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Cloggie Downunder (Australia)
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Merry Christmas, Babies (Mills & Boon Superromance) (Silhouette Superromance)
Merry Christmas, Babies (Mills & Boon Superromance) (Silhouette Superromance)
by Tara Taylor Quinn
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read, 25 July 2016
Merry Christmas, Babies is the nth stand-alone romance by American author, Tara Taylor Quinn. Business partners and friends since school, Elise Richardson and Joe Bennett suddenly find themselves in altered circumstances: Elise is pregnant with quadruplets, the result of her desire for a family and an anonymous sperm donor. Needing to protect his business interests in the excuse Joe uses to move into Elise’s house and life. After all, living alone while carrying quads might not be safe for Elise or her babies.

What they don’t count on is that their close proximity might foster an attraction. Because, after all, Joe has never wanted to father children, and Elise is about to have four. And while having quads was not her original intention, Elise has faced some big challenges in her life. This is a sweet, sexy romance in which the characters who develop as the pregnancy progresses. An enjoyable read.


A Saintly Killing (A Faith Morgan Mystery)
A Saintly Killing (A Faith Morgan Mystery)
by Martha Ockley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable read., 25 July 2016
A Saintly Killing is the third book in the Faith Morgan Mystery series by British author, Martha Ockley (aka Rebecca Jenkins). Rev. Faith Morgan has been vicar at Little Worthy for almost a year now, and has her hands so full of preparations for St James’s Church 900th anniversary celebrations, she’s even using a clipboard. What is not part of the plan is the murder of the artist controversially chosen to depict St James Church on the anniversary leaflet.

Sal Hinckly was a talented artist who had managed to rub quite a few of Little Worthy’s citizens the wrong way. She even had nasty words with Faith. But murder? Of course, Faith’s ex-lover, DI Ben Shorter is immediately on the scene, interrogating with his usual disregard for anything except for cutting through to the truth. And Faith is dismayed to find that despite his callous, no-holds-barred approach, and his disdain for her vocation, she is still attracted.

As if she doesn’t have enough to deal with, her sister Ruth is insisting their mother, Marianne is showing increasing signs of dementia, and needs to be convinced to move closer to her daughters. Faith is concerned too, for her sister: Ruth’s ex-husband, Brian seems to be on the scene again. And Faith is shocked to find one of her church wardens has plotted against her and lied to police.

Once again, Ockley gives the reader a great little cosy mystery that is filled with quite a few possible suspects, a range of motives and some red herrings. Her characters are familiar, her dialogue credible, and she evokes the Hampshire village with consummate ease. Faith Morgan is a very likeable protagonist: good intentions and flaws in equal measure. Fans of this series will be hoping there is more of Faith Morgan to come. A very enjoyable read.


The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall
The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall
by Paul Torday
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars thought-provoking, funny and entertaining, 19 July 2016
“His father, Simon Aylmer Francis Simmonds, the fourth Marquess of Hartlepool … had given Ed only two pieces of advice. The first was that if the opening sentence of a letter wasn’t interesting, then the rest of it didn’t deserve attention; ...a letter from Horace, the butler at Hartlepool Hall … began with the intriguing sentence: ‘A Lady Alice Birtley has come to stay with us, and I do not recollect that your Lordship left any instructions in respect of her visit’”

The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall is the sixth novel by award-winning British author, Paul Torday. Ed Simmonds inherited Hartlepool Hall when his father died, but then had to spend five years “non-dom” in the south of France while the trustees came to terms with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. “Ed’s father has followed a long family tradition of leaving his affairs in a dreadful tangle. The wealth of the Simmonds family had been colossal; it had survived generations of mismanagement”

Now that agreement has been reached, Ed is coming home, but not to the life to which he is accustomed. Assets are to be liquidated, property sold off, and still an enormous debt hangs over his head. And as if this is not enough to deal with, the elderly Lady Alice, a complete stranger to Ed, seems to have taken up residence in Hartlepool Hall.

Annabel Gazebee has been friends with Ed for years; she had secretly hoped that he would see her as more than a that, and help her escape from her tyrannical father, Colonel Marcus Gazebee. But now she is going out with Geoff Tarset, a property developer of whom her father loudly and frequently voices his disapproval. Geoff is eager to meet Ed: he is certain that they can do a deal that will be to their mutual benefit.

Torday examines the fate of the stately home whose heir inherits debt and responsibility that far outstrip income, as well as exploring an option for saving these national treasures whose upkeep in their original state becomes an unwieldy burden. Torday has his (rather obnoxious) architect offer an opinion (that he plainly does not share): “…archaic planning laws make it far too difficult to get rid of our old building stock”.

