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Cloggie Downunder (Australia)

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Marriage Wanted
Marriage Wanted
by Debbie Macomber
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Another sweet romance from the queen of feelgood., 24 May 2016
This review is from: Marriage Wanted (Paperback)
Marriage Wanted is the third book in the From This Day Forward series by popular American author, Debbie Macomber. Wedding planner, Savannah is asked by Susan Davenport to plan something within her limited budget for her wedding to Kurt. Her older brother Nash is her only living relative, but is so against marriage she doubts he will even attend. Savannah is determined to give Susan a romantic wedding she will cherish.

Nash Davenport is bitterly divorced, and a ruthless divorce lawyer who loves his sister but can’t condone her marriage. He arrives at Savannah’s bridal shop full of scorn and negativity. How is it, then, that he and Savannah, two people with such radically opposed views of marriage, end up married just a few months later? Another sweet romance from the queen of feelgood.

The Cellar
The Cellar
by Minette Walters
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read, 24 May 2016
This review is from: The Cellar (Hardcover)
The Cellar is the thirteenth full-length novel by British author, Minette Walters. Fourteen-year-old Muna’s life changes the day that ten-year-old Abiola fails to return home after school. The presence of the white police detective investigating the disappearance of the Songoli’s youngest son, as well as the family liaison officer and Hausa-speaking interpreter means that Muna is not beaten, abused, dressed in rags and forced to sleep in the cellar.

Muna knows that Yetunde Songoli stole her from the orphanage in their home country, and has lived like a slave to these well-to-do immigrants ever since. She feels the blue eyes of the white woman in trousers looking into her brain and worries she will know what Muna is thinking. Yetunde exhorts her to pretend she is the Songoli’s daughter, and Muna is unsure if she can trust the detective with her own truth, or what might be her fate if she did. The police do not stay forever, but nor does Muna’s life go back to what it was.

Walters once again proves her expertise with the genre of psychological thriller in this tale. There are few characters and the story is not complex, but there are twists and surprises that compel the reader to turn the pages. This is a dark tale, a tale of cruelty and of revenge, and perhaps, of possession. A gripping read. 4.5 stars

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood)
The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood)
by J. R. Ward
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Addictive, as always, 23 May 2016
The Beast is the fourteenth book in the popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series by American author, J.R. Ward. The battle with the lessers in the opening pages of this instalment sees Rhage taking a bullet to the heart. And the Scribe Virgin’s inaction has the reader wondering: is Rhage headed for the Fade? But his shellan, Mary is not quite ready to give up and join him in the Fade: she wants to be there for young Bitty, a now-orphaned girl at Safe Place needing support.

As well as the main action in the lives of Mary and Rhage, one of the Band of Bastards is captured while another acts to join the glymera; early labour causes anxiety as an eagerly-anticipated pair of siblings is born; two members of the Brotherhood household are in for a surprise of the sibling variety (plenty of irony there!); Vishous returns from the Sanctuary with some shocking news; Assail performs an unexpected rescue; and Zhadist helps burn down a glymera mansion.

As always, the banter between the characters, in particular the Brothers (and Lassiter!!), is a source of humour, but a certain bathroom scene and the endless jokes on that theme also provide laugh-out-loud moments. Of course there is the odd battle and plenty of sex, but there is also a lot of sweetness in this one. Addictive, as always.
4.5 stars

A Child's Wish (Mills & Boon Vintage Superromance) (Silhouette Superromance)
A Child's Wish (Mills & Boon Vintage Superromance) (Silhouette Superromance)
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars definitely no light read, 17 May 2016
A Child’s Wish is the eleventh stand-alone romance by American author, Tara Taylor Quinn. Mark Shepherd, headmaster and single father of nine-year-old Kelsey, is doing the best he can. But Kelsey can be a handful: her behaviour leaves something to be desired, especially around his lover, Susan.

Susan’s best friend, Meredith Foster is a teacher at Mark’s school, where her perceptive observation of her class may have saved more than one child, but is causing Mark any number of headaches. Meredith seems to believe she has a gift, but he’s not convinced. The fact that he finds her attractive is an added problem.

While the title, cover picture and back cover blurb seem to indicate a light romance, this story is anything but. There is romance, but it is far outweighed by other issues: paedophiles; domestic violence; a crystal meth lab; an influential politician who manipulates the media to protect his reputation; psychological intimidation; a mother whose addiction blunts her morals and endangers her child. A happily ever after ending, but definitely no light read.

