our best reads in adult books this month

 Adult book reviews for June 2012.  Most of these books have been released in May and June.  The books have been written by Janet and John Croft, and the reviews written by Janet.

Three star books are our highest rank, two star next….no stars….well….!

*The Storm by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown.  PB from Penguin.  RRP  $29.95

Cussler is a very well known and respected author.  He is also the founder of a society dedicated to American maritime history (NUMA) and has been part of several maritime expeditions to find wrecks of American ships.  This story, whilst fanciful has lots of facts about marine life and experiences at sea, and this factual base gives strong atmospheric background to the story.  The hero, Kurt Austin and his team at NUMA are sent to the Indian Ocean after a research vessel has caught fire, and everyone on board has been killed.  What happens is heart-stopping action as the NUMA team find a plot, led by masterminds based in Egypt, to attempt to alter global weather.  There is the usual side plot of a love affair, and lots and lots of action.  For Cussler fans, this will be excellent.

**The Watch. By Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya.  PB from Random House.  RRP  $32.95

The war in Afghanistan has some similarities with the American war in Vietnam.  Both have been fought a long way from America and Australia by soldiers who often do not like or understand why they are there.  After a particularly nasty attack on an isolated American base where deaths occurred on both sides, a lone crippled Afghan woman arrives outside the base.  She propels herself on a makeshift trolley carrying a shovel, some food and water, and a lute.  When she is forced to stop she announces that she has come to bury her brother who was killed inside the fort during the attack.

The soldiers do not know if she is a spy, a black widow with a bomb or a grieving sister.  The author has captured what both sides in this war have had to endure: brutality, senselessness and stupidity.  He shows the evil done to others and to themselves, but also the loyalty and bravery by people on both sides of the conflict.  The Watch reveals brilliantly the realities of war and how a lone brave woman can make tough men question their attitudes and aims.  It is a very, very good book.  The author has recently been a guest speaker at the Sydney Writer’s Festival.

**The Trader’s Sister.  By Anna Jacobs.  PB from Hodder and Stoughton.  RRP  $29.99

This is the second book in a series about individuals in Europe, the East, and the newly established penal colony at the Swan River in WA—now Perth of course.  In this story, a young Irish girl Ismay Deagan is brutally treated by her father, and then abused by her would be husband.  Distressed but determined she gains the support of her then employers, and they help her to find a ship which will take her to Australia.  Unknown to Ismay her attacker learns of her escape, and finds a means to travel to Australia as well.  Ismay finds companions on board ship, and gains confidence the further the voyage proceeds.  Eventually there is a happy reunion with her brother in Swan River, and a pleasing end to the story.  There is a lot of background detail about life in Aden and the Suez area, Singapore, and the early days of the Swan River Colony, as well as about the harshness of life in Ireland in the early 1800s and the role of the Catholic Church in abetting the suppression of women.  It is interesting and entertaining reading.

 

 

 

***The Geek Manifesto.  Why Science Matters.  By Mark Henderson.  PB from Random House.  RRP about $35

The Geek Manifesto was written to encourage people with a scientific background to stand up for their education and beliefs.  Too many important decisions in society are made without consulting a scientist who understands the issues involved.  It is rare for a journalist, politician or government advisor to have a science degree.  This is a book that makes you think of who you should give it to; each chapter covers a fascinating range of issues from global warming and nuclear reactors to how the continued opposition of green groups to nuclear power will lead to increased use of coal and increased carbon emissions.  The comparison between the number of deaths occurring from nuclear accidents and those in coalmines should be considered! The world needs scientists to become more involved in the communication of facts concerning scientific issues of development to pressure groups, which are promoting bad, or untenable policy decisions.  This has been one of the most interesting and thought provoking books I have read for many months.

