March 2015 New Adult book releases: reviewer Janet Croft

The more stars, the better the reading!
*Still Travelling, by Mal Leyland, PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $32.99
Mal and his brother Mike came to Australia as young ten pound Poms. The book is their story of how they forged a business by bringing the stories of their outback adventures into the lives of others, particularly people in the large cities. Their journeys began before the days of reliable vehicles, television, and speedy and cheap communications and at a time when few Australians had begun to explore the breadth of Australia. The pair filmed their trips, edited the results and initially ran film nights in towns all around Australia. School film nights were a successful way to attract a wider audience. Mal spent forty years doing this—at times they made good money, but were almost defeated by high interest rates because they tried to expand too quickly and had a very unpleasant bank manager. (It was a pity Mal does not reveal the name of the bank in the book!) Many people were good to them; Dick Smith in particular stands out as a mentor and benefactor. I found it an inspiring story that should appeal to people, who want to understand more about Australia and Australians.
**Money: Master the Game, by Tony Robbins. PB from Simon and Schuster. RRP $29.99
Many books are written about how to become wealthy. The author has worked in both law and finance, and has been a successful financial adviser for many years. Robbins outlines seven steps to what he calls financial freedom. These are interesting and relevant for everyone to consider. He also explodes some of the popularly held myths about wealth, savings and investments, It is a long book, and some of the explanations of complex financial concepts are possibly beyond the needs of those who are just beginning to build up their capital. There are also lots of case studies where people have successfully changed their outlook and improved their financial position considerably and Robbins has interviewed some of the super wealthy and successful people—again there is no problem with what they say, or their experience, but it may not be applicable to others. All the detail about superannuation laws was American based, so does not apply in Australia. It was interesting to browse, and to pick out the bits which I found relevant.
*Mailman of the Birdsville Track: the Story of Tom Kruse, by Kristin Weidenbach. PB from Hachette. RRP $22.99
Tom Kruse was the mailman on the Birdsville Track between Marree in South Australia and Birdsville—a distance of about 500km. Tom did the run for over twenty years when it was a dirt track. Now it is a formed road with lots of traffic—much of it tourist vehicles. In tom’s time the trip involved days, heat, isolation, occasional floods, and no means of contact with the outside world. If you broke down on the road, you fixed it yourself. It took about a thousand pumps with a hand pump to inflate flat tyre. At one stage Tom repaired a clutch by cutting a new plate with a cold chisel out of the bottom of a petrol drum! This is a splendid book for those interested to read about life in the outback and how tough life and work could be for a mailman. (A much simplified version of Tom’s story was printed as a HB picture book last year—and the children to whom I have shown it have loved both the story and the pictures.)
Seven Letters from Paris, by Samantha Verant. PB from Random House. RRP $34.99
Samantha wants and needs to get her life back on track. She is 40, often indecisive, and has stayed in a sterile loveless marriage for too long. She takes on a blog, about life and love, stimulated by her memories of the seven letters she received from a Frenchman, Jean-Luc, whom she met in 1989, but then rejected after her return to America. Now, she finds the letters–ostensibly to help her frame her blog, but is moved to email Jean Luc with an apology for her years of neglect, and also with fingers crossed that it is not too late….. Passion seems close to the surface as their correspondence grows; now divorced and free, and knowing that she must make her own life happy, Samantha flies to France, and yes—you guessed it, the relationship shows promise. By the end of the book I felt the story had lost some of its momentum and became predictable but throughout, I loved the French attitudes, Samantha’s language gaffes and the humour which resulted, and the ways in which Jean-Luc is such a lovely guy. Vive la France, and les Francais!