Where the Trees Were
Where the Trees Were
by Inga Simpson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Another brilliant read, 16 May 2016
This review is from: Where the Trees Were (Paperback)
“We were all grinning and everyone had their eyes open for once. Ian must have been moving – his hand was blurred. It was exactly how I imagined us, right down to Kieran’s arm around me and the peace sign he was making above Matty’s head. The big carving was behind us, and the other trees leaned into the picture, like giant people……when I looked at the image again, the colours had already started to fade, as if it was a moment we could never have back.”

Where The Trees Were is the third novel by award-winning Australian author, Inga Simpson. At midnight on a cold Canberra winter’s evening, a rare artwork is stolen from the loading dock of a well-known art gallery. In her position as senior conservationist specialising in Australian artworks, thirty-year-old Jayne Lawson’s opinion is sought, but no one suspects her of carrying out the theft. Why would a respected professional jeopardise her reputation, her career and her freedom in this manner?

Soon to start High School, Jay is enjoying a summer of freedom with her friends. The river at the end of Jay’s parents’ farm is where she and Kieran, Ian, Josh and Kieran’s younger brother, Matty (when they are forced to take him along) spend their days as soon as chores are done. When this tight-knit group make an amazing discovery in a grove of gums, they make a solemn vow.

The story is told over two timeframes in alternating chapters: young teen Jay narrates the events of the late eighties while the events of 2004 are told from thirty-year-old Jayne’s perspective. Simpson anchors her narratives firmly in their respective time periods with current events, music, movies, books and social attitudes. She includes a wealth of interesting (and sometimes shocking) information, incorporating topics as diverse as Tour de France, arborglyphs, the Archibald Prize, establishing the provenance of artworks, the Patagonian Toothfish and Native Title.

While the story gradually unfolds, Simpson treats the reader to some beautiful and eloquent descriptive prose: “It was so peaceful up there, with the clouds, that I didn’t ever want to come down. It was as if all the things that had happened were smaller, paused somehow, while I was in the air. As if the glider were a time machine that might set me down at a moment and place of my choosing. With the whole world to choose from” and “…I watched the treetops against the sky, the birds busy in their branches, and all of the flowers and insects that you only noticed when you were still, the sounds and smells that made a place and were the whole world. Eventually, I felt still again, too” are examples.

For any reader who spent part or all of their childhood in rural Australia, or even in the outer city suburbs, Jay’s narrative will strike a chord: lazy summers spent swimming, floating downriver on lilos, jumping from a rope swing, blackberrying, catching crayfish, playing games. And cooler months spent camping out, sailing model boats, and building a bonfire, all are so evocatively described that one can taste the blackberries straight off the bush, feel the dust underfoot, the sunburned skin, smell the fire and see the stars in the chilly night sky.

Simpson’s third novel has characters that are easy to care for and a plot that is wholly believable yet not entirely predictable, all contained within a gorgeous cover by Allison Colpoys. Fans of her earlier works will not be disappointed with this outstanding book. Another brilliant read

Britt-Marie Was Here
Britt-Marie Was Here
by Fredrik Backman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a delight to read,, 16 May 2016
This review is from: Britt-Marie Was Here (Hardcover)
“’Welcome to Borg’, Britt-Marie reads, while she sits on a stool in the darkness and looks at the red dot that first made her fall in love with the picture. The reason for her love of maps. It’s half worn away, the dot, and the red colour is bleached. Yet it’s there, flung down there on the map halfway between the lower left corner and its centre, and next to it is written, ‘You are here’. Sometimes it’s easier to go on living, not even knowing who you are, when at least you know precisely where you are while you go on not knowing.”

Britt-Marie Was Here is the third novel by Swedish blogger, columnist and author, Fredrik Backman, and is flawlessly translated from Swedish by Henning Koch. Britt-Marie, now sixty-three, will be remembered as a pedantic, officious, overbearing secondary character from Backman’s second novel, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises. She has had to face some unpleasant facts about her husband, Kent, and presents herself (for quite an unusual reason) at the unemployment office, seeking a job.