Kind of Cruel.  By Sophie Hannah.  PB from Hodder and Stoughton.  RRP about $30

This is a psychological thriller involving multiple deaths in a family, and the mind of a woman who finds herself in the midst of horrible crimes without consciously remembering why she is involved.  It is a complex story, set in Britain in recent times, but I found the story too unpleasant, and failed to follow the plot closely enough to sort out all the complexities.  It was not a story I enjoyed.

*The Shoemaker’s Wife.  By Adriana Trigiani  PB from Simon and Schuster.  RRP  $29.99

The origins of this story are in Italy about a hundred years ago, when a young couple falls in love, but then, very early in their relationship, are forced to separate after Ciro is banished from his village when he reveals a scandal involving the local priest.  Ciro is sent to live in America and becomes a shoemaker.  His bereft young lover Enza, whilst heart broken gets on with life but soon, with her father emigrates to America as well.  The couple meet up briefly before WW1 and Enza’s new career again separate them. After many years,  there is a happy ending, and it is a satisfying story, with lots of realistic background detail in both Italy and America in the early 20th Century to enrich and support the story.  Good reading.

*The Land of Decoration.  By Grace McCleen.  PB from Random House. RRP  $32.95

This is a novel about a young girl who tries to make sense and a life for herself out of a world where nothing seems good to her.  She creates a world out of small decorations and comes to believe that it is the real world. She has very personal discussions with God who seems to be directing her thoughts and action.  Of course she is delusional, and verging on psychotic, but it is her way of keeping her self-intact when in real life, her father is in trouble, and she wants to hide the pain.  It is only at the end of the book, after she has contemplated death, that she realises that she wants to live, and pulls back from the abyss.  The book is written in the first person, through Judith’s eyes, so the reader is part of the story.  I didn’t enjoy the book much, but it is interesting, and served to remind me that people who are pushed to the limits by their environment can take refuge in fantasy in the most amazing ways.

 

***The People Smuggler, by Robin de Crespigny  PB from Penguin.  RRP  $29.95

This book is non-fiction.  It tells the story of Ali Al Jenabi, who was born in Iraq, and lived under Saddam Hussein’s inhuman regime.  After a torrid childhood, and seeing the way in which his father was treated and knowing that there was no future for himself in Iraq, eventually Ali manages to reach Indonesia where he is able to organise seven boats of refugees who want to get to Australia.  The boat people issue has been blown out of all proportion by the media and has been a divisive election issue. Ali al Jenabi has been portrayed as an evil profiteer; he was arrested and brought back to Australia to be tried and sentenced to gaol. Whatever your beliefs on the matter, this book gives you the opportunity to understand what drives people to leave their homes and country, to take their chances, often with their children, on unsafe boats, and the unknown ocean in the hope of a better life.  We have nothing to be proud about in our political decisions on these matters, no matter what our political convictions.  The book emphasises the need to help the countries of origin of the refugees to improve the lot of their inhabitants.  People would not want to leave their country if life there were pleasant and reasonable. There are enormous problems in many countries in Africa, the Middle East, and in Afghanistan.  The solution is not to move the inhabitants to Australia, but it is not to go to war either.  This is a confronting book which really makes you think and question our attitudes and actions.

*The Wedding Season. By Su Dharmapala. PB from Simon and Schuster. RRP $29.99

This novel offers a fascinating insight into the lives of people on the subcontinent, their attitudes to marriage, and to life, with the emphasis that it is important for women to be married to fulfil themselves with children, and serving a husband.  It tells of the complexities which enter their lives when they are in a western society, and faced by issues as individuals rather than more simply, as members of large extended families.  This was pleasant reading, but I suspect that it will appeal more to women who have experienced life in some depth in India or Sri Lanka than those who have no understanding of family life, religion and customs there.

*Secrets of the Tides.  By Hannah Richell.  PB from Hachette.  RRP  $29.99

This is another family saga, this time set in Britain.  The Tides had been a happy family until their lives were disrupted following the disappearance of the small boy, Alfie.  The story is told episodically, with the various protagonists as narrator, and each chapter getting closer to the day of Alfie’s disappearance, and the truth about what really happened and how each of the sisters had contributed to the tragedy.  It is quite well written, but some of the jumps from one chapter to the next were a bit sudden.  There are excellent notes for a reading group at the end of the novel.

