26.7.16

Rain Music

Rain Music by Di Morrissey
Narrated by David Tredinnick

Brother and sister Ned and Bella Chisholm are struggling with a family tragedy that has set them on opposite paths. After taking off to pursue his musical dreams in Far North Queensland, Ned disappears. When Bella goes in search of him, she finds herself in remote Cooktown, the isolated, little-known gem of the far north of Australia, and a place where both Ned and Bella's lives will be dramatically changed forever. This is one story told through two sets of eyes.

Di Morrissey is part of the Australian fiction landscape. Her first novel, Heart of the Dreaming, was published in 1991 and became a best-seller, establishing a demand for Australian-based stories.  All her novels are inspired by landscape with environmental, political and cultural issues woven into mass market popular fiction. Rain Music was inspired by her adventures in Far North Queensland - its characters, its forgotten history, its modern dilemmas.

I've read, and forgotten, a lot of Di Morrissey novels over the years. They are holiday fodder, airport gate lounge fillers, but nonetheless entertaining for a short while with their character-driven plots, artless dialogue and immediately recognisable Aussie settings.  Morrissey's audiobooks are nearly always narrated by Kate Hood whom I find intensely irritating to listen to, but when I saw the talented David Tredinnick noted on this one, I couldn't resist.  He's just as good as always, and she's still Di Morrissey, as always.

~ Deb 

25.7.16

The Natural Way of Things

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of nowhere. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? 

What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? 

Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue – but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

The novel is set somewhere in the Australian outback, so isolated there are no made roads, and takes place at an abandoned sheep farm. This farm becomes the institution for ten young women who have been drugged, abducted and imprisoned there. They are under the surveillance of two men, Teddy and Boncer, and one woman, Nancy, a sham-nurse. All three are nasty, vindictive and brutal.

The only link for these ten incarcerated women is all have had sexual encounters of some kind or another which has been blamed on them. Now they are there to pay the price. The Natural Way of Things demonstrates the animal instincts which can be found in all of us when we have, or need, the will to survive.

However, this book left more questions than answers for me. Although it was an easy, quick and intriguing read, I found myself disappointed with the protagonists’ acceptance of their plight in a dystopian environment. There were so many contradictions with Verla and Yolanda, two women who seemed strong in so many ways and yet still allowed weakness in other ways. This title would be worthy of consideration for book groups though, as it can create great discussion on the themes of abandonment, survival, brutality, and power.

~ Narelle


22.7.16

The Twisted Knot

The Twisted Knot by J. M. Peace

A marked man. A damaged cop. A town full of secrets. After her abduction and near death at the hands of a sadistic killer, Constable Samantha Willis is back in the uniform. Despite being on desk duty, rumours reach Sammi that Someone in Angel's Crossing has been hurting little girls, and before long a mob is gathering to make sure justice is served. So when a man is found hanging in his shed, the locals assume the pedophile has finally given in to his guilt. That is, until Sammi delves further into the death and uncovers a dark family secret, an unsolved crime and a town desperate for vengeance.

J M Peace is an Australian serving police officer based in Queensland, and you can tell that she writes with experience and gives you a great insight into policing, especially in a small town.

I absolutely adored the first book in this series "A Time to Run" . This book - #2 in the series - is an edge of your seat read and keeps you guessing until the very end which had a fantastic twist that I did not see coming at all.  I eagerly look forward to reading her next book to continue the story of Constable Sammi Willis.

~ Janine


21.7.16

Breaking Cover

Breaking Cover by Stella Rimington
#9 Liz Carlyle series.

Back in London after a gruelling operation in Paris, Liz Carlyle has been posted to MI5's counter-espionage desk. British relations with Russia are tense in the wake of Putin's incursions into the Ukraine. Discovering that an elusive Russian spy has entered the UK, Liz needs to track him down before he completes his fatal mission - and plunges Britain back into the Cold War.

Meanwhile, following the revelations of Edward Snowden, the intelligence services are in the spotlight. MI6 hires Jasminder Kapoor, a controversial civil rights lawyer, to explain the issues around privacy and security to the public. But in this new world of shadowy motives, Jasminder must careful about whom she trusts. One night Kapoor is brutally mugged and almost raped in a seemingly random attack, but is saved in the nick of time by a feisty Norwegian who happened to be passing by. She strikes up a romance with the handsome banker but there’s something about him that seems too good to be true.

Why we love it: 
In Breaking Cover, veteran MI5 insider and author Stella Rimington delivers a clever, fast-paced and timely espionage thriller that reflects up-to-the minute current events and her own insider knowledge of the intelligence services.

