March 31, 2013

Book Review - How it all began by Penelope Lively

One old lady has a fall and her daughter cannot go to work as she has to look after her. From this one event, routines are broken, marriages fail, careers are changed and friendships are formed. Sit in for a comfortable ride as scenes from 'real' life unfold. Lively's prose is entertaining and lucid. Her characters are believably flawed and her plotting is delicate. Temptations exist but what should you do about them? How does one age well? Who is your family? I enjoyed this book very much.

March 27, 2013

Book Review -Backlash by Lynda LaPlante Fiction

 Another strong entry in her Above Suspicion series, this can be read as a stand alone story. DCS James Langton must be one of the most infuriating and bullying characters in modern fiction but thankfully he is on the fringes of this story which starts with the random stop by police of van. They find a dead body in the back. The murderer turns out to be far more deadly then they first imagine and the hunt for clues is difficult and far reaching. LaPlante is very strong procedurally which makes up for a certain emotional distance in her main characters. This should please her legions of fans.

March 24, 2013

Book Review - Summertime Death by Mons Kallentoft

Why is it that some of the best fictional detectives are moody, obsessional, insomniacs with difficulty in maintaining family relationships? Meet one of Sweden's detectives, Malin Fors, in this elliptical, crackling hot, new novel. The provincial city of Linkoping is suffering a summer heatwave, the forest fires are filling the air with smoke. Everyone who can, has gone on holidays. The reduced staff of detectives have an assault victim with no memory of what happened to her, a murder victim who can't talk and there is little forensic evidence to help.

Malin seeks inspiration from the crime scene…."the wind is blowing through the leaves of the oak, rustling them. It's a warm wind. …..The water of the lake almost seems to bubble in the heat. Boiling and stagnant, deadly poisonous yet still endlessly tempting: Jump in, and I'll drag you down to the bottom….The sun reflects off the water …... The reflections are like lightning in her retinas but she doesn't want to put on her Ray-Bans, wants to see reality just as it is."

And that is what we need from Mailn, to confront the reality of her victims and drag out the truth of a hurt that started a long time ago. Kallentoft continues the promise of her first excellent crime novel "Midwinter Sacrifice"; and Malin Fors cements her place in the pantheon of fictional detectives.


March 21, 2013

DVD Review - The Mentalist

Simon Baker is perfect as Patrick Jane with his trademark cheeky grin, uncanny powers of observation and mesmerising knowledge of human behaviour . He provides a fine balance between the compassion he displays to the victims he meets and the stark revenge he wishes to unleash on Red John, the man who brutally killed his family. Jane, Agent Lisbon and the team are introduced in the Season 1 of this series. Murder mysteries are leavened by flashes of genuine wit and humour and the team dynamics are handled deftly. Season 2 also held.

March 20, 2013

Book Review - Overdressed: the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline

If you need a reason to wean yourself off the 25 cheap t-shirts and skirts in your wardrobe, here is the book for you. Looking at the shift in clothing manufacture from the USA to China and other low labour cost countries, this could easily be Australia's story. The endless cycle of disposable garments has in its wake the loss of local skills, jobs and quality. Consumers are hooked on buying a lot of items at cheap rates and of poor quality. Cline surveys the economics of a generation who refuse to pay more than $20 for a jacket, and cannot sew on a button. Salutary reading. The only glimmer of light is her look at the slow clothing trend in the last chapter.


March 19, 2013

Book Review - Tuesday's Gone by Nicci French

Nicci French is a pseudonym for a successful writing partnership of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French and they deliver a taut, psychological drama in the next installment in pyschotherapist's Frieda Klein's forays into assisting the police solve murders. The story features a mystery man found dead and being cared for by a mentally ill woman. Frieda must interpret her utterances to gain insight into the man's life and work out if he is victim or perpetrator. A dark shadow from the past hangs over her as the players are revealed. Frieda must come to terms with just why she does what she does and how to heal her fractured family. If a con man was to identify your weakness and prey on you…. What would it be? Reading the first book in the series Blue Monday, is not necessary but would add depth to the storylines. Nicci French does it again with an engrossing puzzle.


March 17, 2013

Book Review - Snow White and the Hunstman: a novel by Lily Blake

This is a movie tie-in and is based on the motion picture, the screen story by Evan Daugherty and the screen play by Evan and others. It's a re-imagining of the classic fairy story. Snow White is imprisoned for years by the evil Queen who has killed her father and taken the throne. She escapes just after she learns that there are some in her father's kingdom who are resisting the Queen's reign of terror; they are led by her boyhood friend, William son of Duke Hammond. The huntsman is suffering from the loss of his beloved wife and thinks he has nothing left to live for. The queen has no pity as she battles against the fading of her powers and sends him after Snow White into the Dark Forest, a magical realm of enchanted traps and monsters. What will Snow White and the huntsman learn? Will they survive? And what choices will they make? An enchanted read.

Book Review - Double Entry: How the merchants of Venice shaped the modern world and how their invention could make or break the Planet by Jane Gleeson-White

In the fourteenth century, Venetian merchants were using Roman numerals and an abacas to manage their businesses. Hindu-Arabic numerals were viewed with great suspicion and were in fact outlawed until their subversive use became so widespread that they had to be accepted. These numbers also enabled developments in painting (through the understanding of perspective transforming the flat two dimensional pre- Renaissance paintings) and architecture, spawning the great buildings we see on Grand Tours today. Their great benefit was to enable the use of arithmetical calculations on paper. The principle of double entry accounting launched the great merchant shipping voyages and through ever increasing complexity underpins our great global corporations today. This is an entertaining historical account of the rise of accounting practice (OK! I have no life!); its great advances and its great shortcomings. After the great Depression of the 1930s and during the two World Wars, countries saw the need to embrace a national accounting system which has gradually developed to guide many international transactions. The people developing these systems knew they were limited in their capacity to quantify indirect costs such as environmental damage. This is the next great challenge in corporate and national accounting.