Defending Jacob by William Landay.  PB from Orion  (Hachette.)  RRP  $29.99

This is an intriguing American murder mystery.  A boy is stabbed in a park near his school.  There are two suspects, one a recognised local paedophile with no history of violence.  The other is Jacob, the fourteen-year-old son of the district attorney:  he is the grandson and great-grandson of men who were violent murderers.  Defending Jacob is a story of a family in crisis; can they really believe their son is innocent, or a cold-blooded killer?  No matter what the outcome, it is difficult to read this sort of story with any enjoyment.

*Jasmine Nights, by Julia Gregson.  PB from Orion ( Hachette)  RRP  $29.99

Not all books set in wartime relate stories of the horrors of war.  Jasmine Nights touches on the life of fighter pilots in war. Most of the story is about the love between Saba, a singer from Wales who defies her father to sing for the troops, and Dom, a Spitfire pilot. Dom had been badly burnt when his plane was shot down over England and Saba was performing in the hospital where he was recovering.  They each found that the other gave them the strength to get through the war.  The story is set mostly in Egypt, and is an enjoyable read.

**The Spinoza Problem, by Irvin Yalom.  PB from Scribe.  RRP $29.95

Spinoza was Jewish, Dutch and a philosopher who was born in 1632.  He held enlightened views on religion that resulted in his excommunication from the synagogue.  His views have been respected by many scholars, including Goethe the great German poet.  Spinoza spent his life thinking and writing, and his extensive library was left to a Dutch museum which was set up to preserve Spinoza’s works.  This is a novel which seeks to understand the actual lives of the two main protagonists. It  alternates between Spinoza’s life in the 1600s, and Hitler’s Germany.  Alfred Rosenberg was anti-Semitic from his school days on.  He became a devoted follower of Hitler, a newspaper editor and a leading advocate against Judaism and the Jewish people. Rosenberg could never understand how many of Germany’s leading intellectuals could admire a Jew.  When Germany conquered Holland, Rosenberg personally collected the library of Spinoza’s works for Germany.  This is a very serious book that also discusses Spinoza’s theories of religion, and some of the convoluted thinking which supported the Jewish holocaust. The epilogue deals with what happened historically with Spinoza, and with Rosenberg. This is not a light story, but it is really interesting reading.

Calico Joe, by John Grisham.  PB from Hachette.  RRP  $29.99

Warren Tracy is   a professional baseball pitcher who deliberately throws a bean ball at the head of Joe Castle.  Joe Castle is the best rookie player to play for a long time.  The hit to the head destroys his career.  This is a story of guilt and tragedy, and the ending is very emotional.  John Grisham is a well-known and very successful novelist, and I usually enjoy his books. This is a much shorter novel than many of his books and I find it surprising that any publisher would expect to sell many copies in Australia of a novel that contains so much detail about baseball.

In her Blood, by Annie Hauxwell.  PB from Penguin.  RRP  $29.95

This is a novel based more or less around the time of the world financial crisis of a few years ago.  Catherine Berlin is an investigator with a financial regulator.  She is also a heroin addict, although seems to control her habit quite well.  In the East End of London she finds one body, almost headless, and then later that day stumbles upon the body of her supplying doctor.  Because the doctor’s supply of heroin has been stolen, Berlin is implicated in the case, and has to collaborate with the police to try to solve the crimes.  For Berlin the worst aspect of it all is that she has only a week’s supply of heroin and needs to find another supplier, as well as solve the crimes.  The story reads well, and I learned a lot about heroin and what it can do to its addicts, but it is after all a story about murders and heroin so it is not an enjoyable theme.

