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March 31, 2014

Book Review - Country Loving by Cathy Woodward

Stevie left her family farm in Devon when her father insisted it go to her brother as the farm had always been run by the men in her family. She makes a life in the city but is called back to discover her father has had a stroke, his animals are in a bad way and her brother is nowhere to be seen. A cranky vet, distressed cows and a bad tempered father do not make the most romantic setting, but Stevie tackles her problems head on and finds some country loving in the process. A charming story. Wendy

March 29, 2014

Book Review - The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

This is an enchanting and possibly enchanted book about love and forgiveness. Two ordinary people, George and his daughter Amanda are immeasurably changed when they meet Kumiko. A woman who may be the reincarnation of a wounded crane or may not. I loved it but know others who just didn't get it. It may be for you or it may not. "Stories do not explain. They seem to, but all they provide is a starting point. A story never ends at the end. There is always after. And even within itself, even by saying this version is the right one, it suggests other versions, versions that exist in parallel. No, a story is not an explanation, it is a net through which the truth flows. The net catches some of the truth, but not all, never all, only enough so that we can live with the extraordinary without it killing us." She sagged a little, as if exhausted by this speech. "As it surely, surely would." After a moment, George asked, "Has something extraordinary happened to you?" "To me", she said, "and to everyone…." Wendy

March 28, 2014

Book Review - Cold Killing by Luke Delaney

The cover says 'No motive, no mercy, no remorse.' This is a fairly cold book all round, full of grisly murders and a most unsympathetic killer. The detective team try hard to have some humanity but in the end this didn't quite gel for me. It is good but just seemed to miss being very good and I don't know why? I think I got annoyed with the wife of the lead detective who wasn't given much to do except to be either irritated or annoyingly caring about her husband's way of immersing himself in the killer's viewpoint. Perhaps that's how detectives' wives are and there isn't a resolution if they don't divorce but I was left wondering how it helped the story and I don't think it did. Some of the minor characters seem to be more interesting than the leads so I wanted to see more of them. Anyway – give it a go and see what you think! Wendy

March 26, 2014

Book Review - The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch

This is a charming story of Sugar Wallace, an itinerant bee-keeper who arrives in a place only to sort out her new friends and then move on to pastures new chosen by her bees crawling on a map. But this time, Sugar gets more than she bargains for as her bees help her with her neighbours in a New York City apartment building and with her own bruised heart. Helping others can help you help yourself but you have to be open to life's hurts as well as its joys. I think this is my favourite read this year. Wendy

March 25, 2014

Book review - Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts

Eli Landon has escaped conviction of the murder of his estranged wife but no-one else is in the frame and suspicion lingers. He may have to face a civil suit brought by her family who are still looking for answers. He retreats to his grandmother's home at Whiskey Beach where a group of concerned locals help him find new love as he unravels a historical mystery which holds the key to his present travails. Nora Roberts can craft a fine tale with red herrings and a varied cast of well drawn supporting characters. Wendy

March 24, 2014

Book Review - False Start: a memoir of things best forgotten by Mark O'Flynn

This is a strange little collection of tales in three distinct parts. Mark spends time at a Queensland mine, at drama school and then involved in theatre in a regional town and then he goes to Ireland to distribute religious statues. He never quite knows what he wants to do with his life but he is entertaining enough as he tries to find out. So, if you feel like accompanying him on his journey, you can spend an amusing hour or two. Wendy

March 22, 2014

Book Review - Give Me Excess of It by Richard Gill

I know Richard Gill only through his appearances on Spicks and Specks and via his participation in Operatunity OZ – a a search for undiscovered opera singers. He has always entertained and impressed with his passion for sharing music. This book covers his musical education thus far, including failures and successes; his ongoing quest for more musical challenges and deeper knowledge; and his infectious enthusiasm for developing and nurturing young talent. It touches only briefly on his personal life, apart from acknowledging the enormous support from his wife as he threw himself heart and soul into whatever was the preoccupation of the day. I enjoyed it and I hope this engaging man continues to teach and learn for many years to come. Wendy

March 21, 2014

Book Review - Suddenly by Bonnie Burnard

Three Canadian friends, Sandra, Colleen and Jude, have lasted through the years of childrearing, sharing their joys and their sorrows. Sandra is dying and her family and friends keep her company. Using Sandra's journals as a jumping off point, we learn of several crucial events in their shared history. The friends and their husbands try to make sense of their relationships, their needs and fears. I normally swallow books up rather quickly, but this one demanded a more considered approach. Perhaps knowing a shared history means much more than you might initially think. Wendy

March 20, 2014

Book Review - Suspect by Robert Crais

A police detective, Scott, is dealing with Post Traumatic Stress disorder after a disastrous incident where his policewoman partner was killed and he was left very badly injured. Scott is transferred to the K9 unit where he meets Maggie, an Army dog, who lost her human handler in an incident when she, too, was badly injured. Should they both be medically retired or can they help each other heal? The developing relationship between the two is sensitively handled as they investigate the layers of deceit behind the death of the policewoman. Part of the story is told from Maggie's point of view, adding warmth and understanding to her story. A lovely dog story and an absorbing mystery.