~ from The Team at Better Reading 


20.7.16

The Trap

The Trap by Melanie Raabe

Twelve years ago, Linda Conrad’s sister Anna was brutally murdered. Her killer was never identified, but Linda glimpsed his face as he escaped. 

Now, all these years later, she’s just seen him again, on TV. He’s become a well-known journalist, and Linda - a famous novelist and notorious recluse - knows no one will believe her if she accuses him. So she sets out to trap him, writing a thriller called ‘Blood Sisters’ about the unsolved murder of a young woman. And agrees to give just one interview.  At home.  To the only person who knows more about the case than she does. But is he the killer - or is she losing her mind?

What ensues will have the reader wondering what is real and unreal, as well as a whole lot of tension built into the mix. This enthralling story leads the reader to doubt their predictions as to the book’s ending, and the twist at the end will have you reeling. It is beautifully staged, using narrative in the present as well as excerpts from Linda’s new novel, to tease the reader with fact and fiction. 

This was a debut novel for Melanie Raabe, and translated from German by Imogen Taylor. A great read for fans of psychological thrillers.

~ Narelle


15.7.16

ALS GOLD MEDAL AWARD

The Australian Literature Society Gold Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding literary work in the preceding calendar year. The Medal was inaugurated by the Australian Literature Society, which was founded in Melbourne in 1899 and incorporated into the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) in 1982.

The medal was originally awarded for the best novel published in the previous year but, since 1937, other literary forms have been eligible for consideration. No nominations are required, though ASAL members are invited to propose potential winners to a judging panel.

On this year's shortlist:

Novels:
The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau 
Forever Young by Steve Carroll 
Mannix by Brenda Niall  
The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop
Clade by James Bradley

Works of life writing:
Second Half First by Drusilla Modjeska 
One Life: Story of my Mother by Kate Grenville

Short Story collections:
Six Bedrooms by Teegan Bennet Daylight 

A Few Days in the Country by Elizabeth Harrower.

The judges awarded the 2016 Australian Literature Society Gold Medal to Brenda Niall for Mannix.

The judging panel said: "Niall’s Mannix stood out as a meticulously researched work, ambitious in its scope and
beautifully and patiently written.  Brenda Niall is that kind of writer who remains throughout the book both a master storyteller completely in control of the wealth of material she uncovers and an unassuming presence whose skill and gift create a work of sheer craftsmanship."

Deb

14.7.16

Batavia

Batavia by Peter FitzSimons
Narrated by Richard Aspel

This true story begins in 1629, when the pride of the Dutch East India Company, the Batavia, is on its maiden voyage en route from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies, laden down with the greatest treasure to leave Holland. The magnificent ship is already boiling over with a mutinous plot that is just about to break into the open when, just off the coast of Western Australia, it strikes an unseen reef in the middle of the night. 

While Commandeur Francisco Pelsaert decides to take the long-boat across 2000 miles of open sea for help, his second-in-command Jeronimus Cornelisz takes over, quickly deciding that 250 people on a small island is unwieldy for the small number of supplies they have. Quietly, he puts forward a plan to 40 odd mutineers how they could save themselves, kill most of the rest and spare only a half-dozen or so women, including his personal fancy, Lucretia Jansz - one of the noted beauties of Holland - to service their sexual needs. A reign of terror begins, countered only by a previously anonymous soldier Wiebbe Hayes, who begins to gather to him those are prepared to do what it takes to survive... 

The author has a distinct style with his wonderful fictionalised non-fiction – as mentioned in previous reviews he ‘breathes life into tales that have either been long forgotten, or told and retold a hundred times’. (I've read and reviewed Mawson and Eureka previously here on RR.)

Like most Australians, I'd heard snippets about the wreck of the Batavia but was not aware of the whole story.  And what an amazing story it is!  The wreck of the Batavia has inspired books, radio and TV documentaries, plays and an opera. Lust, jealously, greed, madness, deception, rape, murder - all the classic ingredients conspire in the Batavia story to produce a scenario that is truly frightening.

Richard Aspel has his narrating skills sorely tested in this book – the Dutch names are a real mouthful, but it all sounded authentic to me.  As with audio books, it’s always interesting to see unfamiliar words actually in print; take a couple above for example.  In the audio book Jeronimus is pronounced Hero-nee-mus, Lucretia is pronounced Loo-cra-tee-ah (not Loocreesha as you would read it), and Wiebbe Hayes pronounced as Feeber Hize.

Although the cruelty of the times is quite breath-taking, I was enthralled with this book, it was a real historical eye-opener. The introduction is a tad long-winded, but Peter FitzSimons has done well yet again .  We have this title in downloadable e-book and e-audio, plus audio CD and MP3, as well as print and large print formats.