The Chalk Girl, by Carol O’Connell.  PB from Headline. RRP  $29.99

This is a very complex story, mainly about three women, Mallory, the detective, Grace and her daughter Phoebe and their crimes.  There was other crimes too- in particular the killing of two children.    All three women are cold and twisted, but Mallory is the detective.  The title of the book, the Chalk Girl, is significant, because the chalk girl was a sketch, which appeared each year on the asphalt of the school ground to mark the anniversary of where the little girl, Allison had been killed. The story is full of suspense, but I did not enjoy it, because it presents such inhuman crimes, and is black, and humourless.

The Reunion by Joanne Fedler.  PB from Allen and Unwin.  RRP  $29.99

This is very much a book for women with families, children and good friends.  It is a story of sharing the experiences of life and learning from each other to accept and enjoy what they have, and to share pain and grief.  It is fiction but based heavily on actual events in the lives of seven women.  The novel is set over a weekend when the women met up with each other for a reunion.  The story is well written, easy to read, and enjoy.  Many women will find bits of it quite cathartic as they find that others have shared similar experiences to their own in real life.

**What Happened to Hannah, by Mary Kay McComas.  PB from Harper Collins.  RRP  $19.99

I began this book rather doubtfully, because I was not sure whether I would enjoy the story of a successful business women, unmarried, learning to cope with an adolescent niece, following the death of the girls’ mother and grandmother.  In fact, I ended up reading the entire book in just over a day, and really enjoying the unfolding story.  The story contains a mystery as well, concerning the death of Hannah’s father, and how it happened, and how it was treated at the time.  There is in the end huge relief for Hannah as the guilt she has carried for so many years is finally put to rest when Grady fills in the blanks in the story for her.  Excellent reading, but again, mostly for women I feel.

*Stay Close by Harlen Coben.  PB from Orion ( Hachette)  RRP  $32.99

Over a period of seventeen years, a series of men disappear.  In most cases their wife or girlfriend seems to hope they will not be found.  Three people are connected in some way.  Megan had been a lap dancer in sleazy clubs before she quit, married and has led a straight life, married, and with a couple of kids. Ray had been a skilled photographer but he has lost his urge to succeed, and now only has a part time job posing as a paparazzo photographer.  Broome is an ageing detective who can’t stop looking into some of the files about the disappearances.  There has been a lot of blood, but no bodies.  The story is resolved satisfactorily, but not before there is a lot of grief, and confessing, and regrets about the past.  It is quite ironic really that both Megan and Ray had been living with a lie, and false beliefs about what really happened, for so long, and that these feelings had adversely affected so much of their lives.  It’s quite a good read.

*The Girl who Fell from the sky, by Simon Mawer.  PB from Little, Brown.  RRP $29.99

Marian Sutro had a dull desk job at the start of WW2.  She was the daughter of a diplomat, fluent in French, intelligent, young and fit.  She was the perfect recruit to be trained as an undercover agent in France.  As a teenager before the war, she had an adolescent friendship with Clement, a friend of her brother. Clement is now a nuclear physicist whom the British want to get away form the reach of the Germans.  This is a good, rather conventional story about life with the French resistance, with the need to evade capture, and some wartime romance.  It’s an enjoyable story about a topic that has been used many times before.

**Day of Honey by Anna Ciezadlo.  PB from Simon and Schuster.  RRP  $19.99

Anna and her husband are correspondents working in Lebanon and Iraq.  Anna is American born of Greek parents and Mohammad is Lebanese.  This is not a political book as such but gives you an understanding of how complicated the religious and racial environments are in the Middle East.  It is a book which explains why women are prepared to say they will live under sharia law is worth reading.  The Koran does specify how women are to be treated; the difficulty is getting    their societies, many of which are still distinctly tribal, to live according to these rules.  Anna is a dedicated cook and many of the stories have their basis in food.  A section at the back gives some very pleasant recipes.  A Day of Honey is an excellent book if you are interested in the Middle East, and how people there live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Adult book reviews for June 2012.  Most of these books have been released in May and June.  The books have been written by Janet and John Croft, and the reviews written by Janet.