***Lucky Dog, by Sarah Boston. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $29.99
Sarah Boston is a Canadian veterinary surgeon who has specialised in small animal surgery, and in particular, dogs with cancers. When she discovers a lump in her own neck she suspects that she has thyroid cancer. Much of the book is about the underfunded, often unsympathetic and very slow medical system in Canada. Despite her comprehensive knowledge and experience of cancer treatment in animals, and knowing that someone who brings in a sick dog can expect it to have an operation the next day, and biopsy results back within about 48 hours, Sarah herself is mostly treated as an ignorant, almost paranoid patient. It took her months to persuade the medicos that she had cancer, and then to have the operation. Hence the book title. As I read, I wondered who would find this book appealing. Vets? People with, or who have had cancer? Maybe even hospital administrators who might learn from it what needs to happen in their system and attitudes to patients? There is a lot of experience, knowledge, and wisdom, but also humour, in this book, and I found it well worth the read.
*****Listen to the Moon, by Michael Morpurgo. PB from Harper Collins. RRP about $25
What an extraordinary story! I am going to include this review on my page of teenage book reviews as well, because basically it is a book for kids of 12-15 years….
It is a biography of the author’s grandmother—told in her own words, and from the point of view of those who knew her. At the time when she was found in mid 1914, at the age of about 12 years, weak, injured and close to death on an isolated Scilly island close to Britain, the girl was called Lucy Lost, because Lucy was the only word she was able to say at that time. Lucy was taken in, and treated lovingly, and positively by the Wheatcroft family of Mary, Jim and Alfie, who was about the same age as Lucy. Gradually the family realised that Lucy was intelligent, that she loved music, that she was a competent pianist, and that she was a competent with horses—but she could still not speak to fill in all the gaps. After several months, the wonderful island doctor, Dr Crow, suggested that Lucy should be taken back to where she had been found, in the hope that this might stimulate her memory and ability to speak. The other problem was that there was a suspicion that Lucy may have been German, and this was wartime. I have loved this story—how it unfolds, the brilliance of Morpurgo’s style, the passion and love with which the story is told, and the ways in which the war, as it affected Lucy, the Wheatcrofts, and the islands are presented. Recognition of the folly of war is understated, but clear to the reader as we are touched by Lucy’s treatment at the hands to the German submariners. How their generosity helped Lucy, and how the islanders later reciprocated their actions, with kindness toward the Germans is also touching. This is a brilliant book for teenagers, and for interested adults.
Fly In Fly Out, by Georgina Penney. PB from Penguin. RRP $29.99
At least 60,000 Australians work on FIFO jobs, within Australia, on oilrigs nearby and more distantly- some even in American waters, and some in Russia. In this story, Jo Blaine is an engineer on an oilrig in ocean. When she returns home to Perth for her weeks off, she wants to find her apartment as she left it, so she can relax, and forget the hassles of her supervisory role on the oil rig. Imagine her disgust when she finds not only her apartment obviously lived in, but a naked guy spread out and fast asleep on Jo’s bed! Life becomes more complicated as Jo realises that the guy is a blast from her past: Jo and her sister had a desperately unhappy home life, but their mother accepted that her husband was a brute, and that beatings for herself and her daughters was just part of life. Jo couldn’t accept this, and now it becomes a problem for her, friend Scott and now Stephen, as that relationship with Stephen, the blast from the past begins to flower. There is a serious thread in this novel, of the evils of domestic violence, how it does not go away, and the memories it leaves, can adversely affect future life and happiness. A well written entertaining story which kept me reading.
***Quit Cannabis, by Jan Copeland, with Sally Rooke and Etty Matalon. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $22.99
This is a sobering analysis of a drug which used to be regarded as “OK”, not harmful, and not addictive. The reasons for my use of ‘sobering’ to describe this book, is that, probably partly as a result of changes to the strength and concentrations of present day cannabis and how it is derived, cannabis is definitely no longer a drug without risks. On the contrary, the information and studies reported in this book—both of clinical trials, and single case studies reports, indicate that regular cannabis use adversely affects the brain, impairs motor skills, reduces motivation to work, disrupts family life, and can cause anxiety, depression and increase the risk of schizophrenia and paranoia. I was staggered and dismayed to read of the extent of these problems which are now found in regular cannabis users. The authors work at a specialist cannabis centre, and their aim is to provide the facts of how damaging cannabis can be, but also how, with support and a strong will, users can be encouraged and helped to quit use of the drug. The self-analysis questions provided, and the suggestions for a diary to map progress are supplemented by an excellent list of references and also a couple of Australian web sites which can be accessed for free Behaviour Modification assistance and guidance. Cannabis is a growing, and alarming problem for Australian society, and in particular those between the ages of 20-29 for whom cannabis use has increased so dramatically over the past ten or so years, but this book offers information and guidance to professionals from teachers, to psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as GPs and relatives of affected users.