~ Deb

13.7.16

Kill Your Mortgage ...

Kill Your Mortgage and Sort Your Retirement by Hannah McQueen

Many of us fritter away a lot of our income when we could be putting it to much better use. In this book Hannah McQueen gives you the skills to create a surplus and then use it wisely. 

A mortgage is the biggest expense you'll ever have and Hannah shows you how to pay it off more quickly, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments... Whether you are just starting out and hoping to buy a house, building up your assets or planning for retirement, this book is for you. 

It begins with 'First things first' - your money personality, how to budget, whether to rent or buy and how to save for a house or other big ticket item. It moves on to 'Kill your mortgage' with Hannah's practical tips on paying off the mortgage as quickly as possible, and how to cut day-to-day costs. 'Sort your retirement' will help you ensure you have enough funds for your retirement by creating a cash surplus and investing wisely.

This book is not afraid to tackle the financial elephants in the room and discusses tricky issues that may at first be confronting, but ultimately informative and empowering. It is a practical go-to guide on confronting your finances and changing your habits for the better...

Hannah McQueen hits the nail on the head with her terminilogy and no-nonsense advice. For example she'll speak of "frittering" away surplus cash (see The Fritter Factor graph on p. 49); "frugal fatigue" and "do not be naive enough to think of the bank being a friend".  Some of her chapter titles are "Credit Cards - don't trust them" and "Money, relationships and being happy".  

She knows her subject and cuts to the chase!

~ Ali

12.7.16

The Sand Dollar

The Sand Dollar by Maggie Christensen

What if you discover everything you believed to be true about yourself has been a lie? 

Stunned by news of an impending redundancy, and impelled by the magic of a long-forgotten sand dollar*, widow Jenny Sullivan retreats to her godmother in Oregon to consider her future. What she doesn't bargain for is to uncover the secret of her adoption at birth and her Native American heritage. This revelation sees her embark on a journey of self-discovery such as she'd never envisaged. 

Moving between Australia's Sunshine Coast and the Oregon Coast, The Sand Dollar is a story of new beginnings, of a woman whose life is suddenly turned upside down, and the reclusive man who helps her solve the puzzle of her past.

Only recently have I discovered Sunshine Coast author Maggie Christensen. How refreshing is it to read a book that not only has an engaging story in it but is steered towards relationships between mature aged adults! 

If you think this is going to be just another romance novel, no, it is so much more. Jenny makes discoveries about her life that she did not know, leading her to make a lot of decisions. I loved the way the author has woven several plot lines beautifully, just when you thought you knew what was going to happen, bang, another surprise comes up - I loved being on that roller coaster!!

This is the first book I have read by Maggie and although the Oregon Coast Series of books can be read as stand-alone I'd recommend reading them in order. The Dreamcatcher, book #2, tells Ellen's story (who owns the bookstore and features in The Sand Dollar as well). Book #3 is Madeleine House which is due out later this month. This clever Australian author has tapped into a market of mature readers who know and appreciate that love isn't just for the young! Highly recommended for readers of women's fiction or life-lit. We have both these titles available in print format.

~ Janine

* The term Sand Dollar (or sea cookie or snapper biscuit in New Zealand, or pansy shell in South Africa) refers to species of extremely flattened, burrowing sea urchins belonging to the order Clypeasteroida. Some species within the order, not quite as flat, are known as sea biscuits.

11.7.16

The Woman Next Door

The Woman Next Door by Liz Byrski

Emerald Street, Fremantle, has for long been a place where a lovely and loving set of neighbours have been popping in and out of each other’s houses for cups of tea, glasses of wine, and a gossip.

All that’s about to change when rock-solid couple, Joyce and Mac, decide to spend some time apart.  Joyce has been a devoted wife and mother and now in her 60s, she’s looking for a little more than marriage and motherhood. She and Mac decide to spend one year apart – she’ll stay in the house, study or volunteer while he wants to retreat to their beach place.

But their decision upsets former neighbours and good friends Helen and Dennis who have moved across town to a posh new apartment, with views of the river. Helen is outraged at her good friend Joyce’s decision, made without consulting her. But there’s more to Helen’s outrage than meets the eye...

Why we love it:
This is a delightful new novel about friendship, marriage, identity and growing old, from one of Australia’s most beloved writers.

~from the Team at Better Reading

8.7.16

Country: a novel

Country by Danielle Steel

Stephanie Adam's life has just changed in an instant. After years of marriage to a man she no longer loves, and three kids grown, her husband passes away suddenly. Despite her grief and regrets, she's free at last, and can begin to think about what might come next for her.