Britt-Marie is sent to Borg, a remote town in the process of shutting down, where she is to act as temporary caretaker at the Recreation Centre. Britt-Marie arrives alone, but finds herself forced to interact with the (not-altogether-welcoming) townspeople, many of whom she is eventually proud to call friends. She finds herself somehow appointed trainer/coach of a group of muddy children who play football in the car park, including a sassy girl and her entrepreneurial younger brother, a boy who admires Britt-Marie’s hairdo, another who can almost kick goals and a young Somalian.

Somebody who “…has one of the worst hairstyles Britt-Marie has ever laid eyes on, as if she’s combed her hair with a terrified animal”, runs the Borg Pizzeria which also serves as a Post office, grocery store, off-licence, car repair and health centre; cranky Karl visits to collect parcels; a pair of grumpy, bearded men spend days there drinking coffee; Sven, the multi-talented (by virtue of courses completed) cop keeps an eye on things; Bank, of generous body and impaired vision, apparently has a room available; Fredrik turns up regularly (with son Max) to flaunt his big BMW; and a certain Snickers-loving rodent also plays a role.

Britt-Marie has firm beliefs on many topics: how the cutlery drawer should be arranged; why dead bodies start to smell; writing lists in pencil; keeping appointments; the importance of a quality window cleaner; the power of bicarbonate of soda; and the correct time for dinner (6pm sharp!). She may be faced with uncooperative bureaucrats, football-obsessed children and rude townspeople, but Britt-Marie is a force to be reckoned with. And “She may not know a lot about football, but even the gods know that no one is more skilled at lists than Britt-Marie”.

Backman once again combines an abundance humour with heartache and plenty of words of wisdom as he touches on a variety of topics: loneliness, loyalty, the need to feel useful, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, the superstitions of football fans, infidelity, guilt, grief, pride, insecurity, and community spirit. His quirky characters and the charming logic of the children make this moving and uplifting novel a delight to read, and fans of his earlier books will not be disappointed.

Hero at Large
Hero at Large
by Janet Evanovich
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.58

4.0 out of 5 stars a fun and fluffy romance, 8 May 2016
Hero At Large is a pre-Plum novel by popular American author, Janet Evanovich, and was originally published under the nom-de-plume, Steffie Hall. When Chris Nelson’s car gives up the ghost on the Little River Turnpike, she’s grateful for the assistance that Ken Callaghan gives, and really, breaking his arm was completely accidental. But when her Aunt Edna invites Ken to rent their downstairs rooms, she is not happy. Ken is far too good looking, Chris is far too attracted to him, and after her ex, young Lucy’s dad, left her, she’s steering clear of relationships. Ken seems to be the perfect man: Lucy loves him, Aunt Edna wants Chris to marry him, he’s kind and thoughtful….. Then Chris discovers that Ken has not been entirely honest with her. Easily recognisable as the work of Stephanie Plum’s creator, this is a fun and fluffy romance.

The Fighter: A True Story
The Fighter: A True Story
Price: £18.53

4.0 out of 5 stars an interesting and uplifting read, 7 May 2016
“All you need to do is call and he’ll be in your corner, tending your wounds with affection, sponging you down, administering advice, urging you to keep going. Then propelling you back into the ring, back into life, and yet another chance at redemption”

The Fighter is a non-fiction book by Australian novelist, Arnold Zable. Amongst the boxing fraternity, the name Henry Nissen is well known. Nissen is an Australian Jewish amateur flyweight and professional fly/bantam/featherweight boxer of the 1960s and '70s. But in his seventh decade, Nissen is known in Melbourne for his youth social work.

He may be a dock worker, but he is also a founder of the Emerald Hill Mission. He is “the boy from the block who has remained on the block, friend to the down-and-out, the bewildered and unwanted, who would do anything for a mate, or a stranger. Who would lift you out of the gutter, no questions asked, no reward expected”

Zable uses a number of different sources to relate the story of Nissen’s life: Nissen himself provided much information; his twin brother Leon (also a well-known boxer) and his younger siblings; Nissen’s colleagues in the boxing fraternity; his social work contacts; childhood neighbours and friends; and, of course, media reports and historical documents.

Anecdotes about Nissen’s present day life alternate with stories from his past: his childhood and his boxing career. Nissen’s mother, Sonia, (“Mum, poor girl. She taught us compassion. She made us grow up quickly. And made us able to take on the world”) looms large in his life: her children were always vigilant for signs of her mental illness.