Torday explores subjects both topical and eternal: class, duty to ageing parents, loneliness and depression, independence, self-sufficiency and the burden of inheritance: “Ed suddenly realised that he was terrified of his own future. He knew that his education and upbringing had given him a somewhat specialised range of skills…he hadn’t the least idea of how his affairs had become such a dreadful, tangled, unsolvable mess…a long time ago one or two of them had made a lot of money; since then there had been no conspicuous family talent apart from spending it”

Torday’s characters are eccentric and yet engaging, and don’t always behave as expected. His plot may seem predictable at first, but he throws in a few unexpected twists that keep it interesting. Torday said he trying to find the “ultimate novel” and wrote compulsively: each of his seven novels is a different genre: The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall can probably be described as comic tragedy, the comedy being very black. This edition also features Reading Group Notes which include an interesting Q&A with the author. Characters from previous novels play a role in this novel, as Torday’s characters tend to do. This is another brilliant novel by Paul Torday: thought-provoking, funny and entertaining.


Blood Wedding
Blood Wedding
by Pierre Lemaitre
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read, 17 July 2016
This review is from: Blood Wedding (Hardcover)
Blood Wedding is the second novel by French author, Pierre Lemaitre, and the fifth to be translated into English. It was first published as Robe de Marié in 2009 and is flawlessly translated from French by Frank Wynne. Young widow, Sophie Duguet is working as a nanny in Paris when she wakes up to find her charge, six-year-old Léo Gervais, murdered. While she can’t remember doing it, she begins to believe she must have done, and flees before her terrible crime is discovered.

As Sophie goes into hiding, she thinks back to when she first began to go insane. She recalls once being happily married to Vincent, before she started to forget, to lose things, to imagine things; before her mother-in-law fell down the stairs; before Vincent had a horrific car accident; before she was left alone; before Léo was strangled. And she now finds herself taking actions she could never have believed of that happy young wife.

Lemaitre’s psychological thriller takes the form of third- and first-person narratives, diary entries, a newspaper article, clinical file reports and internet chat transcripts. He paints a vivid picture of a young woman losing her mind before turning the story on its head. By half-way, the who is quite apparent; the how is revealed to be alarmingly easy; the why keeps the pages turning. It ends with a brilliant twist. A gripping read. 4.5 stars

With thanks to GoodReads Giveaways and Hachette Australia for this copy to read and review.


The Advent of Murder: A Faith Morgan Mystery
The Advent of Murder: A Faith Morgan Mystery
by Martha Ockley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining sequel to The Reluctant Detective., 16 July 2016
The Advent Of Murder is the second book in the Faith Morgan Mystery series by British author, Martha Ockley (aka Rebecca Jenkins). It's two weeks until Christmas, and Little Worthy’s vicar, Rev. Faith Morgan is, of course, very busy. So many things still need to be organised, including the donkey for the Christmas pageant; her sister Ruth is being demanding, and her church warden seems to be having personal problems.

Then, to top it all, Oliver Markham, her Joseph for the Pageant, is suddenly suspected of murder. A teenager is found on the bank of the River Itchen, in his farm, but Faith can't believe he could be a murderer. DI Ben Shorter disagrees, and continues to be derisive of Faith's career change, taking every opportunity to disparage her new-found devotion. And surely this is not jealousy she feels when her former lover appears to be taking an interest in the Police pathologist? The choir-master for the urban youth choir seems to be taking an interest in Faith, but he, too, comes under suspicion.

Once again, Ockley gives the reader a great little cosy mystery that is filled with interesting clues, twists and plenty of red herrings. Her characters are familiar, her dialogue credible, and she evokes winter in an English village with consummate ease. Faith Morgan is a very likeable protagonist: good intentions and flaws in equal measure. Astute readers may fix on the murderer before the climax, but this does not detract from the enjoyment of the unfolding drama. An entertaining sequel to The Reluctant Detective.


Outlander
Outlander
by Diana Gabaldon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Addictive, 13 July 2016
This review is from: Outlander (Paperback)
Outlander (also titled Cross Stitch) is the first book in the Outlander series by American author, Diana Gabaldon. Claire Beauchamp Randall, ex-army nurse, is on vacation in Scotland with her husband Frank, a historian. It’s 1946, and they are combining Frank’s quest for more information about his ancestors with the opportunity to reconnect after six years of wartime apart. Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall was apparently active in the area, back in the eighteenth century.

A visit to the Standing Stones at Craigh na Dun goes awry when Claire suddenly finds herself at the edges of a battle between the English garrison and the Highlanders. It becomes apparent that this is no longer 1946. And while the garrison commander looks like Frank, and claims to be Jonathan Randall, his behaviour soon has her grateful for her rescue by a Highlander. Her nursing skills bring her in close contact with an injured Scottish outlaw, Jamie Fraser.

Despite wanting desperately to get back to Frank in 1946, after four months, Claire is astounded to be married to Jamie, hunted by Randall and living in the primitive conditions of the eighteenth century. Even more surprisingly, she realises she is happy. But it is 1743, and Claire knows that the dramatic events of Culloden are not far off.

Gabaldon gives the reader a tale that is part romance, part adventure, part historical and part sci-fi. She manages to include a Highland Gathering, plenty of fights and battles, torture, flogging, imprisonment, a wedding, a childbirth, a reunion, a channel crossing, a very novel prison escape, an opium-fuelled mental healing, a witch trial, quite a bit of sex and perhaps even a touch of magic. Despite the 800+ pages that contain a wealth of information about the Scottish Highlands in the eighteenth century, the characters and the plot are so compelling that this page-turner that will have readers seeking out the second volume in the series, Dragonfly in Amber. Addictive.


