Archive for the ‘Book reviews’ Category

Hot reads for cold winter nights.

Monday, July 7th, 2014

For me, there’s nothing better than sitting with my feet up, a cat on my lap, a good book in hand and a glass of wine on the side table when the temperature dips – as it tends to do in Melbourne during July.  (However as a book-aholic, this statement is true for any month of the year!)

So I thought I’d share with you a selection of the books I’ve most recently enjoyed.

Robert Galbraith

I can probably say that I was one of the few who had read, and took great pleasure in the first Cormorant Strike book - The Cuckoo’s Calling - by Robert Galbraith before it became known that Galbraith is a pseudonym of  the fabulous JK Rowling.  The second book in this series – The Silkworm - was released a couple of weeks ago, and is equally impressive.   Private Detective Cormorant Strike is called upon to find a missing novelist.  At first it’s thought that he’s just gone ‘off the radar’ for a few days, but as Strike and his trusty assistant Robin Ellacott investigate, we find out it’s much more than a disappearance!  Add some weird circumstances, a very interesting cast of characters and  a ruthless killer and it equals a really good story.  The Silkworm definitely goes to the top of my ‘can’t put it down’ list.

I love finding authors that I haven’t come across before, and Danielle Hawkins is my recent happy find - she’s a New Zealander  which makes her close to my heart,  and writes really good books, so definitely a ”win win”.  The only negative I can think of,  is that she’s only written two books as yet!  Danielle –  I want more!!  :-)  

chocolate cake

The first is Chocolate cake for breakfast and is the story of Helen McNeil – a vet in the small rural town of Broadview.  While using evasive tactics to escape from conversation with a boring girl at a party one Saturday night, she falls over (physically!)- and fails to recognise – one of New Zealand’s rugby sporting legends - Mark Tipene.   As often happens, Mark is quite impressed by the fact that she doesn’t know who he is, and the following day, he fronts at the vet clinic reception to ask her out.  Cue a series of very funny ‘dates’ and a whirwind romance is underway … until there’s a small hiccup!  A lovely, funny story of the pros and cons of dating a man whose bare chested image is posted on the walls of bedrooms and lunchrooms around the country. 

dinner at rosies

Danielle’s second book – Dinner at Rosie’s - is equally delightful.  Jo Donnelly (physiotherapist) has returned to her small rural home town from London after walking in on her boyfriend and best friend during a ‘romantic’ tryst.  The very funny cast includes her horrible new flatmate who hogs the TV and has made it her life task to prevent excessive electricity consumption;  the physio clinics’ inept receptionist who spends her work hours painting her fingernails and surfing the internet;   and her childhood best friend (and one-night-only lover) Matthew.  Life would be rather glum if it weren’t for Jo’s fabulous Aunty Rose who lives on her farm 20 minutes away with her four dogs, two sheep and a pet piglet.    When Aunty Rose gets ill, Jo moves in to assist and ends up seeing a lot more of the tempting Matt who regularly comes to to her aid to help out with farming dramas.  Then cupid decides to stick his arrow in and …

evanovich

Continuing along the ‘light hearted’ road – always on the top of my must read list are the very funny Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovic and book number 21  was just released - Top Secret 21.  Like Stephanie I find it difficult to choose between delicious cop Joe Morelli, and seriously sexy but dangerous Ranger (ok – I lie - I’d go with Ranger!).   Stephanie gets into a bit more trouble that I do – working for Cousin Vinne’s bail bond office will do that – add in a few death threats, an old (odd) pseudo-friend, the sassy Lula,  Rex the hamster, hilarious Grandma Mazur and the rest of Stephanie’s family, and you  have another laugh-out-loud book.

Enjoy!  And remember, it’s illegal to dog-ear pages  ;-)   And if you’re a book lender, then you may be interested in Note Couture’s book labels – the best way to ensure your books return to your bookshelf.

 

 

Book Labels 1 Book Labels 2

 

    What would we do without books in our lives?

    Saturday, August 24th, 2013

    As any of you who regularly read my posts would know … ”my name is Julie Forbes and I’m a book-aholic!”  :-)

    Sitting-pretty---Card

    Being a ‘hater’ of reality television, there’s very little reason to turn the tv on these days, so I spend my evenings with my face firmly planted in a book.  I’m a like a kid in a candy store when I discover one of my favourite authors is about to release a new book.   To me, the characters are like long distance friends who I welcome back into my life,  and reading each new story is akin to finding out what’s been going on in their world recently.  I ‘live’ with them throughout the book and when I’m finished,  feel sad that I won’t hear from them again for a while.

    I’m often asked who I like to read, and the answer is … just about anyone, but I will confess that I do love a good detective story.