Three star books are our highest rank, two star next….no stars….well….!

*The Storm by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown.  PB from Penguin.  RRP  $29.95

Cussler is a very well known and respected author.  He is also the founder of a society dedicated to American maritime history (NUMA) and has been part of several maritime expeditions to find wrecks of American ships.  This story, whilst fanciful has lots of facts about marine life and experiences at sea, and this factual base gives strong atmospheric background to the story.  The hero, Kurt Austin and his team at NUMA are sent to the Indian Ocean after a research vessel has caught fire, and everyone on board has been killed.  What happens is heart-stopping action as the NUMA team find a plot, led by masterminds based in Egypt, to attempt to alter global weather.  There is the usual side plot of a love affair, and lots and lots of action.  For Cussler fans, this will be excellent.

**The Watch. By Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya.  PB from Random House.  RRP  $32.95

The war in Afghanistan has some similarities with the American war in Vietnam.  Both have been fought a long way from America and Australia by soldiers who often do not like or understand why they are there.  After a particularly nasty attack on an isolated American base where deaths occurred on both sides, a lone crippled Afghan woman arrives outside the base.  She propels herself on a makeshift trolley carrying a shovel, some food and water, and a lute.  When she is forced to stop she announces that she has come to bury her brother who was killed inside the fort during the attack.

The soldiers do not know if she is a spy, a black widow with a bomb or a grieving sister.  The author has captured what both sides in this war have had to endure: brutality, senselessness and stupidity.  He shows the evil done to others and to themselves, but also the loyalty and bravery by people on both sides of the conflict.  The Watch reveals brilliantly the realities of war and how a lone brave woman can make tough men question their attitudes and aims.  It is a very, very good book.  The author has recently been a guest speaker at the Sydney Writer’s Festival.

**The Trader’s Sister.  By Anna Jacobs.  PB from Hodder and Stoughton.  RRP  $29.99

This is the second book in a series about individuals in Europe, the East, and the newly established penal colony at the Swan River in WA—now Perth of course.  In this story, a young Irish girl Ismay Deagan is brutally treated by her father, and then abused by her would be husband.  Distressed but determined she gains the support of her then employers, and they help her to find a ship which will take her to Australia.  Unknown to Ismay her attacker learns of her escape, and finds a means to travel to Australia as well.  Ismay finds companions on board ship, and gains confidence the further the voyage proceeds.  Eventually there is a happy reunion with her brother in Swan River, and a pleasing end to the story.  There is a lot of background detail about life in Aden and the Suez area, Singapore, and the early days of the Swan River Colony, as well as about the harshness of life in Ireland in the early 1800s and the role of the Catholic Church in abetting the suppression of women.  It is interesting and entertaining reading.

 

 

 

***The Geek Manifesto.  Why Science Matters.  By Mark Henderson.  PB from Random House.  RRP about $35

The Geek Manifesto was written to encourage people with a scientific background to stand up for their education and beliefs.  Too many important decisions in society are made without consulting a scientist who understands the issues involved.  It is rare for a journalist, politician or government advisor to have a science degree.  This is a book that makes you think of who you should give it to; each chapter covers a fascinating range of issues from global warming and nuclear reactors to how the continued opposition of green groups to nuclear power will lead to increased use of coal and increased carbon emissions.  The comparison between the number of deaths occurring from nuclear accidents and those in coalmines should be considered! The world needs scientists to become more involved in the communication of facts concerning scientific issues of development to pressure groups, which are promoting bad, or untenable policy decisions.  This has been one of the most interesting and thought provoking books I have read for many months.