“She wears a floral dress, evoking summer, and she looks directly at the camera. She is beautiful… There are no inklings of the demons that would come to possess her. There is no hint of the pale tormented being she would become. No indication of the voices that would hold her hostage in a distant continent”

As a novelist, Zable treats the reader to some lovely descriptive prose: “The house at 212 is cast in afternoon sunlight. The west-facing bay window glints, and the tiles glow orange. Patches of moss shade the bricks with jade and silver. The breeze has dropped. The clouds are motionless. Time is temporarily halted. The past slips in like a sidling huntsman”

Also “Henry pauses on the way and glances at the weed-flowers and thistles on the embankment above a ribbon of water. A cormorant alights on a wooden pylon. Mosses and shrubs and swathes of long grass disappear in the falling darkness. A patch of daisies grows beneath the creek bridge, beside a row of lights switching on at nightfall” Zable’s portrait of this amazing and compassionate man is an interesting and uplifting read.

The Life of Elves
The Life of Elves
by Muriel Barbery
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something quite different from Muriel Barbery., 7 May 2016
This review is from: The Life of Elves (Paperback)
“…she looked up at him with her eyes as blue as the torrents from the glacier, with a gaze in which the angels of mystery sang. And life flowed down the slopes of the Sasso with the slowness and intensity of those places where everything requires effort but also takes its time, in the current of a bygone dream where humankind knew languor interwoven with the bitterness of the world”

The Life of Elves is the third novel by prize-winning French novelist and professor of philosophy, Muriel Barbery. Two orphan girls grow up, unaware, initially, of each other, and of the integral role they will play in the battle of good versus evil.

Clara is raised in a secluded Italian mountain village by a priest and his ageing housekeeper until her prodigious musical talent sees her taken to study with the Maestro in Rome.

Maria grows up in a remote French farming village, surrounded by loving parents, elderly aunts and cousins. Not until a major battle looms do they begin to realise how important they are to the future of humankind.

Readers familiar with The Gourmet (aka Gourmet Rhapsody) and The Elegance of the Hedgehog should be aware that this book is a major departure in style from Barbery’s earlier works.

This book, too, has some beautiful descriptive prose, but, whereas her earlier novels abound with quirky characters, witty dialogue and gems of wisdom, this one is more plot-driven and involves the realm of fantasy (perhaps obvious from the title).

Prose like “…while the people of this land might be sculpted into jagged rock by wind and snow, they are also fashioned by the poetry of their landscape, which makes shepherds compose rhymes in the icy fog of the high pastures, and storms give birth to hamlets that dangle from the web of the sky” is de riguer for this story.

Major themes of this book include the importance of the connection between humankind and the Earth, nature, and the arts. Flawlessly translated into English by Alison Anderson, the book also provides a very useful index of characters at the beginning. Readers who enjoy this novel will be pleased to know that Barbery is working on a sequel. Something quite different from Muriel Barbery.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 13, 2016 5:47 PM BST

Cross My Heart: (Alex Cross 21)
Cross My Heart: (Alex Cross 21)
by James Patterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Another Patterson page-turner., 7 May 2016
Cross My Heart is the twenty-first book in the Alex Cross series by prolific American author, James Patterson. While Alex Cross and his friend John Samson are kept busy with a multiple murder/kidnapping in a massage parlour, Detective Bree Stone investigates the abduction of a child from a day care centre. At the same time, Alex and Bree are trying to track down Ava, the troubled teen who has recently run away from their home. And unbeknownst to Alex and Bree, a ruthless murderer is targeting their family.

The theme of Alex Cross’s family being, once again, in grave danger from a criminal with some sort of grudge against him, is perhaps wearing just a bit thin, although this time it is carried a lot further than previously. And while his family’s somewhat casual attitude to personal security may be explained away by the cleverly staged situations in which they are taken, readers may wonder at the lack of any sort of security devices like motion sensors (a pretty standard installation in many households) in the home of such a high-profile cop.

Patterson’s trademark short chapters have the story moving along at a fast pace; the villains are suitably evil, if shallow; there are twists and red herrings, there are masters of disguise, and while three of the ongoing matters are satisfactorily resolved, some with a dramatic climax, the book ends in a huge cliff-hanger, something which certainly annoyed faithful readers, especially those who had to wait 22 months for the next book, Hope To Die. Another Patterson page-turner.

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