Monday, December 19, 2011

Prepare to be Slapped...

The Slap
By Christos Tsiolkas
ISBN: 9781848877993
Allen and Unwin
4 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Audience recommendation: Not for the faint-hearted. This is an intense, emotive read dealing with subject matter that forces you to acknowledge that humans are not so perfect or nice all the time! 

I chose The Slap as my bookclub’s book and it certainly was a fantastic book to discuss. As it so happened, my colleague and I read it around the same time, so each lunch hour I was eagerly reading it and then we would discuss the story as it unfolded. And this was a story that certainly got us talking. One of my concerns in writing this review was that I had so much to talk about - I have tried to streamline my thinking and discuss the points that impressed or disappointed me the most.

Now...let’s see...disappointed me, um, well, thinking, thinking...nope can’t actually come up with anything too disappointing (except for a few too many masturbation scenes)!

I had to agree with my colleague – it seems that readers either love it or hate it. I definitely sit on the ‘love it’ side of the fence and can understand why it has won numerous awards and caused so many people to form some pretty strong opinions about it.

Most people who don’t like the story say that they don’t like the characters, thinking they are just a bunch of rude, beer-swigging, swearing, sex-crazed ‘Australians’. And sure, the characters aren't likeable, and yes the story depicts Australians in an unflattering light. But I actually think that these types of characters could be anyone from anywhere.

I actually appreciated the fact that the characters weren’t likeable because each character is complex, realistic and dimensional. They are not sugar coated, sickly sweet and totally unbelievable.  I didn’t feel it necessary to ‘like’ the characters, I wanted to be challenged by them and drawn to read about them – and this I most certainly was.

The story is simple – friends are gathered at a BBQ and a little boy is slapped, but not by his parents. How the parents, friends and man who slapped the child react and deal with this is the obvious focus of the plot but because each chapter is told from a particular character’s point of view (so 8 characters), the reader gets to really delve into the thoughts and issues that plague these characters.

I was at times a bit overwhelmed by the extreme level of some character’s thoughts and actions and as I mentioned earlier, I didn’t ‘like’ any of them. To me they were characters that needed a bit of a slap themselves. However, they all had problems as a result of some deeper issue, they were all just trying to muddle through life.

I felt sorry for some, I really hated one, I was annoyed by them but it was these emotions that confirm the fact that Christo Tsiolkas is a very clever writer. Tsiolkas demonstrates that people have reasons for doing things - not necessarily excuses for their wrongs - but there are always two sides to any story. He also forces the reader to accept that humans are crazy, silly, stupid, pathetic, selfish and spiteful at times – we are far from perfect. Tsiolkas also successfully creates some very interesting relationships between the characters, which to me seemed so realistic and intricate.
The Slap is a book that pushes the reader past some emotional boundaries while studying many aspects of humans, their relationships and society. It is not a ‘nice’ read or one that I would recommend taking on your Christmas holiday – but if you are eager to be challenged and are prepared for the intensity of it – this is a brilliant read, one of the best stories I have read in a while.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New reviewer for the WLC team!!!

I am very excited and proud to be chosen as a reviewer for the WoMen's Literary Cafe! I will be given the privileged of reviewing various books written by some outstanding authors and hopefully help bring readers and authors togethers. Check out this fantastic opportunity at WoMen's Literary Cafe

Friday, December 2, 2011

Looking for something rare...

For my fellow booklovers who are looking for a special rare or second hand book...head to this fantastic online bookstore!
Reading Habit Second Hand Books Online Bookstore
Here you will find over 40,000 fiction and non-fiction titles that include collectible, antiquarian and rare books, for really great prices!
I have also joined their community so that I always know what little gems they have on offer. 
It is a great shop and a wonderful community - perfect for all us lovers of all things 'books' (no matter how old or rare they may be, we love them all!)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fellow booklovers!

Check out the:
 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards Widget: Favorite Book of 2011
Have fun casting your vote for all your favourite titles this year.
It will be very interesting to see the winners, so stay tunned.
Goodreads is really the place to be to talk about all things books. 