Kind of Cruel.  By Sophie Hannah.  PB from Hodder and Stoughton.  RRP about $30

This is a psychological thriller involving multiple deaths in a family, and the mind of a woman who finds herself in the midst of horrible crimes without consciously remembering why she is involved.  It is a complex story, set in Britain in recent times, but I found the story too unpleasant, and failed to follow the plot closely enough to sort out all the complexities.  It was not a story I enjoyed.

*The Shoemaker’s Wife.  By Adriana Trigiani  PB from Simon and Schuster.  RRP  $29.99

The origins of this story are in Italy about a hundred years ago, when a young couple falls in love, but then, very early in their relationship, are forced to separate after Ciro is banished from his village when he reveals a scandal involving the local priest.  Ciro is sent to live in America and becomes a shoemaker.  His bereft young lover Enza, whilst heart broken gets on with life but soon, with her father emigrates to America as well.  The couple meet up briefly before WW1 and Enza’s new career again separate them. After many years,  there is a happy ending, and it is a satisfying story, with lots of realistic background detail in both Italy and America in the early 20th Century to enrich and support the story.  Good reading.

*The Land of Decoration.  By Grace McCleen.  PB from Random House. RRP  $32.95

This is a novel about a young girl who tries to make sense and a life for herself out of a world where nothing seems good to her.  She creates a world out of small decorations and comes to believe that it is the real world. She has very personal discussions with God who seems to be directing her thoughts and action.  Of course she is delusional, and verging on psychotic, but it is her way of keeping her self-intact when in real life, her father is in trouble, and she wants to hide the pain.  It is only at the end of the book, after she has contemplated death, that she realises that she wants to live, and pulls back from the abyss.  The book is written in the first person, through Judith’s eyes, so the reader is part of the story.  I didn’t enjoy the book much, but it is interesting, and served to remind me that people who are pushed to the limits by their environment can take refuge in fantasy in the most amazing ways.

 

***The People Smuggler, by Robin de Crespigny  PB from Penguin.  RRP  $29.95

This book is non-fiction.  It tells the story of Ali Al Jenabi, who was born in Iraq, and lived under Saddam Hussein’s inhuman regime.  After a torrid childhood, and seeing the way in which his father was treated and knowing that there was no future for himself in Iraq, eventually Ali manages to reach Indonesia where he is able to organise seven boats of refugees who want to get to Australia.  The boat people issue has been blown out of all proportion by the media and has been a divisive election issue. Ali al Jenabi has been portrayed as an evil profiteer; he was arrested and brought back to Australia to be tried and sentenced to gaol. Whatever your beliefs on the matter, this book gives you the opportunity to understand what drives people to leave their homes and country, to take their chances, often with their children, on unsafe boats, and the unknown ocean in the hope of a better life.  We have nothing to be proud about in our political decisions on these matters, no matter what our political convictions.  The book emphasises the need to help the countries of origin of the refugees to improve the lot of their inhabitants.  People would not want to leave their country if life there were pleasant and reasonable. There are enormous problems in many countries in Africa, the Middle East, and in Afghanistan.  The solution is not to move the inhabitants to Australia, but it is not to go to war either.  This is a confronting book which really makes you think and question our attitudes and actions.

*The Wedding Season. By Su Dharmapala. PB from Simon and Schuster. RRP $29.99

This novel offers a fascinating insight into the lives of people on the subcontinent, their attitudes to marriage, and to life, with the emphasis that it is important for women to be married to fulfil themselves with children, and serving a husband.  It tells of the complexities which enter their lives when they are in a western society, and faced by issues as individuals rather than more simply, as members of large extended families.  This was pleasant reading, but I suspect that it will appeal more to women who have experienced life in some depth in India or Sri Lanka than those who have no understanding of family life, religion and customs there.

*Secrets of the Tides.  By Hannah Richell.  PB from Hachette.  RRP  $29.99

This is another family saga, this time set in Britain.  The Tides had been a happy family until their lives were disrupted following the disappearance of the small boy, Alfie.  The story is told episodically, with the various protagonists as narrator, and each chapter getting closer to the day of Alfie’s disappearance, and the truth about what really happened and how each of the sisters had contributed to the tragedy.  It is quite well written, but some of the jumps from one chapter to the next were a bit sudden.  There are excellent notes for a reading group at the end of the novel.