The Exile (Outlander)
The Exile (Outlander)
by Diana Gabaldon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.64

3.0 out of 5 stars for devoted fans, 12 July 2016
This review is from: The Exile (Outlander) (Hardcover)
The Exile is a graphic novel in the popular Outlander series by American author, Diana Gabaldon. The text is by Gabaldon; the artwork by Vietnam-born Hoang Nguyen. Gabaldon states that it covers approximately the first third of the first book, Outlander, but in reality, it covers the first two thirds. The story is mostly told from the perspective of Jamie’s godfather, Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser, and begins where he meets Jamie returning from France.

While the novel contains some new information, as well as some overlap with the novella, Virgins, much of what it tells is already known to the Outlander reader, although perhaps with some slight variations. The characters are given speech bubbles and thought bubbles, which does put a new slant on some of the characters’ motives, and there is a new character, Kenneth, another visitor from the future.

Gabaldon has herself illustrated comics earlier in her life, so perhaps this is the impetus for this form of novel. Hoang’s artwork is detailed and colourful, but the Highland men are difficult to tell apart, except for Jamie with his red hair, and Colum Mackenzie with his (over)exaggerated lack of height. Claire is given a set of pneumatic breasts that seem to expand with the story, and Jamie’s injury cannot seem to make up its mind whether it resides in the left or right shoulder.

The book is a quick read, especially for those familiar with the story, the presentation is on beautiful paper, and devoted fans of both graphic novels and Outlander may want to lay out between $20 and $30 for this quality hardback; those less fervent are advised to borrow it from the library. 3.5 stars


Virgins: An Outlander Novella (Kindle Single)
Virgins: An Outlander Novella (Kindle Single)

4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable novella, 11 July 2016
Virgins is a prequel novella in the popular Outlander series by American author, Diana Gabaldon. It is October, 1740, and as a wanted man in Scotland, young Jamie Fraser goes to France to join a band of mercenaries that includes his good friend, Ian Murray. Jamie’s knowledge of Hebrew has them included in an assignment to take a young Jewish woman her home in Bordeaux to her prospective husband in Paris. But the trip does not go according to plan, and Jamie sees the young, innocent-looking Rebekah for what she really is: a dangerous woman. This is an enjoyable novella that gives a bit of background to Jamie’s time in France, some years before he meets Claire Beauchamp Randall. There is some interesting information on the status Jews in France at that time, as well as of plenty of fighting, and some amusing banter between the two young men, virgins still. Originally published in the anthology, Dangerous Women, it is also available as a Kindle stand-alone and a rather expensive hardback.


Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving
by Janet Evanovich
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars just a touch too drawn out, 11 July 2016
Thanksgiving is a pre-Plum romance by popular American author, Janet Evanovich. Megan Murphy is a potter who supplements her income dressed in period costume in her colonial home town. When she rescues a floppy-eared rabbit with strange appetites, its owner, paediatrician Patrick Hunter is entranced by this quirky redhead. But despite the attraction between them, neither wants to get involved: Megan is thrice-bitten and therefore involvement-shy; Pat is in no position to support a wife or the children he would love to eventually have. Sweet, sexy and funny, but just a touch too drawn out.


The Reluctant Detective: A Faith Morgan Mystery
The Reluctant Detective: A Faith Morgan Mystery
by Martha Ockley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable!, 8 July 2016
The Reluctant Detective is the first book in the Faith Morgan Mystery series by British author, Martha Ockley (aka Rebecca Jenkins). When the Vicar at St James’s in Little Worthy plans to retire, Reverend Faith Morgan (isn’t that a perfect name for a vicar?) is asked by her bishop is she is interested in the position. Her sister lives there, and the quiet parish might be a welcome change from the “gritty, uncertain, challenging chaos of the urban parish she was thinking of leaving”.

But on the Sunday she arrives in Little Worthy to check it out, Vicar Alistair Ingram drops dead in the middle of the service. And while Faith is no longer a police detective, her instincts cannot help but kick in as she mentally notes important possible clues that point to murder. And just to complicate things, the senior officer in charge of the case is DI Ben Striker, her ex-lover. And someone she really was hoping not to run into: there’s a bit of emotional baggage there…

What a marvellous start Ockley has made on this cosy crime series! Her protagonist is very likeable: a vicar who is definitely not “holier than thou”, not smug, and far from perfect. The supporting characters are just the sort one meets in a small town, at church functions and in the local shops. Their dialogue is believable, and this is a community that would be a pleasure to belong to, despite their occasional nosiness.

Ockley’s plot may be a classic, but the there are enough red herrings amongst the clues to keep it interesting. An astute reader may settle on the right suspect before the halfway mark, but the how and why will keep the pages turning until the exciting climax. Luckily, there is more of this clever clergywoman. Readers can look forward to The Advent of Murder and A Saintly Killing. Very enjoyable!


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