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Siren's Sting

The Siren’s Sting
By Miranda Darling
ISBN: 9781741759204
Allen and Unwin (uncorrected proof copy – Thanks A&U, really appreciate the review copy!!)
3 out of 5 Stars
Audience recommendation: Lovers of thrilling tales with a strong female lead character and set in exotic places. Nice easy ‘holiday’ read!

If you are looking for a great book to take with you on a holiday, and enjoy a good thriller with a strong female lead character – this is the one for you!

I should have held off on reading this book and taken it with me on my journey through Europe (heading off soon – YIP YAH). It is a good read while sitting in a boring airport or on a long flight because your imagination certainly gets to go on a fantastic trip around the world!

“Stevie Duveen exploded onto the pages of Miranda Darling’s thrilling debut novel
The Troika Dolls, taking on the Russian mafia and putting herself in terrible jeopardy in the process. Now Stevie is back at her discreet and dangerous best as the minder of the world’s greatest – and most temperamental - opera star and the terrified wife of a shipping tycoon whose son has been kidnapped.

The action swings from Sardinia in summer to diva season in Venice and to the billionaires’ playgrounds of Morocco and the Mediterranean as Somali pirates target and stalk cruising mega-yachts and their impossibly rich and glamourous passengers. With her mentor and boss David Rice seriously ill and his business in peril, Stevie must find who is behind the pirate attacks and why they will stop at nothing to bring down all she holds dear. As she poses as just another party girl on the lookout for a loaded husband, Stevie plays a deadly double game to detect – and destroy – the very heart of evil.”


This book has several positives - firstly, the exotic destinations that the main character, Stevie Duveen, gets to go to are beautifully brought to life thanks to the author’s skill at travel writing.

Secondly, I am always a fan of a tale where the female character is strong, independent, intelligent and can kick butt if need be!

And thirdly, there is nothing like a good old spy thriller novel to take your imagination away from the norm of reality!

Mind you, I must admit that I was a little more interested in Darling’s descriptions of the exotic locations the story is set – rather than care too much about who was behind the pirate attacks. I think that is simply due to my love of travel and my eagerness to learn about other countries, rather than her writing. I have not read Darling’s first novel
The Troika Dolls, so I did not fully understand some of the mentions of Stevie’s tales in Russia, however it didn’t hinder the overall enjoyment of this novel and it can be read as a stand alone book.

Overall I did enjoy the story of Stevie Duveen and her jaunts around Morocco, the Mediterranean and Venice while she tries to uncover who is behind pirate attacks on the high seas. I like how Darling has created a female character that is petite, loveable and independent  - she is not a ‘spy’ but a risk assessor who just manages to go above and beyond her role because she is a decent and caring person.

The Siren’s Sting was a great way to spend my lunch breaks at work! Throw into the tale some relationship highs and lows, a behind-the-scenes look at how the exceedingly wealthy live, and some characters that would make your blood boil - and you have an entertaining, adventurous read that stars a well-developed and dimensional character that, as I agree with others, 'is the female James Bond'!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Passage

The Passage
By Justin Cronin
ISBN: 9780752883304
Orion Books Ltd
3 out of 5 STARS
Audience recommendation: Lovers of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic thrillers

I finally finished the massive book that is The Passage by Justin Cronin – and what a mammoth and mostly at times rewarding read.

For those who have not heard about this tale – check out this link from Goodreads The Passage reviews .

I must admit that when I first saw this novel I was a little unsure as to whether I would tackle it. The blurb on the back was enticing and I am a fan of the good-old vampire tale (especially one that is a little different from the vampire norm) but the 963 pages did seem a little overwhelming.

So as per usual, I jumped onto the Goodreads website and read through some of the reviews - finally deciding to jump right in and give it a go. And...I am glad I did.

Sure, I won’t rave about this book to others but there are aspects about it that I really did enjoy. It is the perfect read for those who want to see the world under the strain of a ‘virus’ and imagine how humans would cope with this and life in a post-apocalyptic world. It is a basic plot that has been well used, but I think the way Cronin has created this particular thrilling ‘virus tale’ is at times original and should be commended.

On reading the reviews I found that many people thought the 1st third or so of the book was great and the last two thirds really slowed down and became more difficult to read. However, what I found was that the beginning was a little bit too confusing and disjointed. I didn’t actually really begin to grasp the tale, care for the characters, or “want” to read about them until the third story - ‘The Last City’’.