    Born-to-read---Card

    This month I’ve been on a roll with some of my favourite authors – I’ve just started reading the new Faye Kellerman “Predator” which features Los Angeles Detective – Lieutenant Peter Decker and his wife Rina Lazarus (and recently re-reading Blindman’s Bluff and Hangman).  My previous book was Daniel Silva’s “The English Girl” featuring Gabriel Allon and prior to that a new author – Robert Galbraith - “The Cuckoo’s Calling” -  who I only found out today, is one of JK Rowling’s pseudonyms!

    predator

    I’ve been trawling the internet this afternoon and am very excited (yes, I know – I need to get a life!!) to find out that two of my absolute favourite authors are releasing books soon – Louise Penny whose character - Inspector  Armand Gamache - is the type of person who inspires me to be good and kind (he’s the complete opposite to the archetypal police character one generally reads about), and Pat Conroy who is finally putting out another book.   I have to say, his books are the most beautifullycrafted I have come across – his words create amazing pictures in my mind - and I have read many of his books several times – The Prince of Tides. Beach Music and South of Broad to name a few.

    prince of tides

    Who else do I love – let me introduce you to some more of my ‘friends’ … Jonathan Kellerman (husband to the aforementioned Faye Kellerman – what a talented team) with his forensic psychologist Alex Delaware series.  Alex - along with his girlfriend Robin Castagna – maker of fine stringed instruments; their cutie French Bulldog Blanche, and LA Detective Milo Sturgis – can always be guaranteed to get involved in something ‘interesting’!   Donna Leon - whose ’leading man’ Commissario Guido Brunetti – can take me through the city of Venice as he solves yet another mystery.   I also love Michael Connolly’s Heironymus (Harry) Bosch character, and for a bit of sex appeal, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher will always put a smile on my face (unlike the casting of Tom Cruise as the film character – what a disgrace!)  And not to forget Jeffery Deaver with the incredibly clever Lincoln Rhyme and his talented side kick Amelia Sachs.

    In need a bit of light humour – you can’t go past Janet Evanovich.  Want a good ‘chick-lit’ book – Cathy Kelly or Sheila O’Flanagan.  After something with a touch of the supernatural – Tara Moss’ Pandora English series of books is great, I’ve just discovered a new author – Jodi Taylor (Just One Damned Thing After Another) who is fabulous and so is Adina West’s ‘Dark Child’ series. This story originally came out in a series of short novellas - fortunately you can now buy the complete’ book’ as an omnibus.  As an interesting aside, I emailed Adina to (a) how much I enjoyed her books, and (b) to mention, that as a voracious, I was frustrated at having to wait a month for each new book to come out.  As the five books made up the complete story, it was like reading a couple of chapters and then having to wait a month for the next chapters.  I was very impressed to receive a personal email from Adina within 24 hours – and will be (as they say in the classics) waiting with anticipation for her next book.

    dark Child

    There are hundreds of authors that I haven’t mentioned – quickly looking through my bookshelves, iBooks and Kindle the following names jump out at me due to the quantity of books I have by each of them - Zoe Sharp with her Charlie Fox character; Kathleen Tessary (3 of whose books I reviewed recently), Barbara O’Neal, Deborah Harkness, Jo Bannister, Alafair Burke, Linwood Barclay (always a fabulous twist in his books … plus he’s just released a new book this week), Roisin Meaney, Jennifer Crusie, John Lescroart, Ian Rankin, Josie Brown (and her hilarious series “The Housewife Assasin”), Kate Morton,  Jennifer Weiner, Patricia Cornwell, Veronica Henry, Dennis Lehane, Marian Keyes, Susan Duncan (the exquisite Salvation Creek books), Stephanie Bond, Barbara Samuel, Joseph Kanon, Harlen Coben, Sue Grafton and Barry Eisler - I could go on forever, but if you’re looking for someone new to read, you can’t go wrong with anything by these authors.

    Carrie-the-bookworm---Card

    So it’s time for me to head off and put my feet up, get a cat on my lap (actually it’s a cold afternoon, I may need two cats), pour a cup of tea, grab a tim tam and get stuck back into my current ‘read’.  I hope you get time to meet some of my friends and spend some time with them.  And don’t forget to use a book mark – no dog ears please!  :-)

      Are you looking for a “good read”?

      Friday, June 28th, 2013

      It’s been a while since I’ve written about any of the books I’ve been reading – probably because none of them have been mind-blowingly good.  Most are what I facetiously call ‘everyday dross’ – light reads, good for filling time, and you don’t really need to think about them.