Returning from a weekend away, Stephanie takes a wrong turn and finds herself on the road to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and new adventures, totally her own. A friendly stranger turns out to be country music megastar Chase Taylor, and he is only too happy to sweep Stephanie up on his travels.

From Vegas to Nashville, a brand new world opens up to her. Should she return to her empty house, or take a risk with someone new?


When Stephanie Adams suddenly and unexpectedly loses her husband, her life is thrown into grief and turmoil. Suddenly, she's the odd man out with all her married friends, and very much feels like the third wheel now she is a widow. When she takes a wrong turn after a terrible weekend away with her married friends and ends up in Vegas, she goes on to the Grand Canyon. There she meets a friendly man who turns out to be a famous country-Western singer, Chase Taylor. He gives her complimentary tickets to his show in Vegas. Stephanie has never done anything like this in her life, but as she now has no restrictions on who or what she does she accepts.

They start out as friends, and Chase opens a whole new world to Stephanie that she has never seen before. Of course she has three adult children who idolised their father and once he passed away they could only see the best of him, despite the fact that their mother was the one who looked after them and ferried them around to their activities all her married life. Explaining this new friendship was never going to be easy. 

As it deftly explores the complex ties between spouses, children, lovers, and friends, and dances between the past and the future, Danielle Steel’s moving novel captures the shock of sudden loss, and the freedom it can bring. 

Danielle Steel's books are very easy to read, and I quite enjoyed this Rural Romance story. I listened to it on Audio CD which was well narrated by Dan John Miller.

~Janine


4.7.16

The Finding of Martha Lost

TheFinding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace

Martha is lost. She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in the station's lost property for someone to claim her.

It’s been 16 years, but she’s still hopeful.

In the meantime, there are mysteries to solve: secret tunnels under the station, a suitcase that may have belonged to The Beatles, the Roman soldier who appears at the same time every day with his packed lunch. Not to mention the stuffed monkey that someone keeps misplacing. But there is one mystery Martha cannot solve. And now the authorities have found out about the girl in lost property.

Time is running out – if Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything ...

If you’re looking for something a bit left-field, distinctly quirky, with a touch of the Gaiman-esque about it, do we have the book for you!  This was such a delight, quite a surprising read really as it’s not my usual fare.  

Set in Liverpool’s Lime Street train station, the story has two major threads running through it – Martha having to produce her birth certificate and national insurance number in order to keep living above, and working in, the station’s Lost Property office; and the search for the missing ashes of Mal Evans, former roadie for The Beatles (this part is apparently true).  These two streams bubble along with a wonderful assortment of characters to either love or hate, like watching a pantomime where you want to boo and hiss when the nasties make an appearance. 

Beautifully written with both the setting and era (1976) depicted perfectly, the main characters are wonderfully drawn; the captivating Elizabeth – who runs the coffee bar next door to the Lost Property office; George Harris – an 18 year old who dresses as a Roman Soldier in his summer job and catches a train every day; Max, the Aussie who is on the trail of Beatles memorabilia and the missing ashes; and the tragic William, a filthy hobo who lives in the tunnel under the railway station.


I borrowed the audiobook which was narrated in a fabulous Scouse accent by Katy Sobey (I could have sworn I was listening to Cilla Black) and that just capped off one of my best reads of the year.  It’s not literature and it’s not meant to be.  It’s just a magical, entertaining novel that makes you glad Martha Lost has found her way into your world.  

~ Deb

1.7.16

Our Queen

Our Queen by Robert Hardman

Throughout history, there has been no Monarch like her. She is not merely the oldest Sovereign we have ever known. She is the most worldly. She has travelled further than all her predecessors put together. She has met more historic figures than anyone alive - from Churchill to Mandela, de Gaulle, Reagan and Obama. And today, Queen Elizabeth II is no more contemplating retirement than she was when she came to the throne in 1952. She sits at the head of a hereditary institution so often associated with rigid tradition. And yet, it is more dynamic now than ever.

Having inherited a quasi-Edwardian insitution nearly 600 years ago, the Queen presides over a Monarchy which has managed to remain, simultaneously, popular, regal, inclusive and relevant in a 21st Century world. She has done this so effectively that she is, beyond doubt, the most respected and popular figure in British public life.

Robert Hardman explores the secrets of the Queen's success to produce a fascinating new portrait of a Sovereign who has witnessed more change than any since the creation of Great Britain. 

With the recent 90th birthday celebrations of Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, Queen Elizabeth II, I thought it appropriate to post this review I wrote some time ago about Our Queen by Robert Hardman. It is a fascinating tour behind the pomp and circumstance of this very public persona.  