I found the set up of the story a bit frustrating. Readers are introduced to a character, grow to understand that character a little bit more and want to know more but then the story quickly changed to another character. The character's tales seemed to switch back and forth between them all a little bit too abruptly. So many characters to learn about, so many names to remember – on reflection, I think I got a bit confused as to who was what and who did what and what was the aim of all the characters! And at times I couldn’t clearly understand what was going on. This abruptness did help set up the pace of the story however, and it did accentuate the emotions of the character's tensions and anxieties. It successfully made me yearn to know what the hell was going on. I think I was just so eager to find out what was going to happen that when the change in the tale occurred, I was so relieved to finally know the result of it all. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the changes to the world and how everything eventuated. For some reason I cared much more about these characters and their plights.

This story is imaginative, adventurous, thrilling, mystical, horrific, certainly has a LOT going on and all of these elements do work in its favour most of the time. If you are in two minds about giving it a go, I say just jump on in...if you like apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic tales you are in for a real treat –
The Passage is all this with an interesting, original twist.

I also felt the ending was extremely clever, it subtly tells readers there is more to come and makes them eagerly await it, nicely done Cronin! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The White Queen

The White Queen
By Philippa Gregory
ISBN: 9781847394644
Simon and Schuster
4 our of 5 STARS
Audience recommendation: Lovers of historical fiction

Thank god for family trees! In reading The White Queen by Philippa Gregory I had to keep referring back to the York, Lancaster and Tudor family tree – I was getting very confused with all the Elizabeths, Edwards, Richards and Henrys! However, once I got my head around the family, their connections and (thanks to further internet research) the wars fought between them – reading this book was like an entertaining history lesson.

I am a fan of Gregory’s “Tudor” tales (The Other Boleyn Girl etc.) and so I was eager to read this, her latest series on the women behind the ‘War of the Roses’ - the war between the House of Lancaster and York and essentially the events that lead up to the creation of the notorious Tudor family.

I appreciate how her stories focus on the women of the time and Gregory has never failed in creating extremely believable ‘faces’ for these well-known women of history. However, in the case of this story the main character is not so well know, (well not to me anyway) – and I think Gregory works her usual charm in the telling of the White Queen’s ‘tale’.

Elizabeth Woodville was the first commoner to marry a king, a heavily debated affair not only because she was a commoner but also because they married for love – imagine that! She married the King of England and became the Queen during a tumultuous period when England didn’t really know who their rightful king should be. The York family believed they should reign supreme whereas their cousins the Lancasters felt their place should be on the throne.

But this true tale also has a little “Romeo and Juliet” magic...Elizabeth was a Lancaster and the king she married was Edward IV of York!

What follows is a story that captures Elizabeth as she ‘rises to the demands of her position, fighting tenaciously for her family’s survival. Most of all she must defend her two sons, who become the central figures in a mystery that confounded historian for centuries: the missing Princes in the Tower.’

Gregory has of course blurred fact with fiction but her fiction is also based on historical accounts. She has expertly developed a lead character that many historians had dismissed yet readers will love. Gregory also gives her lead a lot of depth and again gifts the reader with more information about how Elizabeth descended from a family who claimed to be related to the goddess Melusina!

Elizabeth Woodville is a central and integral character in a history-making era. And it is her child, Elizabeth (yes, like I said it gets confusing with all these similar names) who marries Henry V11 (I know, another Henry – I did warn you) and together have Henry V111. Therefore, Elizabeth the White Queen is the great-grandmother of Elizabeth 1!

This is the perfect book for those who are keen to learn more about the women during this period of time. It is well-written, informative, descriptive and leading the way is a very impressive heroine that seems to spring from the page and immerse you easily into her world.

I am really looking forward to reading Gregory’s other book in this series that focuses on the heiress to the red rose of Lancaster – The Red Queen - because of course there are always two sides to any good story. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Raising

The Raising
Laura Kasischke
Release date: 1/08/11
Allen and Unwin
4 out of 5 STARS
Audience recommendation: Lovers of mystery and thrillers

Firstly, I am so glad there are no ‘sororities’ in Australian universities – well there certainly weren’t any of these ‘clubs’ when I studied.
Secondly, be will not want to put this book down. So give yourself at least a day or two to hide yourself away and completely immerse yourself in this novel.
Lastly, be prepared... to have the urge to read through the book again when you have finished!