Behind the Scenes, by Judi Dench. HB from Hachette. RRP $45
Judi Dench has been one of Britain’s –and Australia’s!—favourite actresses for over fifty years in theatre, films and television. The range of roles has been huge. This is a book with appeal for people who are interested in stage and film; it is a personal account of her family and life as well as a detailed look at the roles she has played. The story is accompanied on almost every page by photographs of all her activities. If you enjoy her on screen, you will enjoy the book.
**The Country Wife, by Anne Gorman. PB from Random House. RRP $34.99
Anne Gorman must have found writing this memoir to be cathartic. We learn in detail of her childhood, with the choices made by her parents along the way, but in particular her mother. We learn about the physical discipline and actions in marriage, with regard to birth control required by the Catholic Church in order to achieve salvation, and the pressures, both physical and mental that such virtual blackmail caused. So we follow Anne as she graduated from university as a social worker, then fell in love and married a farmer from Southern NSW. Life on the land is never easy, but often happy. When your husband becomes gravely ill however, and you have five young children, it requires a herculean effort to hold everything together. Following the death of Bruce, Anne followed his advice to establish a life and career of her own, and in this she was very successful. It is excellent reading and a useful addition to a collection of Australian social history particularly that of women.
Epilogue, by Will Boast. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $27.99
When I finished this memoir, I felt as if I had been through the mill—full credit to the author for his persistence with life, and for letting the rest of us know what it means to have physical and emotional stamina in the face of so many tragedies, and so much turmoil! His mother, and older brother had both died earlier. When Will’s father died, and Will was sorting out the estate, he discovered to his amazement that he was not in fact the only surviving family of his father, but there was another family in England to get to know. Most of the story involves flashbacks of Will’s early life when his mother and Rory were both still alive, but overall, it is a life of hardship and sorrow. It is OK reading.
Guantanamo Diary, by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $29.99
The author was born in Mauritania and from school, won a scholarship to study in Germany. During the period when America was supporting Al-Qaeda to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, Slahi volunteered to go to Afghanistan to help Al-Qaeda. After the USA then left Afghanistan to itself, Al-Qaeda became the enemy. Slahi was imprisoned, firstly in Jordan, then Afghanistan and now has been in detention in Guantanamo in Cuba since 2002, despite the order from a USA judge that he be released. If you have any doubts at all about the unpleasant conditions and torture which are characteristic of the American prison at Guantanamo, you should read this book. It will make you disgusted and angry at the duplicity of USA politics and policies.
A Grief Observed, Reader’s Edition. C.S. Lewis. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $22.99
When C.S Lewis’s wife died after only about four years of marriage, Lewis was bereft, and inconsolable about the loss of the person who had meant the most to him of anyone in the world. We learn of his initial railing against his loss, his disbelief that such loss could occur, the unfairness of it , and his doubts as to how God could allow such loss. As he continues over several months to write his journal, we see a gradual working through aspects of his grief, and protest, and how in the process he feels he has renewed and strengthened his faith and that he can now accept that there are some things which we can never understand. He also acknowledges that at the end his wife was at peace, and that he must accept this for himself too. Then follow, in this edition, comments on the content of the journal by others who knew him well., among them the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, Kate Saunders, and other well known British literati and thinkers. All of these people agree that Lewis reflects, in this work, the feelings and thinking of most people at some time in their life, and that such an outpouring of systematic thought and emotions can be helpful to others when it is their turn to feel such grief.
