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Cloggie Downunder (Australia)
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Elizabeth is Missing
Elizabeth is Missing
by Emma Healey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant debut novel, 28 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Elizabeth is Missing (Paperback)
“…I remember the town being almost too bright to look at when I was a girl. I remember the deep blue of the sky and the dark green of the pines cutting through it, the bright red of the local brick houses and the orange carpet of pine needles under our feet. Nowadays – though I’m sure the sky is still occasionally blue and most houses are still there, and the trees still drop their needles – nowadays, the colours seem faded, as if I live in an old photograph.”

Elizabeth Is Missing is the first novel by British author, Emma Healey. Eighty-two-year-old Maud Horsham is demented. She lives in her own home, has a carer coming daily to help out, and gets regular visits from her daughter Helen. And she is fairly certain that her best friend, Elizabeth is missing. Elizabeth is not at home (Maud has checked) and she feels that Elizabeth’s unfriendly son, Peter Markham is sure to be behind it. Maud finds it frustrating how unconcerned both Helen and the Police are about her disappearance.

While she still has lucid moments, Maud’s mental state ensures that generally her narrative of the present-day is unreliable. But the people and things that fill her day remind her of a time, almost seventy years ago, when she was fourteen and her older, married sister, Susan went missing. After dinner with her family, Sukey disappeared almost without a trace. Did she just run off, as many people just after the war did? Or did her jealous husband, Frank, or the family’s lodger, Doug, have something to do with it? Or was she a victim of the Grosvenor Hotel murderer? Maud’s memories of this time are crystal clear.

While this is a mystery that builds quite gradually, and it is perhaps not the mystery that the reader first expects (Elizabeth’s location is no real surprise), patience is rewarded as the pieces fall into place. Healey expertly segues present triggers into memories of the past, and despite her youth, shows an amazing insight into the world of the elderly and the demented. As anyone with a demented relative or friend will agree, there are times when the best reaction is to laugh, the alternative being to cry, and Healey portrays these moments with consummate ease. This is not a book for everyone: some readers may find it strikes a little too close to home. Perceptive, blackly funny and often frighteningly realistic, this is a brilliant debut novel.


Second Life
Second Life
by S J Watson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Another thought-provoking page-turner., 25 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Second Life (Hardcover)
“I realize with sudden clarity that we’re wearing masks, all of us, all the time. We’re presenting a face, a version of ourselves, to the world, to each other. We show a different face depending on who we’re with and what they expect of us. Even when we’re alone, it’s just another mask, the version of ourselves we’d prefer to be.”

Second Life is the second novel by the acclaimed author of Before I Go To Sleep, S.J.Watson. When her sister, Kate is murdered in a Paris alleyway, happily married London photographer, Julia Plummer is devastated. She feels acutely that she has let her sister down, and is determined to uncover the facts. The box of Kate’s effects she has been given by Kate’s flatmate, Anna, lead her to question what she knew about her sister: she soon finds herself risking everything she holds dear in an online relationship with someone who could be the murderer. “There’s a point where an online dalliance might become dangerous, but who can really say when it is?”

After a decidedly slow start, Watson once again gives the reader a gripping tale with a plot full of tension that twists and turns multiple times before reaching a shattering climax. His cast of characters is believable, although many have secrets and some are definitely not what they first seem. Quite unlike Watson’s protagonist in Before I Go To Sleep, this narrator will exasperate readers with her naïveté, her more-than-occasional stupidity and her self-absorbed state of mind; her selfishness, too, will leave the reader gasping.

This is a psychological thriller that graphically illustrates the dangers to be found online, where no one is necessarily what they appear or claim to be. It demonstrates how, once you dispatch it by email or social media, you lose control over any image or piece of information. Today’s technology means almost anything can be faked and makes the potential for extortion of the unwary virtually limitless. Another thought-provoking page-turner.
4.5 stars


Havoc (Southside Novels)
Havoc (Southside Novels)
Price: £6.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent YA read from a prize-winning novelist, 25 Feb. 2015
Havoc is the second novel by New Zealand author, Jane Higgins. It is sequel to The Bridge and is set six months after the events of that book. When a barrage of rockets from Cityside inflicts enormous damage on Moldam HQ, costs Breken lives and brings down the Moldam Bridge, it is apparent that the precarious ceasefire is over. Nik and Lanya rush to help, and Nik risks his life to save a girl from under the falling bridgework, a girl who seems neither a Citysider, nor Breken, but possibly a Dry-dweller. A girl who keeps repeating the word “Havoc”.

While Nik’s father is Cityside, organising the One City activists, Cityside Director of Security, Frieda Kelleran warns this is just the beginning, and infiltration of One City is imminent. With his knowledge of the City and his language, it makes sense for Nik to cross over to warn One City and try to find out some other answers: just what is Operation Havoc? Why is there a delegation of Dry-dwellers Cityside? And why are the City’s elite moving out? As Nik uncovers evidence of biological warfare and war crimes, he also learns more about his parents, finds out who he can trust, and is forced to make an impossible choice.