As the offspring of an avid Royalist mother and grandmother who collected every book and magazine they could lay their hands on; and having lived through virtually the whole reign, it’s easy to forget some things... But some things I had never known in the first place!

I found it interesting to learn about their ‘economising’ and how that was brought about. The state visits were intriguing – the planning and organisation, the way they are conducted, the gifts and mementos brought out, pictures etc. and even why they have them in the first place.  Also Maundy Thursday I’d never heard of, so that was fascinating too.  

Sure, a lot of what is in the book has been in public knowledge - from family history to the Abdication to Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, but what lay in between is a story like no other. 

I downloaded the e-audio which was very well narrated by the author.  We also have this title in CD, MP3 and Playaway formats, plus print and large print.

~ Deb



30.6.16

The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, aster for patience, red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes that she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market inspires her to question what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

The idea of creating a story based on the now-almost-lost art of the language of flowers was very appealing, so I was looking forward to reading this book, particularly after noticing the many good reviews when it was first published a few years ago e.g. "mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written". 

Though the original storyline jumps from the present to past throughout, it is well written, particularly so for a debut novel, but it becomes quite an emotional and depressing read as we plod through the very long 62 chapters. 

We have this title in all formats: in audio - e-audio download, MP3, CD and Playaway and in print - e-book, standard and large print.  As I do, I chose Playaway, but Tara Sand's narration nearly drove me mad with her rolling r’s and nasal twang!  Unfortunately I had to hang in there to hear the ending, so for once I recommend hard copy as the preferable way to go.

~ Deb


29.6.16

COMING NEXT MONTH

A new month is looming with some great events in our libraries to capture your attention! Scroll slowly down the red column at left under the heading UPCOMING EVENTS - from a special author visit by Melbourne crime writer - J.M. Green, to retirement income, a hands-on knitting and crochet workshop, preparing your resume, managing money, the history of Puffing Billy, crossword clues with David Astle, book sales, and 10th Birthday celebrations for Emerald Library including a day-long Blacksmithing Demonstration! 
Imagine   Explore  Understand  at your Library!  

~ Deb

Our Young Man

Our Young Man by Edmund White


Our Young Man follows the life of a gorgeous Frenchman, Guy, as he goes from the industrial city of Clermont-Ferrand to the top of the modeling profession in New York City's fashion world, becoming the darling of Fire Island's gay community. Like Wilde's Dorian Grey, Guy never seems to age; at thirty-five he is still modelling, still enjoying lavish gifts from older men who believe he's twenty-three (so much that even Guy wonders if there’s a painting of an ageing version of himself in an attic somewhere) though their attentions always come at a price. Ambivalently, Guy lets them believe, driven especially by the memory of growing up poor, until he finds he needs the lie to secure not only wealth, but love itself. Surveying the full spectrum of gay amorous life through the disco era and into the age of AIDS, Edmund White (who worked at Vogue for ten years) explores the power of physical beauty - to fascinate, to enslave, and to deceive - with sparkling wit and pathos.

Why we love it: With Our Young Man one of America’s greatest novelists delivers a sad yet funny, and nostalgic story of gay life in 80s New York,  that recalls elements of Oscar Wilde’s classic The Picture of Dorian Gray.

~ from The Team at Better Reading



28.6.16

Follow You Home

Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

From the cover:  It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down.  After a perfect start, Daniel and Laura's travels end abruptly when they are thrown off a night train in the middle of nowhere.  To find their way back to civilisation, they must hike along the tracks through a forest ... a haunting journey that ends in unimaginable terror. 

Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow to never talk about what they saw that night. But as they try to fit back into their old lives, it becomes clear that their nightmare is just beginning.  This is a tale of secrets, lies and deadly consequences.

It is a rare feat indeed to maintain suspense throughout a novel but this one delivers in spades. Our sense of uneasiness grows along with our familiarity with the characters - Daniel and Laura, and their friends Jake, Erin and Rob, are very engaging. The storyline is original, and given that the train and forest scenario happens in Romania, what underpins the whole story is not something that immediately springs to mind.  I couldn't wait to jump into my car each day to continue listening to the 8 CDs! I thought the author did a great job with this book, a really absorbing read and very well narrated by James Langton... Until the ending.  My appreciation came crashing down, I couldn't believe the author chose this path on which to end the tale. It was such a letdown, so very, very disappointing.  And sigh, it leaves all the hallmarks of a sequel in the offing.  

Despite that, I still highly recommend Follow You Home for those who want a stomach-clenching suspense mystery for 98% of the book. We have this in print and audio CD format.

~ Deb. 

27.6.16

After You

After You by Jojo Moyes

This book is the sequel to the bestseller "Me Before You" which is currently showing at the movies. If you don't want to know how it ends, skip this post and catch us again tomorrow!