Book Review - The Honey Queen by Cathy Kelly

This is classic Kelly! Three women at different times in their lives all come to a small Irish village. Lillie has come from Australia to meet relatives she never knew about, as her birth mother died and her secret was revealed. Lillie is mourning the recent loss of her beloved husband. Her 'new' half brother and his wife have taken on a large house but then he lost his job and financial strains are complicating their relationship. Peggy arrives in town to open a new knitting shop but must reconcile her past before she can move on to a shining new future. How these and other well-drawn characters interact and help each other is a heart-warming read and one I would be happy to come back to again. It's life-affirming. Wendy

March 18, 2014

Book Review - Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

The cover blurb states "The Japanese Stieg Larsson" which is quite misleading and does them both a dis-service. This is a classical murder mystery with the main suspect, the wife, with a solid alibi, being many miles away when her husband dies. An interesting collection of detectives gather the evidence and interpret the clues. A friendly scientist works on the physical puzzles whilst others work on the psychology of the victim and his intimates. Intelligent and gently witty, this is more of an intellectual exercise than a thriller. A very satisfying read. Wendy

March 17, 2014

Book Review - Fish Change Direction in Cold Weather by Pierre Szalowski

This first novel is a funny, quirky and intelligent look at the loves and lives of a group of neighbours, who are brought together when a severe ice storm affects Montreal. The main character is an 11 year old boy whose parents have just announced that they are splitting up. He comes to realize that they have been 'frozen' into attitudes that mean they aren't happy, and they aren't alone in that. His voice is beautifully depicted as he painfully comes to a more adult understanding of his parents' dilemmas and his place in their deliberations. His neighbours include a couple of homosexuals who are afraid to come out, a meteorologist, a psychoanalyst, a stripper who is disillusioned with men, a Russian Mathematics student working on a PhD on the patterns in which fish swim, a failed musician single father & his son, three cats and a dog. None of them know each other at all, except to nod to going in and out but the storm makes them connect and nothing will be ever be the same, not even for the cats although the dog continues on much as normal! This small book packs a lot into a charmingly simple story of what happens over five days, when all normal routines are gone. Szalowski manages to look at prejudice, fear, marriage and love without judgment but with great empathy and hope in a wonderfully realized narrative. I loved it! Wendy

March 15, 2014

Book Review - Big Sky River by Linda Lael Miller

Pleasant escapist western romance as Tara establishes herself as a sort of chicken farmer in Parable, Montana, after a failed first marriage that seems to have left her with plenty of money and no need to earn a living. She doesn't at first take to her neighbour, the widowed Sheriff Boone Taylor but the inevitable happens. A new baby, orphaned dogs, adorable children, teen misadventures and new love in a small town community that knows your business and that means they help in a crisis. This is part of a series of Big Sky romances by this assured writer under the Harlequin imprint. Wendy

March 14, 2014

Book Review - A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell

This is much more of a history book than Who put the Beef into Wellington? Sitwell, a British TV and magazine foodie goes back in time to identify when foods first emerged and the historical contexts. Bread, porridge, roast beef, tomato sauce, oatmeal cookies and ice-cream sodas are a small fraction of what is covered. Including fragments from the earliest known writing about the dish, Sitwell's purpose isn't to help you cook it, but to appreciate its history. Find out why the tomato was viewed with great suspicion in Europe to begin with - apart from anything else, The Axtecs ate them but they also ate people…. , but it went on to be one of the essential ingredients of many cuisines. I found this a fascinating but slow read – a few chapters at a time. Be warned with both of these two food books you will experience a great need to read bits aloud to your nearest and dearest! Wendy

March 13, 2014

Book Review - Who put the Beef into Wellington? 50 culinary classics – who invented them and why by James Martin

This book contains 2 double page spread about 50 iconic recipes. The first gives a short history of the origins and context of the dish emerging and also briefly how it has captured the public imagination. The second gives the author's updated version of the dish. Recipes include Tarte Tatin, Melba toast, Waldorf Salad etc The latter entry includes the original recipes from The Cookbook by Oscar of the Waldorf 1896. The book also includes short entries on 10 classic cocktails including Bellini and Martini. This is a very engaging coffee table book to dip into. Wendy

March 12, 2014

Book Review - The Sacrifical Man by Ruth Dugdale

This is one of the most complex mysteries you may ever read as you try to decipher who is the victim here. Alice Mariani has assisted her boyfriend's suicide but their pact included her eating a part of him. Probation Officer Cate Austin is part of the legal system working to assess firstly what has happened and then assign legal responsibility and recommend appropriate sentencing. Very different to your normal forensic detecting, this is a dark and gripping narrative. I'm not sure that I liked Alice much at all but I "enjoyed" the journey she took me on. Wendy

March 10, 2014

Book Review - The Lawgiver by Herman Wouk

Herman Wouk is a major US writer and this was written when he was 97 so I am coming to his work a little late in his career. This a novel based on letters between the characters updated for the 21st Century as it includes emails, memos, texts and transcripts of interviews. Herman and his wife also feature as it is based on the travails of getting a film about Moses made whilst he is trying to write a novel based on Moses, where the chief investor wants Herman's approval of the script. You get deeply immersed in Jewish Hollywood as investors, scriptwriters, directors and producers all put their own spin on what should happen. There is a lovely inclusion of an Aussie hunk actor flown over for a screen test that never happens, a couple of romances and a family estrangement thrown in for good measure. This is a good and funny read and has a rather sad afterword as Herman's wife died between finishing the novel and this edition being published. Wendy

March 09, 2014

Book Review - The Happiness Show by Catherine Deveney

Lizzie is a quintessential Aussie backpacker , ie loud, brash, funny and irreverent when she meets Tom on the Trans Siberian Railroad. They connect but their ways part and Tom returns to England. Deveney is strongest in showing how the relationship develops and how their shared sense of humour underpins their sexual attraction. Years later after they have both established and happy relationships including children, they meet and discover that sparks still fly and they have unfinished business. Neither of them can stop thinking about the other and wanting them. There is nothing new in this story but Deveney shows a sure hand and unflinching honesty in depicting the various relationships that propel the narrative. Wendy