Higgins continues with her imaginative plot and most of the characters from The Bridge reappear, along with a few delightful new ones. While there is some humour, Higgins does present her characters with thought-provoking dilemmas (and then solves them rather cleverly). While there is some recap, readers will certainly enjoy this sequel more for having read The Bridge. And while events seem to be satisfactorily wrapped up, giving this book a final feel, there is still plenty of scope for a further volume. Another excellent YA read from a prize-winning novelist.
4.5 stars


The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden
by Jonas Jonasson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars lacks the charm of his debut novel, 24 Feb. 2015
The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden is the second book by Swedish journalist, media consultant and television producer, Jonas Jonasson. Determined not to be a latrine emptier all her life, Soweto youngster, Nombeko Mayeki uses her numerical skills and lots of hard work to advance her position. How she learns to read, ends up in possession of quite a few diamonds and later, something a whole lot more dangerous, is the story Jonasson tells in the first half of his book. It takes that long before Nombeko arrives in Sweden and quite a bit longer before she gets anywhere near the King.

Jonasson gives the reader the backstory of various major and minor characters in a series of anecdotes, some of which are quite funny. There is plenty of reference to both South African and Swedish politics (perhaps a little too much?), as well as a bit of world affairs, and generally, the plot is just as far-fetched as Jonasson’s first novel, The Hunded Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared, but this one lacks the charm of his debut novel. The title is a bit misleading as, in effect, the King saves himself. There are lots of chuckles but not as many laugh-out-loud moments, and while described as uproariously funny, readers may disagree. 3 stars.


Cherokee (Desire, 1376)
Cherokee (Desire, 1376)
by Sheri Whitefeather
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars fairly enjoyable, 22 Feb. 2015
Cherokee is the second romance novel by American author, Sheri Whitefeather. Adam Paige has just discovered he is adopted: his real parents are Cherokee, and he wants to track them down in Oklahoma. Sarah Cloud is a Cherokee from Oklahoma, and Adam seeks her out to learn more about his heritage and maybe track down his family. But Sarah has reasons for not wanting to go back to Oklahoma, although this attractive man is becoming hard to resist. But when Adam learns why Sarah is avoiding her hometown, he is reluctant to reveal a secret he has been keeping. A fairly enjoyable romance that might appeal in particular to Native American readers.


Three Twisted Stories
Three Twisted Stories
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Slaughter does not disappoint, 17 Feb. 2015
Three Twisted Stories consists of a novella and two short stories by popular American author, Karin Slaughter, in electronic format. Go Deep is a brand new novella, while Necessary Women and Remmy Rothstein Toes The Line have been previously published elsewhere.

Go Deep features successful car dealer, Charlie Lam, a man weighed down by responsibility, whose deal with a mobster provides a little extra he deserves, even if the arrangement, involving a suit at the dry-cleaners and a client getting a new car, makes him a little nervous. Until one day, there’s a hitch during the collection, and Charlie finds himself radically changed.
Necessary Women is a very black tale featuring a young woman whose mother has recently died. Her father explains that she will have to be the woman of the house. But she has seen the misery of her mother‘s life and does not intend to repeat it.
Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line sees a very dedicated World Records Adjudicator travelling to the swamps of Okefenokee to measure the tongue of a Cajun Jew. But before she meets Remmy Rothstein, she encounters a perverted landlord and Remmy’s very unusual family.

As advertised, these stories are well and truly twisted. They will have readers snickering, squirming, gasping and laughing out loud. And is that a cameo in Go Deep by Maggie Lawson from Cop Town? An added bonus is the first chapter of Pretty Girls. This one is well worth the price: as always, Slaughter does not disappoint.


Breadfruit: A Novel
Breadfruit: A Novel
by Celestine Hitiura Vaite
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars A light-hearted look at life in Tahiti., 16 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Breadfruit: A Novel (Paperback)
Breadfruit is the first novel by Tahitian author, Celestine Hitiura Vaite and the first book in the Materena Mahi series. Having lived with her man, for twelve years, certain things, including a drunken proposal from Pito himself, are making her think about a wedding. And she is starting to like the idea. But although Materena begins making tentative plans, no further mention is made, and she eventually gives up on the idea. Or does she? As Materena makes various wedding-related enquiries, she also learns a lot about her family’s history.