When one story ends, another begins...

Lou Clark has lots of questions. Like how it is she’s ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places. Or why the flat she’s owned for a year still doesn’t feel like home. Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago. And will she ever get over the love of her life. What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change. Then, one night, it does. But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for – or just more questions? Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe. Open it and she risks everything. But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she’s going to keep it, she has to invite them in.



Louisa Clark has to somehow get on with her life. She has to find another job, she has to move on, move forward. One day there is a knock at the door and there is a young teenage girl standing there. Eventually Louisa discovers that Lily is the biological daughter of Will who never knew he had a daughter. Lily's mother married, has new children, and Lily is the rebellious teenager desperate to know about her father. Louisa feels somehow responsible for Lily who feels lost and in trouble. 

After an accident and while recovering, Louisa meets Sam - a paramedic, but moving on is so difficult. She eventually finds another job,  helps Lily connect with her grandparents and gets her life back on track.

I listened to this on audiobook, but we do have it in Playaway, large print and print formats. It was an OK story but nowhere near as captivating as Me Before You.

~ Janine



24.6.16

Road Series

Road Series by Hugo Race

Road Series is both love story and elegy, a true and revealing tale. Renowned musician Hugo Race's evocations of Melbourne, Europe and the USA, Berlin and Eastern Europe, Italy, Brazil and Mali and Africa are poetic and searching , always incisive and exquisitely written. While the idea of being a global citizen is explored as a creative force for the artist, this is ultimately a book that is grounded in the rich possibilities of the everyday. Music and travel collide and coalesce, and the reader is given rare insights into what it means to devote one's life to the musical journey, to traverse the world in search of true spirit. While Road Series parallels Kerouac's journey of 'battered suitcases' and 'longer ways to go' it also wonderfully bears witness to his realisation that 'the road is life'.

Hugo Race is a musician who has clearly lived – and survived. In this meandering travel rock biog he takes the reader to various places which are seemingly fairly benign except for one thing – the timing. Melbourne during the heady post punk scene of 1981; Berlin before the wall and during its demise; former Yugoslavia on the very brink of atrocities and then Mali for an amazing concert in the desert, under an incredible night sky, when it was still (relatively) safe to be there – and then back again when it wasn’t. 

A great read and recommended for any music fan. 

~ Ali

23.6.16

Romantic Book of Year finalists

The Romantic Book of the Year Award, affectionately known as The Ruby, is the only one of its kind in Australia. Voted on by Australian readers, this contest is open each year to any Australian or New Zealand romance author who has published a romance genre book or a book with romantic elements.

The competition has both digital ebook and hardcopy entries and the categories are: Long Romance, Short Sweet Romance, Short Sexy Romance and Romantic Elements. 

And the finalists are: 


Long Romance:
Rise by Karina Bliss
The Spring Bride by Anne Gracie
Kakadu Sunset by Annie Seaton
Lethal in Love by Michelle Somers

Romantic Elements
A Dangerous Arrangement by Lee Christine
The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns
Pay the Piper by Mary Brock Jones
Between the Vines by Tricia Stringer

Short Sexy
Tribal Law by Shannon Curtis
The Wedding Bargain by Yvonne Lindsay
Pretend It’s Love by Stefanie London
Never Surrender by Rosie Miles
Seducing His Enemy’s Daughter by Annie West

Short Sweet
You for Christmas by Madeline Ash
Still Married to Her Ex! by Lucy Clark
Home to Bindarra Creek by Juanita Kees
The Secret Son by Joan Kilby
Reach for the Stars by Kerrie Paterson

This year the Ruby will also include a section for Novellas 10,000-40,000 words. 

The winners will be announced at the Romantic Writers of Australia awards dinner in Adelaide on 20 August.

~ Deb


22.6.16

Out of the Ice

Out of the Ice by Ann Turner

When environmental scientist Laura Alvarado is sent to a remote Antarctic island to report on an abandoned whaling station, she begins to uncover more than she could ever imagine. 

Despite new life thriving in the icy wilderness, the whaling station is brimming with awful reminders of its bloody, violent past, and Laura is disturbed by evidence of recent human interference. Rules have been broken, and the protected wildlife is behaving strangely. 

On a diving expedition, Laura is separated from her colleague and she emerges into an ice cave where, through a cavern in the blue shadows, she is shocked to see an anguished boy, crying for help. Then he disappears. But in this freezing, lonely landscape there are ghosts everywhere, and Laura begins to sense that her own eyes cannot be trusted. Are her memories playing tricks? Has she been in the ice too long? Back at base, Laura’s questions about the whaling station go unanswered, blocked by unhelpful scientists unused to questions from an outsider. And Laura just can’t shake the image from the ice cave. 