When a beautiful, blonde, straight A sorority American 'girl next door' ends up dead after a car accident that shows no sign of blood or supposed 'carnage that would lead to death' - many questions are asked and the university students and teachers lives are put in turmoil. What happened to her? Did her boyfriend cause the accident? Why was there no blood or damage? Why are students apparently still seeing her around campus? What are her mourning sorority sisters trying to cover up?

‘The Raising’ by Laura Kasischke stirs up a plethora of emotions whilst reading. Readers will feel anything from curiosity, disgust, bewilderment and shock and not a lot of ‘happiness’, but believe me this works in the book’s favour! This is a fantastically thrilling read that examines the issues of relationships, death and sororities. What interested me most was the subject of sororities and their secret pacts and ceremonies. The fact that sometimes these secrets get out of control and really hurt the students that seem to allow their lives to be so defined by their ‘codes’ - amazed me. But there is even more depth to this tale and that is due to an exceptional cast of characters – they are all lifelike, dimensional and make you either loath them or love them and definitely question them and their motives.

At first it is a little hard to get use to the fact that Kasischke intertwines the sequence of plots, so you are continuously moving from past to present. Once you get the ‘feel’ of this you can appreciate the book more and totally get sucked into it. The conclusion is satisfying but will give you the desire to read the book again allowing you to pick up on any clues as to how the events unfolded (once you know the reasons for what actually did occur). This is not an uplifting book – it is about death and our obsession with it so it is somewhat sad, frustrating and depressive - but it is most definitely entertaining and educational in a way.

But as I initially mentioned, be warned, you will not want to put this book down until the very end. 

This was the perfect read for my week long holiday in Bali - all I had to do was relax and read, and believe me that was what I did. I totally recommend it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Woman He Loved Before

The Woman He Loved Before
By Dorothy Koomson
Release = April 2011
ISBN 9780751543506

Be warned, the prologue will grab your attention and hold on tight – you will want to read on…and on…and on…

Libby is a woman who seems to have it all – a loving husband, Jack, a beautiful home, and a job she genuinely enjoys. However, this seemingly perfect world is made a little difficult by the fact that Jack’s first wife was killed in an ‘accident’ that has lingering ‘how did it happen’ questions - particularly being asked by the police. And when another ‘accident’ occurs, the reader is left wondering…what did happen just after it and why is Jack feeling so guilty?

Each chapter is told from the perspective of either Libby or Jack, which works extremely well because you become drawn into both of their stories and the conflict they have with their retrospective thoughts and with each other. When finally revealed, the story of Jack’s ex wife is equally as enthralling and the twist at the end will blow you away!

The Women He Loved Before gifts the reader with life-like characters and heart-wrenching plights and relationship quandaries. Koomson has written a tale that will have you guessing and wondering as to the ‘mystery’ right until the end.

This tale is emotive, engaging, thrilling, and enigmatic, guaranteed to keep you reading desperately from page to page.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Lake of Dreams

The Lake of Dreams
Kim Edwards
ISBN: 9780670920297
Penguin Books
Published 04/01/2011

I really enjoyed Kim Edward’s first novel – The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – and as with so many second novels I did have high expectations for her latest title – The Lake of Dreams. Unfortunately, some authors have missed the mark with their second. But I thought, with such a lovely title, cover and a storyline that piqued my interest – I was eager to give this story a go and well...I was pleasantly surprise.

The Lake of Dreams is a beautifully written, thought-provoking, lusciously described, emotive, family saga. But not in the sense of ‘over the top, ridiculously dramatic and totally unbelievable type “saga”  - more realistic, subtle mystery and gripping-type saga.

