping it. I'm glad I did. This exploration of Gatsby like excess leaves Crazy Rich Asians  for dead. How is it that a man can create an empire out of hot air and partying with Leo DiCaprio - well, just look at Jho Low. When not romancing supermodels with some serious bling, the guy could throw one heck of a party. Here Wright and Hope follow the money for one crazy tale. Connections it seems can get you a long way. In one way this demonstrates the power of the old school tie and its foibles.
In any case it makes for a great read and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

5 out of 5 - now don't tell Dad!

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: 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.