**We Are Here, by Cat Thao Nguyen. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP about $30
This memoir has the sub-title, “My family’s courageous journey to survive”. The story begins in Vietnam after the fall of Saigon to the pro-communist northern forces in the mid 1970s. The family was one of few to travel overland via Cambodia to reach the relative safety of Thailand, where they registered as refugees and waited until they were granted asylum in Australia. The author was born while they were in the refugee camp. Cat tells of her childhood, and of growing up in suburban Sydney at a time when there were few Asian people there- she also makes quite clear the high ethical standards of morality and honesty of her family, and of how it was such a struggle to get ahead. This is an uplifting book, but one with lots of traumas and hardships along the way. I am proud to think that Australia is now home and country to so many of these brave people who have so much to offer. Excellent reading for 15 years and over.
Charles, The Heart of a King, by Catherine Mayer. HB from WH Allen and Random House. RRP $35
This biography of Charles, Prince of Wales has been a surprise, and much more interesting than I had anticipated. It is not written to make a future king sound good, but gave me a much clearer perspective and understanding of the man, but most of all, of his life in what must have been the most constraining circumstances. From his earliest years he was taught and obliged to respect duty to his country, and for most of his life has followed this path. The queen saw her role of duty to Britain and the commonwealth as more important than involvement in family life, so Charles was brought up by nannies and boarding schools, and long periods when his parents were not around. His secondary school Gordonstoun was Spartan and tough, and Charles did not enjoy it. Mostly though, it was impossible to have a private or normal social life. Courtship as a young man was so public. Charles and Diana shared reservations about their marriage because of the way in which it was almost imposed on them. No one could limit Charles’ thinking on philosophical and environmental issues however, and he has put huge efforts into charities and philanthropy. I have much more respect for the man now than before I read this book.
*Between Us, curated by Marieke Hardy and Michael McGuire. PB from Penguin. RRP $29.99
This book provided really interesting browsing over several weeks, while we were away in January. It is not a book to read from cover to cover in one effort. The book is a collection of ‘letters’ which were actually presented live to a forum of interested literati in Melbourne, with the proviso that their presentations to a live audience on the day might be published, but only with the presenter’s permission, because of the candid, unguarded and intensely personal nature of some of the material. This volume is the result of presentations by Angela Catterns, Stella Young, (recently deceased,) Christine Milne, Kerryn Phelps, and quite a few couples, be they parent and child, or partners. The articles range from the virtues of being vegetarian, all sorts of loving, children, reading—you name it, it is a great miscellany. All profits to the animal refuge, Edgar’s mission in Victoria.
***The Mathematics of Love, by Hannah Fry. HB from TED books and Simon and Schuster. RRP $16.99
For such a small book, there is a huge amount of reading and thinking required. The author emphasises that mathematics is the language of nature, and the foundations upon which all major scientific and technologiical achievements of the modern era have been built. Fry seeks to show—using mathematical patterns and equations the chances of finding the best person in the world for you and –probably more important, what is needed to ensure the relationship endures and is happy. Mixed in with facts and patterns about identifying beauty; who should be approached at a party, and who not; how to approach and use on line dating; when to settle, down, and to live happily ever after, are facts and –yes, figures again, about sexual behaviours, and some quirky and almost shy personal titbits from the author. In all, a delightful, potentially useful (especially perhaps for people in their twenties and thirties) mathematical text book about love!
*History’s worst Crimes, and the people who solved them, by Bill Price. PB from Murdoch Books. RRP $29.99
In this era of hyper reactions to crime of our media, it is hard to accept that worldwide, crime rates are actually falling. This collection of the most serious crimes is a fascinating miscellany—there are a heap of assassinations of course, and murders, but there are also some intriguing and well thought out robberies and episodes of fraud and alleged treason. So, from a discussion of the world’s earliest murder and fratricide—that of Cain and Abel, to the assassination of Julius Caesar, Martin Luther King and Ghandi, we read of the man who sold the Eiffel tower, the Great Train robbery, the theft of the Great Star of India, the Dreyfus Case of treason against the French Government, and his later exoneration, and the Perth mint swindle—just to list a few to rouse your interest. It is a book which can be read by anyone from ages of about 12 to adult—and it is interesting.
I requested a couple of books about the currently popular 5:2 diet to read and review, to see whether it might work for us.