Piecing together a past and present of cruelty and vulnerability that can be traced all around the globe, from Norway, to Nantucket, Europe and Antarctica, Laura will stop at nothing to unearth the truth. As she sees the dark side of endeavour and human nature, she also discovers a legacy of love, hope and the meaning of family. If only Laura can find her way … Out of the ice.

Why we love it:

Ann Turner delivers another brilliant suspense novel with Out of the Ice, solidifying her position as one of Australia’s best thriller writers.  Turner has an unrivalled skill in creating intelligent characters and plots while at the same time evoking breathtaking settings that seamlessly transport her readers to another world.

~ from the Team at Better Reading


21.6.16

The Ties That Bind

The Ties that Bind by Lexi Landsman

Miami art curator Courtney Hamilton and her husband David live the perfect life until their ten-year-old son Matthew is diagnosed with leukaemia. He needs a bone-marrow transplant but, with Courtney being adopted, the chances of finding a match within his family are slim. Desperate to find a donor, Courtney tracks the scattered details of her birth 15,000 kilometres away, to the remote town of Somerset in the Victorian bush. 

Meanwhile Jade Taylor wakes up in hospital in Somerset having survived the deadly bushfire that destroyed the family home and their beloved olive groves. Gone too are the landmarks that remind her of her mother, Asha, a woman whose repeated absences scarred her childhood.

What a brilliant debut novel from a new Australian author I was unaware of, but now hope to hear a lot more from in the future!

There are two storylines going on in this book - one about Jade, her father and grandmother living through the horrifying loss of their home and olive plantation to a bushfire in Victoria. The other is about Courtney and David and their soccer-playing son Matthew who live in Miami, USA. They are a happy family until they receive devastating news about their son.

For quite some time I was puzzled as to how these two stories were going to come together, they were so different, it seemed like I was actually reading two separate books. All the characters had me hooked from the beginning to the end. Tackling issues such as loss of home, livelihood, bringing communities together, illness, a bit of romance, Alzheimer's disease, family secrets - this book has all that and more.

The author was very clever with her writing and did not reveal how these two stories intersected until almost three quarters of the way through the book, and from then on I just could not put it down. Lexi Landsman has really done her research well on the events she's portrayed and it's hard to believe this is her first book - in my opinion her writing is superb!

~ Janine


20.6.16

A Death in the Family

A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgard

In this incredible book Karl Ove writes of his younger self writing about his life. In this sense the My Struggle series is autobiographical fiction. Karl Ove grew up in Norway and later moves to Sweden where he meets Linda. A Death in the family covers his childhood and teenage years, but the story isn’t linear and shifts back and forth in time. The style examines the minutiae of his experiences and at the same time the big events such as the death of his alcoholic father. 

Although somewhat bleak and a bit directionless I loved it! I think this is partly because being of the same generation I could relate to many aspects of the author's life. Also, I just let myself “go with it”. The musical soundtrack of his youth was very similar as mine.  I also just really enjoyed the unusual style, creating an art out of introspection.  I listened to the audio version narrated by an actor by the name of Edoardo Bellerini who does a fantastic job. 

This is the first book in the My Struggle series.

~ Ali

17.6.16

Don't You Cry

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she's the person Quinn thought she knew. 

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher.  Alex is watching a girl who is sitting in the café obsessively watching a therapist’s office. Who is this beautiful but down-and-out girl and what is she doing in Alex’s hick town? He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.

Why we love it: 

For Mary Kubica’s growing legion of fans we’re happy to report that America’s bestselling suspense writer has just released her third book – and Don’t You Cry is as creepy and thrilling as the previous two.

~ from The Team at Better Reading


16.6.16

Keep You Close

Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse
Narrated by Polly Whitehouse

From the cover: When the brilliant young painter Marianne Glass is found dead in her snow-covered Oxford garden, her closest friend, Rowan Winter, knows it wasn’t an accident. Rowan’s pursuit of the truth takes her into every corner of her friend’s life, from Bohemian east London to the professional art world in which Marianne made her name. The deeper she goes, Rowan discovers that some secrets are better left buried and others can be lethal.

I listened to this on audio CD and became quickly entrenched in the story.  It is well written, well constructed, with totally believable characters and a storyline that keeps holding your interest.  I knew there would be a twist but didn’t spot it (bonus points to the author) and unusually, found the length of the story to be quite right and not the usual “needs editing, too long”!  

The book is narrated by the author’s sister, Polly, who is a UK TV newsreader by profession, but she delivers the character voices - both male and female – with aplomb. Overall, one of the better ‘whodunnits’ I’ve read of late!   We have this in audio CD, e-book, and print formats.