      I recently discovered a new author – always exciting for a bookaholic like me,  because if you enjoy their book, there’s often more waiting to be read – and so it was with Kathleen Tessaro.  The first book of hers I read was ‘The Perfume Collector’ – the story of Grace Monroe – a 1950s newly wed who receives an unexpected inheritance from a complete stranger – Madame Eva d’Orsay.  Covering three decades, from 1920s New York, to Paris, Monte Carlo and London, Grace discovers that Madam d’Orsay inspired some of Paris’s greatest perfumers, and uncovers the reasons for her mysterious inheritance.

      perfume Collector

      I absolutely loved ‘The Perfume Collector’, so went on to read ‘Elegance’.  Louise Canova is unhappy with her looks, her life and her empty marriage.  She find assistance in the form of a book in a secondhand bookstore – ‘Elegance’ – by the formidable french fashion expert Madame Dariaux, which provides an A-Z manual of essential advice which promises to transform her into a woman of poise and grace.  However elegance, like everything, has its price.

      elegance

      Last night I finished a third Tessaro novel – my favourite of all (so far) – “The Debutante”.  Gifted artist Cate Albion has returned to London to escape her recent past.  Whilst working for her aunt’s auction house, she is sent to Devon to value the contents of Endsleigh House – the once gracious, but now crumbling estate of a former socialite.  Hidden in a locked room, at the back of a dusty bookshelf, she finds an old shoe box which contains a selection of items – a beautiful pair of 1930s dancing shoes, a diamond broach, a photo of a sailor, a dance card and a pearl and emerald Tiffany’s bracelet.   Cate sets out to solve the mystery of the box and in doing so, becomes immersed in the story of its owner – Diana (Baby) Blythe, one of history’s most famous debutantes.    Clues reveal that Diana’s life was one of destructive, addictive love, and Cate finds herself being drawn deeper into Baby’s tragic life story.

      the debutante

      I finished this book last night, and after I turned my light out, my mind was still going over the final twists and turns.  When I woke this morning, I had to re-read the final chapters to make sure that I fully understood the ending.  I truly adored this book, and am still thinking about the storyline this afternoon – not something that happens too often these days.

      So if you’re looking for a good read – I can highly recommend any of these books.  And best of all,   there are still two more books I have yet to read – The Flirt and Innocence … can’t wait.

      (Cover images courtesy of amazon.com, so please ignore the ‘Look inside’ corner tag.)

        Three more fabulous books to read!

        Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

        I have been crunching my way through (literally) hundreds of books since I last gave you the run down on some brilliant novels I’d read.   (I have been rather lax about including all my reading matter in the ‘I’m reading’ section of this blog … sorry!)

        So I figured it was about time I provided a few more recommendations; and was pleasantly surprised to realise while writing this, that they are ALL Australian authors – fabulous.

        The first book I want to tell you about is The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

        ′Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine.′

        So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she wakes up in a park in London surrounded by dead bodies, all of whom are wearing latex gloves. With no memory of who she is or how she got there, the only way she can discover her identity and escape those who want to destroy her is by following the instructions in a series of letters left behind by her former self.

        Myfanwy (“rhymes with Tiffany”) learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in the Checquy, a secret government agency that protects the world against supernatural threats while keeping the ‘common people’ in the dark. In her mission to save herself and unmask a traitor, she must learn to harness her own rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability, and prevent a conspiracy more vast than she could ever have predicted.

        When I started reading The Rook, my initial thoughts were … What the ???? – but I got into the story quickly – it’s an incredibly addictive read, and I really enjoyed this inventive and quirky book which is the debut novel for Daniel O’Malley.

        The second is Cooking the Books by Kerry Greenwood

        This is the 6th book in the Corinna Chapman series of mysteries.  Corinna is a plus-size baker who runs ‘Heavenly Delights’, she lives in, and runs the bakery from ‘Insula’ a beautiful old Roman-style apartment building in the city centre in Melbourne.  Along with her luscious partner Daniel, her apprentice baker Jason, Kylis & Goss – part time actresses who are also shop assistants at Heavenly Delights, and her black and white ‘gentleman’ tabby Horatio (oh, and don’t forget the ‘Mice Police’ who keep the bakery rodent free!), there is an eclectic set of residents in Insula, all of whom contribute  to each story.

        In Cooking the Books, Corinna is meant to be having a break during the Christmas holidays.  Earthly Delights is closed, Jason has gone to Queensland to learn to surf, Kylie and Goss are auditioning for a soapie, so it should be easy for her to sit down and put her feet up, but … she’s bored.  Scenting a whiff of danger, Corinna allows herself to be blackmailed by a catering friend to do the baking for the set of a new soap opera called ‘Kiss the Bride’ – the soapie in which Kylie and Goss have parts.

        Each new Corinna Chapman mystery feels like an old friend – they’re amusing, well written books with a slight eccentric twist.  As a Melburnian it’s brilliant to read about places I know and visit and it’s nice to read about characters who are (in the main) extremely likeable and without nasty traits.  (Plus the food always sounds so yummy!)