5:2 Lifestyle, by Delphine de Montalier and Charlotte Debeugny. Large PB from Murdoch Books. RRP $35
Over 100 recipes are in this book; most of them include various sources of protein, and wholegrain fibre to slow the digestion so they are suitable for whichever two days of the week are super low calorie days. The calorie count s provided of various foods is really helpful—I have never needed to count calories before! There are some interesting soup recipes, and pasta, and lots and lots of different vegetables. There are lots of useful facts about the vegetables- I didn’t realise for example how much goodness there is in cooked (including tinned) tomatoes, or that part of the reason for eating pasta ‘al dente’ is so that it has a lower glycaemic index than over cooked pasta, which is more quickly digested. The preparation times and cooking times for most of the recipes are great—but—I live in the country, and it took time to source the extra ingredients which are not normally on my list, and it was difficult to obtain some of the vegetables. I will need to build up my larder of grains and pulses too… For those for whom the diet appeals this will be a useful book to encourage variety in the meals you prepare.
**The Fast Diet, by Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $19.99
The layout of this book is not as attractive as the previous book, but the material is similar, and the authors are those who first introduced the concept of the 5:2 diet. The introduction is serious—it talks about why fasting is good for us, and how easy intermittent fasting can become once you are in a routine. There are benefits for blood sugar levels, eczema and psoriasis may be reduced, and of course, a waist may reappear instead of muffin middle. There is the need to establish a routine for fasting days which suits the individual, but it is best to eat foods with a low glycaemic index, and some protein. I like the recipes in this book—they are straightforward, and with fewer exotic ingredients than the other book I am using (see above). It took a while to remember what all the acronyms mean but otherwise, the book is easy to read and there are lots of case studies and info about exercise as well. A good book for anyone who is serious about improving their eating habits and losing weight.
**Redemption Road, by Lisa Ballantyne. PB from Hachette. RRP $29.99
There are two narratives in this story. In late 2013 Margaret is going home after work when she is involved in a multi-car accident on the freeway and her car catches alight. She is saved by a man with terrible burn scars. When she tries to trace her rescuer it took a week or so, because he was in hospital in a coma. She finds herself drawn to him and visits him until he emerges from the coma. In 1985 George McLaughlin is the youngest son of a gangland family. He falls in love and a child is born. Her family will not allow her to marry George and finds her a husband who will adopt the young child. The story is about love, abduction and some unpleasant characters and shifts between two episodes and events, some thirty years apart. It is a well written and uplifting story, and enjoyable reading.
Private Vegas, by James Patterson, and Maxine Paetro. PB from Century and Random House. RRP $32.99
Jack Morgan owns private Investigations in Los Angeles. His car is firebombed, his twin brother hates him, and is trying to destroy him, and his best friend is fighting trumped up murder charges. It is a fairly typical American murder mystery book—all action and not a lot of substance.
*Grantchester, The Shadow of Death, by James Runcie. PB from Bloomsbury. RRP $19.99
Sidney Chambers is the vicar of Grantchester. What should be a straightforward job of pastoral care becomes much more involved as troubles seem to find him. Sidney is an attractive man who feels it is easier to be married to his church. He has strong friendships—Hildegard is an attractive widow. Inspector Keating, who encourages Sidney to be a detective, feels a pastor can ask questions which can be difficult for a policeman. Amanda Kendall is the third of the friends—a wealthy socialite who is an art expert but who feels that she would not make a good wife for a clergyman. This is a genteel detective novel, with action, interest and pleasant reading.
Three Amazing things about you, by Jill Mansell. PB from Hachette, RRP $29.99
This story is romantic fiction, blended with a bit of harsh reality. Hallie is a young woman with Cystic Fibrosis. Unless a suitable lung donor is found, she will not live to middle age. Hallie has all the dreams of love and family, but has to be realistic. A series of events needs to happen—someone healthy has to die so that others have a fresh chance at life. It is a story that you feel will end well.