Lucy Jarrett is a wonderer – a young woman free to travel and embrace the world and all it has to offer. Moving from job to job and place to place with her boyfriend, she finds comfort in freedom...well that is until she is unemployed and starts to question her lifestyle choice. When her mother is injured in a car accident, she decides to head back home, to the Lake of Dreams, hoping to gain a new sense of direction and purpose. But what she finds in the once tranquil village is turmoil and uncertain futures for her family. Add to this her own unsettling issues with her father’s unresolved death, her mother’s new romance, the news that her brother is working for their Uncle who cheated their father out of his share of the family business, and a re-acquaintance with her first love - you would think that was enough ‘plot’ for a novel. But there is more... Lucy discovers a collection of objects that reveal a hidden family history – papers dating between 1913 and 1925 link her to a family member who plays an important part in the suffragette movement. This history has a profound meaning for Lucy and leads her on a quest to find out her lineage and maybe an answer to her own past haunts.

Edward’s writing is eloquent and charming. Combined with a suspenseful and captivating plot with fleshed out characters – for me, it is a winner.
I was easily drawn into Lucy and her family’s plights and personal struggles, I was genuinely eager to find out how each of them got to where they are and how they move forward given the unravelled mystery of their past. Lucy’s relationship with her boyfriend and ex-boyfriend is well-rounded, believable and understandable. Even her relationship with her mother and brother seems real and true to each of their characterisations.

I would recommend this book to lovers of the elegance of language, those eager for a good family mystery, and those who wish to step head first into a novel and become totally involved in the lives of an intriguing family set within the gloriously described Lake of Dreams.

P.S. There is a family tree at the back of the book – I had made my own early on in my reading of it, only to discover half way through that there was one already there. But don’t worry, it isn’t because there are loads of characters and it all gets a bit ridiculous, it is handy because there are a few ‘Josephs’!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I am Number 4

I am Number 4
Pittacus Lore
ISBN: 9780143205135
Penguin Books
Published 30/08/2010

Action, Adventure and Aliens...young adult readers are guaranteed to immerse themselves in the world of I am Number Four!

John Smith looks like your average teenager, is trying to fit into a new school, dodge the attention of the resident bully and learn the lingo of love. Add to that pressure the fact that he is a Lorien (an alien) and other aliens (Magodorians) are trying to hunt down the last 9 of their kind after destroying their planet. It also doesn’t help that they are killing them numerically – 1,2 and 3 are dead...and of course John is ‘Number 4’.

I am not surprised that a movie adaptation of this book is due for release this month AND it was in the works before this book was published in 2010.

I am Number Four (the book) is a young adult science fiction novel that screams ‘make me into a movie’. The book calls for loads of special effects, has larger than life characters and a thrilling, adventurous pace and storyline.

The first of a proposed 6-series book deal, the two authors James Frey (yes, he of the controversial A Million Little Pieces) and Jobie Hughes have created a clever, somewhat original take on the ‘alien on earth trying to survive amongst humans’ scenario. The twist, however, is that these aliens are hunted down by other aliens...not humans thus far (humans are blissfully unaware at this stage that Earth is also home to Loriens and Magodorians!).

The novel is written by the so-called Pittacus Lore a Lorien elder ‘entrusted with the story of the Lorien Nine’ and the preface to the novel reads ‘The events in this book are real. Names and places have been changed to protect the Lorien Six, who remain in hiding. Take this as your first warning. Other civilizations do exist. Some of them seek to destroy you.’

With enticing real-event qualities, this tale is sure to suck young adult readers in.

I was eager to read the novel when I first heard about it (before I knew of the movie) because I too was impressed with the mysterious storyline – 9 were alive, 3 are they are after Number 4 and this is his tale. Helps too that I am always happy to relive ‘teenage years’ through young adult books that have thrilling storylines and a dash of science fiction and fantasy. Nice to have a break from Vampires and Witches, Angels and Fairies!

I wanted to know more about this Number 4, the Magodorians and Loriens and why they can only be hunted in numerical order? I was also after an easy, fun, fast-paced, quick read and that is certainly what this book offers. The characters are ‘cool’ and likeable. The teenage issues John deals with ring true and will resonate with teenage readers, and even if the dialogue is a little weak and predictable, you can overlook this because you are swept up quite easily in the storyline.

I look forward to seeing the movie – mind you I am one for action and aliens – but if you are after something more in a book, this might not be your thing.