~  Deb

15.6.16

The Murderer's Daughter

The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

Only five years old when she watched her parents die in a bloody murder-suicide, Grace took refuge in her fierce intellect and found comfort in the loving couple who adopted her. But her now-accomplished life has a secret side, ruled by an insatiable desire; by night she pursues the addictive thrills of sexual trysts with strangers. And when her two worlds unexpectedly converge, Grace’s past returns with a vengeance, threatening to destroy everything she’s fought for – including her life.

Shaken by the murder of her newest patient and fearful that an investigation will expose her double life, Grace sets out to probe the crime herself. But when she stumbles on the dead man’s true identity, a horrifying chapter from her childhood is violently reawakened, forcing Grace to confront a decades-old act of evil crying out to be avenged. Suddenly stalked by dangerous men, Grace must turn to the talent for survival she’s depended on all her life in order to face down the darkest personal demon she’s ever battled: her own.

Jonathan Kellerman breaks away from his Dr Alex Delaware series for this stand-alone title. The Murderer’s Daughter features a different kind of psychologist, Dr Grace Blades. Dr Blades helps people who have suffered significant trauma in their lives, something she is all too familiar with after suffering her own traumatic childhood. When a patient flies across the country to specifically seek assistance from this renowned psychologist, a shadowed past is released and Dr Blades' life becomes at risk. 

The reader learns a lot of the back story to Dr Grace Blades during the book but the main storyline is Dr Blades' investigation in order to maintain her freedom and keep her past a secret. Although she is followed and harassed during her investigation, it is a luke warm pursuit. She is in control at all times.

I felt this book was not one of Kellerman’s best, and not as thrilling as the cover promised. Nevertheless loyal fans of Kellerman may still enjoy The Murderer’s Daughter, if looking for a book of intrigue rather than psychological thriller.

~ Narelle


14.6.16

The Last Pearl

The Last Pearl by Leah Fleming

The Last Pearl: one magnificent gem; three lives bound together by fate. 1879, York. Greta Costello must rely on her wits to survive. She finds refuge as a Saturday girl for an old jeweller, Saul Abrahams, and her eye for detail, her long fingers and appreciation of beauty persuade Saul to train her as a pearl stringer. This skill will lead her through hardship and pain towards a new life. 

1879, Scotland. Jem Baillie knows the immense power of a perfect pearl. His father was a fisher on a tributary of the Tay river in Perthshire, Scotland, and together they found the rarest of pearls, a great white pearl they call Queenie. When this is stolen from them, Eben vows revenge. 

Spanning generations and continents, tracing the rivers of Scotland and the Mississippi, The Last Pearl is a sweeping novel of desire and revenge, of family and freedom, and of one woman's journey to open the shell she has built around herself to reveal the true beauty within.

This is a wonderful story about a perfect rare pearl and the lives of Jem Baillie a lad from Scotland whose father fished for pearls and Greta Costello, a poor girl struggling in life with her mother, sister and brother in York, and Eben Slinger a pearl dealer who sets up his shop in York.  The three lives become entwined across almost 30 years and two continents. It is a story of hope, loss, revenge and courage. This was a great read and gave an interesting insight into the pearl industry as well. The book will appeal to readers of Historical Fiction and Family Sagas. Highly recommended.

~ Janine

10.6.16

A Guide to Berlin

A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones

Six international travellers made up of two Italians, two Japanese an American and an Australian form a group while in Berlin. They meet regularly in empty apartments and share stories of themselves which they call “speak memories”. Each of the members is familiar with the work of writer Vladamir Nabokov (author of Lolita), who lived in Berlin in 1925 and wrote a short story called “A Guide to Berlin”. The strangers become friends and yet there’s always a polite respect within the group -   rules of the meetings seem to be implied, not overtly expressed. Berlin is the perfect winter host of the gatherings. The friendships evolve, and Cass, the Australian forms a close bond with Italian Marco. Then unexpected and devastating incidents pull the whole group, shell-shocked, apart. 

A Guide to Berlin was written in Berlin by Gail Jones during an “Artists Fellowship”. The wonderful descriptions of the city during winter really make Berlin like the 7th member of the group.  The city is fascinating – icy cold, snowy cold, bleak and grey, with reminders of its dark history making appearances here and there. There is a quiet assuredness to the characters - having a love of words and stories and with secrets which they may or may not reveal in their “speak memories”. The Nabakovian events which bring about the end of the group are surprising and satisfying.

A guide to Berlin is unique and wonderfully written. Highly recommended. 

~ Ali

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