Storm Clouds, by Bronwyn Parry. PB from Hachette. RRP $29.99
Bronwyn Parry has now written five books, about life in small towns in northern NSW. She gets it right, because the settings are authentic, and her characters live through the pages, and in the mind. National Parks ranger Erin Taylor enjoys her work; she also knows that she is attracted to her park off-sider, Simon, who is also an Army reserve soldier part time. Both Erin and Simon have hidden parts of their past lives. It is essentially a murder story, set in the bush, and involves an obsessive cult based in a remote but local homestead. Interesting action reading.
Return to Moondilla, by Tony Parsons. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $29.99
As with the last author, Parsons writes about an Australian rural setting with knowledge and understanding. Greg Baxter has had enough of Sydney, and returns to the NSW south Coast of his childhood, hoping for a pleasant lifestyle which will provide him time and the inspiration to write a novel. Life is not relaxing though, with past acquaintances still around and seeking his attention. As well, the south coast is, as elsewhere, embroiled in drug issues and crime. It is an action packed novel, and again, pleasant and interesting reading.
*Challenge, by Paul Daley. PB from MUP, RRP $29.99
It took a while to get to read this book, because we were in western Queensland, but I’m pleased to have read it. Daniel Slattery is opposition leader to a weak government. He is a former Australian Rules club captain, and has risen from a difficult childhood in a poor suburb of Melbourne. There are plenty of demons in his past—his first wife committed suicide and his current wife and family have had enough of the political lifestyle. Daniel is his own man and wishes one more term, with the chance perhaps to become prime minister. He would also like the chance to get his personal life in order. The language is robust, and until the reader becomes immersed in the story, could put you off. In light of current political leadership issues in Australia, it is interesting to read of the pressures of life as a politician.
***The Lion’s Mouth, by Anne Holt. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $29.99
The Norwegian Prime Minister has been assassinated in daylight, and while his secretary was sitting at her office outside the door. Hanne Wilhelmsen is called in to solve the many mysteries—where is the gun? How could anybody get into the PM’s office at that time? It is a story of lies, intrigue and politics. It is a reasonable assumption that any book worth translating to English, must be a good story, and this is certainly worth reading. American murder mysteries are often disappointing but this Scandanavian novel is a well constructed and enjoyable read.
*The Italian Wife, by Kate Furnivall. PB from Hachette. RRP $29.99
Isabella Berotti is an architect in Mussolini’s Italy; she is working to build new towns on land which has been reclaimed from the Pontine Marshes. The book is historical fiction and interesting because it provides such a good picture of life in Italy in the 1930s. Isabella’s husband was one of Mussolini’s Blackshirts—thugs in the same league as the Gestapo in Germany. Isabella’s husband Luigi had been shot ten years earlier, and Isabella badly wounded in the same incident. Together with Roberto Falco a charming photographer, Isabella is now forced to solve some major issues in her life, issues that originated more than ten years earlier. It is a hard-to-put-down novel, with intrigue, well-researched and lively history and romance to mix with the pain.
***The Widow’s Confession, by Sophia Tobin. PB from Simon and Schuster. RRP$29.99
In 1851 Broadstairs was a small coastal village in Kent. In the summer the village filled with holiday makers, generally from London. Two American cousins Delphine and Julia have rented a cottage and join in some of the rather genteel activities available—painting, collecting shells and swimming. This peaceful situation is shattered when several beautiful young girls are found dead—apparently each having died peacefully beside the sea. The local doctor does not get paid for autopsies, so very little seems to be done to find out the cause of these deaths. The writing has an old fashioned style about it which could be a distraction from the story, but it is a fine mystery , and you will never guess the ending. Highly recommended.
***The woman who stole my life, by Marian Keyes. PB from Penguin. RRP $29.99
This was a wonderful book. The author flicks back and forth in time, by varying stretches, as each character’s story is told as it unfolds. A story with multiple narratives often confuses me as I try to figure out what and when things are happening, but this book has been the exception. Not only are different fonts used for each character, but Keyes writes in an easy to read, free flowing style. There are not too many characters, nor are they too complex. The most fascinating theme involves one of the characters who develops a nerve-sheaf destroying disease so that eventually she is able to communicate only by the blinking of her eyes. How she recovers and finds love at the same time was an amazing story. I finished the book in only two days.