        The 5 earlier books in this series (in order of first to last are:  Eathly Delights, Heavenly Pleasures, Devil’s Food, Trick or Treat, Forbidden Fruit, and then, of course, Cooking the Books. 

        The third book is The Festival by the Sea by June Loves.

        This book continues on in the life of Gina Lauren who we met in The Shelly Beach Writers Group.  In this first book Gina – a just-turned-50 corporate high flyer is counting her losses after being dumped by her husband for his PA;  her company has gone ‘belly-up’, and her nearly published novel cancelled.  However a chance meeting brings about a sea change – a job as a house/dog sitter – hmmm – actually that would be a very basic cottage in windy Shelley Beach!   It initially seems the perfect opportunity to regroup (and maybe minimise her little ‘problem’ with the vino), however she hasn’t counted on getting involved with the locals.  It’s a story of re-invention, and probably a good idea to read this book first as it gives you a better understanding of the characters (and why only read one great book, when you can read two!)

        In The Festival by the Sea, Gina has her life back in control and she’s just had the offer of a brilliant job back in Sydney, but before she can take that fresh start she finds herself as a last minute fill in as director of the chaotic Shelly Beach Writers Festival.  Gina negotiates her way through celebrity-author hissy fits, champagne galas, and a daily to do list which would have most mere mortals quaking in their espadrilles.  The festival is a roaring success, but does she really want to leave Shelley Beach?

        A funny, warm, feel-good read – highly recommended to lighten your day inbetween grisly murder novels.

        OK – so time to grab a cuppa and a tim tam, switch the mobile to silent, pull the ottoman out, put your feet up, and get reading  …. enjoy!

          Three fabulous books to read

          Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

          As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, I’m a massive reader – I ’inhale’ books – I read when everyone else is watching television, or asleep, and average 3-4 books a week (yes, it’s an expensive hobby).  I love my iPad and being able to download books onto that (it now means I will be able to pack some clothes when I go on holidays, instead of  just books), but I also love to purchase ‘real’ books.  Today I thought I’d tell you about three of the best books I’ve read – two this week, and one which I read more than two years ago, but still think about (now that’s saying something!)

          indelible Ink

          Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor is about Marie King – a 59 year old divorcee from Mosman, she has spent most of her life as the wife of a successful man, and mother.  Her three children are now grown up (and they have their own problems).  Following the divorce, Marie is suffering an identity crisis, not to mention a cash crisis, which will mean she has to sell the family home (which has Sydney Harbour views) and lose her much loved garden.  After one-too-many-glasses-of-wine at lunch, she gets a tattoo, and loves it – finds the experience liberating and soon returns to have more added.  As time goes by, she builds a friendship with the very talented tattoo artist – Rhys – who introduces her to a different side of Sydney.   Add in the ‘c’ word (cancer), family friction as the auction of the house looms, and her friends reactions to her tattoo(s) and changing lifestyle … well let’s just say  it’s an interesting read.  Confronting in places, definitely thought provoking, unsettling, and very perceptive.   (And yes - this is the book I still think about –  2 years down the track.)

          The Mamamia bookclub also reviewed this book (and no, not all reviews were as positive as mine) – so click here if you’d like to see what they have to say about it.

          Briny-Cafe

          The Briny Cafe by Susan Duncan.  I LOVED this book – for me it was all about community, friendship and truly genuine people – people who help each other - and how one wrong person added into the mix in a small community can cause havoc!  Ettie Brookbank is the lynchpin of Cook’s Basin – an idyllic cluster of bays which are only accessible by boat.  She’s had a difficult life, but the Karma train finally arrives - in the best possible way – and she ends up with the fantastic opportunity of owning the Briny Cafe – currently rundown but with amazing potential.   If I had to compare Susan’s writing-style with another author I would say the feel of this book is quite similar to those written by Liz Byrski.

           black-heels

          Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – a love story by Ree Drummond.   What do you get when a big city girl falls in love with a cowboy!  Ree returns from life in LA, to the small town she was bought up in, for a quick break on her way to the big smoke – Chicago.  She loves nights out, getting dressed up, sushi, good food and wine.  Trouble is, she’s falling for a real country cowboy – a man who loves his land, his animals, quiet nights on the verandah watching the stars.  And best of all – this is a true story!  Lots of obstacles, lots of laughs and even a couple of OMG moments  :-)    And now, 14 years down the track, Ree has put it all down on paper.  And if you want to check out The Cowboy (as he’s called throughout the book) when you’ve finished (and trust me – you will), then you can go to Ree’s website:  www.ThePioneerWoman.com   You’ve come a long way Ree – go girl!

          If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear your comments – and please feel free to disagree with any of my coments  :-)