As she navigates Materena’s life towards the longed-for union, Vaite weaves together a collection of seemingly unrelated anecdotes about life and love, Tahiti-style, as well as Tahitian legends and gossip about friends and family (the many aunties and cousins one has in Tahiti) that often ends up on the Coconut Radio. She touches on topics as diverse as brooming, totems, mother-in-law’s cake, the shape of the nose, new carpet, mattress allergy, mosquito coils, private property, gendarmes, a transvestite girlfriend, a birthday frying pan, religion, politics, words of love, family diplomacy, birth of babies and she also describes a novel form of Tahitian caller ID. A light-hearted look at life in Tahiti. 3.5 stars


Runaway
Runaway
by Peter May
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £4.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an exceptional read, 11 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Runaway (Hardcover)
“Regret is such a waste of energy. You can’t undo what’s been done. But every new day offers the chance to shape it in the way you want”

Runaway is the seventh stand-alone novel by Scottish journalist, screenwriter and author, Peter May. When seventeen-year-old Jack MacKay makes a sudden decision, in 1965, to escape Glasgow and head for London, he is surprised that his four friends are ready to drop everything and become a runaway too. Each has his own reasons, but all are convinced their band, The Shuffle, can make it big in the Big Smoke. But events don’t follow the script they have written: some months later, Jack and two of the band return to Glasgow to nurse their emotional (and physical) wounds.

In 2015, the three lads, now in their late sixties, are brought together again by the report of a murder in London. In response to the near-death demand of one of their number, they are heading south again to face up to the shocking events that, fifty years before, shaped their lives, in Jack’s case, for the worse: “…his own sad story was so painfully stark that all the regrets of his life came flooding back to very nearly drown him. All the missed opportunities and squandered chances….. His unrealised dream of becoming a professional musician. Dropping out of university. Settling always for second best, because that was the path of least resistance. Leaving him now, in his late sixties, widowed and alone, treading the boards in the role of a non-speaking extra until it was his turn to exit the stage”

May runs the two narratives in tandem: events in 1965 are told by Jack in the first person; those in 2015, in the third person. They have various elements in common: runaways using “borrowed” vehicles; pursuit by disapproving family; diversions off the A74; an inconvenient loss of goods and transport through theft; and a certain money belt. May perfectly evokes the feel of the times, both the sixties and the present day. His wide-eyed, naïve lads and his cranky old men are completely convincing, his pacing is faultless and his plot twists are brilliantly conceived. The banter between the characters has a genuine feel and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments on both road trips.

May gives the reader some marvellous prose and his descriptions are beautifully evocative: “…I grew up in Glasgow in the fifties and sixties, two decades that morphed from sepia to psychedelic before my very eyes as I segued from childhood to adolescence” is one example. While readers of a certain vintage will enjoy the nostalgia, fans of May’s work will not be disappointed, and new readers are sure to seek out his backlist. Funny, moving, and thought-provoking, this is an exceptional read.
With thanks to The Reading Room and Hachette Australia for this copy to read and review.


Wind River Ranch (Silhouette Desire)
Wind River Ranch (Silhouette Desire)
by Jackie Merritt
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read, 10 Feb. 2015
Wind River Ranch is the twenty-first stand-alone romance by American author, Jackie Merritt. When Dena Colby returns to Wyoming, to Wind River Ranch to settle her father’s estate, she is heart-broken. He refused all contact with her when, as a rebellious eighteen-year-old, she married Tommy Hogan. Soon divorced and independent, Dena tried for years to reconcile with Simon Colby, but realises that now, it can never happen. She is shocked to discover she has inherited the ranch.
Foreman of three years, Ry Hardin is surprised both by Dena’s absence since he has worked at the ranch, and her reaction to her inheritance. And both are surprised by the passion that flares between them. This is another sexy romance in the Silhouette Desire series, and, as usual, Merritt’s characters are appealing and more than one-dimensional. An enjoyable read.


The Bridge
The Bridge
by Jane Higgins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.66

5.0 out of 5 stars an amazing debut, 9 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Bridge (Hardcover)
The Bridge is the first novel by New Zealand author, Jane Higgins. It is the winner of the Text Prize for YA and Children’s Writing in 2010. Since he was orphaned at the age of five, Nik Stais has lived, learned and excelled at Tornmoor Academy, hoping to be chosen by the Internal Security and Intelligence Service to use his talents in the fight that Cityside wages against the hostiles on Southside. Now seventeen, he and his friends are surprised and indignant when ISIS omits him from their intake. Soon after, Tornmoor is bombed, Nik’s best friend, Lou dies in the attack, and Lou’s eight-year-old brother, Sol is kidnapped by hostiles.

Nik is determined to cross to the Southside, determined to find Sol, and that means going over the bridge. Sol’s sister Fyffe insists on going with him. As they infiltrate the enemy, they learn that not everything they have been taught about these people, the hostiles, the Breken, is true. They find themselves in the middle of a dispute between factions, and Nik discovers some shocking truths about his own past.

Higgins has created a believable dystopia where propaganda, misinformation and indoctrination of youth maintain the status quo. She feeds the information about her world to the reader in manageable doses, not too fast to cause overload, not too slowly to incite boredom. Her characters are multi-faceted and appealing (or repugnant as required by the story), and Higgins is not afraid to kill some of them off if needed. Her plot is original, has quite a few twists, and, without the dissatisfaction of a cliff-hanger ending, allows enough scope for the story to continue. This prize-winning novel is an amazing debut and readers will be pleased to know there is a sequel, Havoc.


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