Written in my own Heart’s Blood, by Diana Gabaldon. PB from Hachette. RRP $32.99
Normally I love historical fiction—it brings another era to life through the facts and characters. However, I found this book to be a tedious read because firstly there are too many characters, and secondly because they are not lifelike. Then time travel is introduced- I could not cope with that on top of the rest. Disappointing.
**A Vintage Wedding, by Katie Fforde. PB from Random House. RRP $32.99
Coincidentally, three women who are each looking for a new direction to their life, all now live in a small village in rural England. When they agree to work together to help a local girl plan and cater in style, but economically for her wedding, a new business is born, called Vintage Weddings. Each of the women discovers a talent for some aspect of the organisation—Rachel has a house, which can become a B and B; Beth is a computer whizz, and Lindy is a talented seamstress. It is a happy story—at times the characterization seems a little glib, and events too predictable, but as the three work well together, and events unfold, each of them finds that there is hope on the love front as well. A happy story, totally escapist, and easy to read.
The Prophecy of Bees, by R.S Pateman. PB from Hachette. RRP $29.99
This is a strange sort of book. When Lindy and her teenage daughter Izzy move from London to Stagcote Manor, Lindy has visions of becoming the lady of the manor. She feels she needs to get Izzy away from London because it seems as if Izzy is about to self-destruct. As they settle into their new life they hear stories around the village about eerie events which have happened in their house, and they learn that no one who has bought the manor has stayed there for long. There had in fact been several deaths and disastrous events linked to the house. The book has been described as a psychological thriller; it certainly reveals some weird ways of dealing with the events which unfold. OK reading.
Motive, by Jonathan Kellerman. PB from Hachette. RRP $29.99
Jonathan Kellerman was trained as a clinical psychologist, and he uses this knowledge and experience to produce crime stories with plots and characters which are both plausible and interesting. Alex Delaware has featured as a consulting psychologist in this book; he helps Detective Milo Sturgis track a serial killer who always leaves a table set with food as a trademark signal to police that he has not yet been caught. Motive is a complex, but fast moving story. I found the amount of speculative thinking which is included as part of the story, a bit off putting.
The Last Pulse, by Anson Cameron. PB from Vintage and Random House. RRP $29.99
The world does not have sufficient fresh water, and every one in rural areas who lives beside a river always feels that someone else is taking more than their fair share. This story is based loosely on the storage of water on Queensland’s cotton farms, and how this storage is believed to reduce the flow of the Darling further along its course. Merv and his young daughter Em are failed South Australian irrigation farmers. They blow the dam walls on what is, in real life, Cubbie Station and then ride the water flow back to the south. It is a light-hearted and lightweight novel which pushes the issue of water rights. The author does not always acknowledge that flows along the Darling have always been seasonal.
***The Chimes, by Anna Smaill. PB from Hachette. RRP $29.99
A fascinating dystopian novel about London, in an era where people cannot hold memories– certainly not without a physical object as a memory anchor. There is almost no speech—everyone signs with their hands, and music is the only other medium for communication, and most of that relates to the regulation of daily life from the Carillon, near Oxford. Simon Wythen travels to London to try to find out why his parents died—especially his mother, who developed the shaking illness. It seems to be chance that Simon meets blind Lucien, and strikes a bond with him, but is it really chance? Lucien leads a pact of youngsters who look for palladium lumps in the underground tunnels of London for a living. Gradually, Lucien and Simon work out what they are really looking for, and are able to use Simon’s hitherto undeveloped and unrecognised talent to remember the memories of others and himself to help Lucien break the iron grip of the Order which controls everyone. It is a well-written and gripping story. Readers with no knowledge of musical terminology which is associated with traditional Church liturgies might find the routines for daily life and telling the time a bit puzzling to follow.
After We Collided, by Anna Todd. PB from Simon and Schuster. RRP about $33
This book is the second of a series of four. It tells of a relationship which was founded on abuse, distrust, duplicity, violence, and other abhorrent behaviours. I found it an unpleasant read, but I persevered and discovered that not only was the unpleasantness the basis for the current relationship, between Tessa and Hardin, but also for two preceding relationships. The story is told as the alternating narratives of Tessa and Hardin, and this style appealed as little as the content.