Defending Jacob by William Landay.  PB from Orion  (Hachette.)  RRP  $29.99

This is an intriguing American murder mystery.  A boy is stabbed in a park near his school.  There are two suspects, one a recognised local paedophile with no history of violence.  The other is Jacob, the fourteen-year-old son of the district attorney:  he is the grandson and great-grandson of men who were violent murderers.  Defending Jacob is a story of a family in crisis; can they really believe their son is innocent, or a cold-blooded killer?  No matter what the outcome, it is difficult to read this sort of story with any enjoyment.

*Jasmine Nights, by Julia Gregson.  PB from Orion ( Hachette)  RRP  $29.99

Not all books set in wartime relate stories of the horrors of war.  Jasmine Nights touches on the life of fighter pilots in war. Most of the story is about the love between Saba, a singer from Wales who defies her father to sing for the troops, and Dom, a Spitfire pilot. Dom had been badly burnt when his plane was shot down over England and Saba was performing in the hospital where he was recovering.  They each found that the other gave them the strength to get through the war.  The story is set mostly in Egypt, and is an enjoyable read.

**The Spinoza Problem, by Irvin Yalom.  PB from Scribe.  RRP $29.95

Spinoza was Jewish, Dutch and a philosopher who was born in 1632.  He held enlightened views on religion that resulted in his excommunication from the synagogue.  His views have been respected by many scholars, including Goethe the great German poet.  Spinoza spent his life thinking and writing, and his extensive library was left to a Dutch museum which was set up to preserve Spinoza’s works.  This is a novel which seeks to understand the actual lives of the two main protagonists. It  alternates between Spinoza’s life in the 1600s, and Hitler’s Germany.  Alfred Rosenberg was anti-Semitic from his school days on.  He became a devoted follower of Hitler, a newspaper editor and a leading advocate against Judaism and the Jewish people. Rosenberg could never understand how many of Germany’s leading intellectuals could admire a Jew.  When Germany conquered Holland, Rosenberg personally collected the library of Spinoza’s works for Germany.  This is a very serious book that also discusses Spinoza’s theories of religion, and some of the convoluted thinking which supported the Jewish holocaust. The epilogue deals with what happened historically with Spinoza, and with Rosenberg. This is not a light story, but it is really interesting reading.

Calico Joe, by John Grisham.  PB from Hachette.  RRP  $29.99

Warren Tracy is   a professional baseball pitcher who deliberately throws a bean ball at the head of Joe Castle.  Joe Castle is the best rookie player to play for a long time.  The hit to the head destroys his career.  This is a story of guilt and tragedy, and the ending is very emotional.  John Grisham is a well-known and very successful novelist, and I usually enjoy his books. This is a much shorter novel than many of his books and I find it surprising that any publisher would expect to sell many copies in Australia of a novel that contains so much detail about baseball.

In her Blood, by Annie Hauxwell.  PB from Penguin.  RRP  $29.95

This is a novel based more or less around the time of the world financial crisis of a few years ago.  Catherine Berlin is an investigator with a financial regulator.  She is also a heroin addict, although seems to control her habit quite well.  In the East End of London she finds one body, almost headless, and then later that day stumbles upon the body of her supplying doctor.  Because the doctor’s supply of heroin has been stolen, Berlin is implicated in the case, and has to collaborate with the police to try to solve the crimes.  For Berlin the worst aspect of it all is that she has only a week’s supply of heroin and needs to find another supplier, as well as solve the crimes.  The story reads well, and I learned a lot about heroin and what it can do to its addicts, but it is after all a story about murders and heroin so it is not an enjoyable theme.