March 15, 2013

Book Review - In the Bag by Kate Klise

Daisy and her daughter Coco are on a plane, as are Andrew and his son Webb. The story is told through each of the character's viewpoints as a series of mishaps and misunderstandings complicate a very contemporary love story. Funny and charming, Kate Klise hits the spot with her first adult romance.

March 14, 2013

Speculative Fiction....more than the undead.

It can be easy to dismiss speculative fiction as purely asteroids and "zombie lit" and while there is an element of that (and that is OK and very enjoyable!), there is oh so much more.

Speculative fiction encompasses not just the bio-engineering fuelled post apocalyptic nightmare that is found in Justin Cronin's The Passage but also the laugh out laugh universe of Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Asimov's robot riddled futures.

As a genre it is one I have returned to many times. In early high school while other young teenage girls were enjoying the Sweet Valley High Series (Bubblegum pulp) I was enamoured with Kelleher's Taronga, a post apocalyptic adventure set in Sydney's Zoo where the main character can communicate telepathically (thankyou to my high school English teacher for that one).

Later high school, saw my introduction to The Handmaids Tale, Atwoods exploration of female subjagation at the hands of a theocracy. Not only did it set of the biggest exam hissyfit in my academic life (I walked out as I hadn't prepared properly and didn't understand the question), it asked a 16 year old to examine doctorine, equal rights and the wisdom of using butter as moisturiser.

Over the ensuing decades (of which there have been a couple), I have enjoyed so many different sc-fi, paranormal, alternate history (some of the many genre's that seem to fit within this one) that it hard not to list them all. Sara Douglass and her twists on Greek mythology and time travel (The Troy Game) kept me thrilled right to the last page. Suzanne Collins Hunger Games made me cry (and quite possibly neglect my children "Shhhh, mummy's reading") and the Time Traveller's Wife was simply one of the best pieces of writing I have come across (just don't get me started on the movie).

Too many people presume that these books aren't literary, or are just for children. Other's think they should "grown up and read a proper book". I support wide reading.  I support reading outside your comfort zone. i also support reading whatever you like, and with so many different themes in speculative fiction, there is alot to like.

So give me vampires, zombies, robots and cyborgs, take me to worlds where war never happens or is never ending and let me indulge in my fantasies of what the world would be like if time travel was possible.
And don't ever tell me (or your kids, spouse or next door neighbour) , that what I read isn't educational, interesting or literary.

(Oh, and if you do enjoy "zombie lit" check out our blog supporting the Narella Zombie Apocalypse.! )

Narellan Zombie Apocalypse  - April 13 2013

March 13, 2013

Book Review - Force of Nature by C.J. Box

Another American anti-hero with a shady military past and an awesome repertoire of skills, Nate Romanowski's past catches up to him in this thriller where falconry, wilderness hunting and the magnificent southern Wyoming countryside are an integral part of the story. Big old cottonwood trees by the river, red rock cliffs and everywhere a winter dusting of snow forming a backdrop to Nate's battle with his old master in a clandestine killing unit. Escapism with an arsenal, suspend disbelief and enjoy this latest of C.J. Box's muscular, tautly written series.

March 12, 2013

Book Review - The Translation of Bones by Francesca Kay

This was recommended to me by a borrower and thankyou for the recommendation which I am now passing on! Kay's first novel won the Orange Prize and although I don't always seek out prize-winners, I will be looking for her other work. An English suburban church has some regular helpers who clean and do the flowers. One day, one of the helpers, Mary Margaret, a simple woman with strong faith, sees Jesus on the Cross bleeding from his head shortly before she falls and is taken to hospital. This novel has achingly real and beautiful depictions of Fidelma, an unmarried mother from Ireland, now facing the end of her life; of Stella, an MP's wife reflecting on her children's lives; of Father Diamond, the parish priest, desperately seeking answers; and of Kiti, whose life experience leads her to see conspiracies where they don't exist. Mary Margaret is a catalyst in ways she doesn't even comprehend to changes that affect them all. Searing and evocative, thoughtful and measured. I could easily read this several times and get more out of it each time.

March 05, 2013

Book Review - The Fall by Claire McGowan

Charlotte is totally consumed by her wedding preparations to Dan. So consumed that she completely misses the signs that all is not well in his life. Dan and Charlotte go out on the town and in the aftermath, Dan is arrested for murder and Charlotte's life unravels completely. She links up with Keisha, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who is also linked to the murder and they develop an unlikely partnership. DC Matthew Hegarty is an honest cop who cannot leave the case alone and is increasingly attracted to Charlotte. Just what is Dan guilty of? A competent crime novel expertly interweaving the characters' stories.


March 01, 2013

Book Review - Fault Line by Robert Goddard

Jonathan Kellaway is about to retire when he is asked to do one more task for his employer, a multi-national china clay company. The company and Jonathan share their origins in a small Cornish village, where he had a seminal summer involving a pretty girl and her troubled brother.

And that was how we first met, Vivien Foster and I. …she never once glanced around at me, though she cast several glances in her brother's direction. It was pretty clear she'd barely noticed me. But I'd noticed her. And I was already certain I'd never forget her. How right I was.

Told partly in flashback, the story evolves layers of complexity as Jonathan finally resolves the mystery underlying that summer and the ripple effects on all who were involved. Another intriguing story from Robert Goddard.