Oddfellows, by Nicholas Shakespeare. PB from Random House, RRP $14.99
This small book –described as a novella, it is so short–tells of an attack on January 1 1915 on citizens of Broken Hill in which four people were killed, and seven others wounded. It is based on an actual event, however because so little is actually known about the people who died in the attack—much of the book is supposition— particularly about the lives of Rosalind Filwell, her handicapped sister Lizzie and Rosalind’s beau, Oliver. Two hawkers, possibly Afghan, but commonly thought of as “Turks’ worked in the Broken Hill Area, and the younger, Gul, knew Rosalind Filwell and the book suggests that Rosalind found him interesting. It was wartime, and there was little tolerance in the town for any who might be responsible for the war in which Australian troops were now engaged but the so-called cameleers had a tough life no matter what. For whatever reasons the two men, Molla and Gul shot at a crowd of picnic-goers, and one of those killed was Rosalind. I did not like the style of presentation.
*The Country Practice, by Meredith Appleyard. PB from Penguin. RRP $32.99
The Country Practice ticks all the boxes for a popular romance novel, set in Australia. Dr Megan Kimble had tried the big medicine when she worked in London with an ambitious partner there—one who was markedly lacking in empathy. Megan decided this was not what she wanted from life or work, and decided to work as a locum around the rural areas of South Australia for a change, and to find what appealed to her. Magpie Creek is a small community which was desperate for a permanent doctor. The town welcomed Megan to such an extent that they even provided vegetarian food for her at the local eatery. Everybody wanted her to marry a local guy and settle….it is a delightful story of a small town—typical of many -plus drama, and romance. The author has captured both the atmosphere and culture really well so we have a book of pleasurable light reading.
**The Iron Necklace, by Giles Waterfield. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $29.99
Before the First World War, upper and middle class British and German families were often connected by marriage. They travelled between the two countries, went to each other’s universities to perfect their language skills, and the two royal families were closely related. Thomas Curtius was a young and idealistic architect who believed in the future of Germany. Irene Benson was an artist from an influential English family. The two married and made their home and life in Germany until war shattered the pleasant life; the two families enlisted in opposing forces, some as soldiers, some as nurses. Irene’s brother Mark was in the British Diplomatic service. This is not a book about war—that is the background. It is a very well written account of how war affects, and changes allegiances at the time, and for generations to come. Recommended reading.
Love and Other Lies, by Madeline Ash. Available in PB (RRP about $30) and eBook (about $15) from Penguin.
I read this book as an eBook while we were away in January. There is no doubt it is convenient not to have to carry the books!
Abby is a vet in the small rural town of Belgulla. When she finds a dog badly entangled in a barb wire fence near an empty house she does not have the equipment to cut the wire with her, so settles down to wait for some help to appear. Help does appear, in the form of Rue Thorn, a newcomer to town, who is looking for a place to rent. The meeting is not auspicious, because Abby thought the dog belonged to Thorn, and that he had left it behind. Thorn sees a very prickly and unfriendly vet, who desperately wants to save the dog. There is an immediate spark between the pair of them, but Abby has a serious emotional problem which means she is really wary about trusting anybody else because she fears her ability to tell the truth, and hold a relationship together. The dog survives, and Rue persists, particularly after he discovers that she is not—as she had inferred to him—married. A predictable ending, but relaxing light reading.
*The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant. PB from Simon and Schuster. RRP $29.99
Addie Baum has, for many years, lived the life of the rich in Boston. When her granddaughter asks her about her childhood, it is a fascinating story which began with a family of poor Russian Jews who emigrated to America and the struggles which then followed as they sought work and decent housing. Addie’s intelligence and ambition gradually lifted her out of the constraints which resulted form her Jewish heritage. Addie gains better jobs and training, makes friends and finds a husband. Life was not always good however, and tragedies did occur. The reader will feel that they have shared Addie’s life and will remember her….recommended.

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