The Chalk Girl, by Carol O’Connell.  PB from Headline. RRP  $29.99

This is a very complex story, mainly about three women, Mallory, the detective, Grace and her daughter Phoebe and their crimes.  There was other crimes too- in particular the killing of two children.    All three women are cold and twisted, but Mallory is the detective.  The title of the book, the Chalk Girl, is significant, because the chalk girl was a sketch, which appeared each year on the asphalt of the school ground to mark the anniversary of where the little girl, Allison had been killed. The story is full of suspense, but I did not enjoy it, because it presents such inhuman crimes, and is black, and humourless.

The Reunion by Joanne Fedler.  PB from Allen and Unwin.  RRP  $29.99

This is very much a book for women with families, children and good friends.  It is a story of sharing the experiences of life and learning from each other to accept and enjoy what they have, and to share pain and grief.  It is fiction but based heavily on actual events in the lives of seven women.  The novel is set over a weekend when the women met up with each other for a reunion.  The story is well written, easy to read, and enjoy.  Many women will find bits of it quite cathartic as they find that others have shared similar experiences to their own in real life.

**What Happened to Hannah, by Mary Kay McComas.  PB from Harper Collins.  RRP  $19.99

I began this book rather doubtfully, because I was not sure whether I would enjoy the story of a successful business women, unmarried, learning to cope with an adolescent niece, following the death of the girls’ mother and grandmother.  In fact, I ended up reading the entire book in just over a day, and really enjoying the unfolding story.  The story contains a mystery as well, concerning the death of Hannah’s father, and how it happened, and how it was treated at the time.  There is in the end huge relief for Hannah as the guilt she has carried for so many years is finally put to rest when Grady fills in the blanks in the story for her.  Excellent reading, but again, mostly for women I feel.

*Stay Close by Harlen Coben.  PB from Orion ( Hachette)  RRP  $32.99

Over a period of seventeen years, a series of men disappear.  In most cases their wife or girlfriend seems to hope they will not be found.  Three people are connected in some way.  Megan had been a lap dancer in sleazy clubs before she quit, married and has led a straight life, married, and with a couple of kids. Ray had been a skilled photographer but he has lost his urge to succeed, and now only has a part time job posing as a paparazzo photographer.  Broome is an ageing detective who can’t stop looking into some of the files about the disappearances.  There has been a lot of blood, but no bodies.  The story is resolved satisfactorily, but not before there is a lot of grief, and confessing, and regrets about the past.  It is quite ironic really that both Megan and Ray had been living with a lie, and false beliefs about what really happened, for so long, and that these feelings had adversely affected so much of their lives.  It’s quite a good read.

*The Girl who Fell from the sky, by Simon Mawer.  PB from Little, Brown.  RRP $29.99

Marian Sutro had a dull desk job at the start of WW2.  She was the daughter of a diplomat, fluent in French, intelligent, young and fit.  She was the perfect recruit to be trained as an undercover agent in France.  As a teenager before the war, she had an adolescent friendship with Clement, a friend of her brother. Clement is now a nuclear physicist whom the British want to get away form the reach of the Germans.  This is a good, rather conventional story about life with the French resistance, with the need to evade capture, and some wartime romance.  It’s an enjoyable story about a topic that has been used many times before.

**Day of Honey by Anna Ciezadlo.  PB from Simon and Schuster.  RRP  $19.99

Anna and her husband are correspondents working in Lebanon and Iraq.  Anna is American born of Greek parents and Mohammad is Lebanese.  This is not a political book as such but gives you an understanding of how complicated the religious and racial environments are in the Middle East.  It is a book which explains why women are prepared to say they will live under sharia law is worth reading.  The Koran does specify how women are to be treated; the difficulty is getting    their societies, many of which are still distinctly tribal, to live according to these rules.  Anna is a dedicated cook and many of the stories have their basis in food.  A section at the back gives some very pleasant recipes.  A Day of Honey is an excellent book if you are interested in the Middle East, and how people there live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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