Reading Rewards - reviews

Why men don't listen and women can't read maps

I first picked up Why men don't listen & women can't read maps : how we're different and what to do about it by Allan and Barbara Pease when it was first published in 1999. I loved it then and it still is relevant 16 years later.

This look at the differences between the way men and women think is a sometimes shocking, always illuminating and frequently hilarious look at where the battle line is drawn between the sexes, why it was drawn and how to cross it. Read this book, and understand - at last! - why men never listen, why women can't read maps and why learning each other's secrets means you may never have to say sorry again.

Many secrets of how the different genders think, act and respond are revealed in this book, written by the acknowledged body language expert Allan Pease and his wife Barbara.  It is insightful, thought-provoking and absolutely hilarious.

Although it goes into depth about how the male and female brains work differently, it does so in an easy-to-understand way and the humour makes it all so easy to take on board.

Whether you read it for the information or for the laugh, you will get plenty out of Why men don't listen & women can't read maps.

~ Michelle

SH*T on my hands : a down and dirty companion to early parenthood

Sh*t on my hands by Bunny Banyai and Madeleine Hamilton.

You know the book will be a good read by the imagery and catchphrase that accompanies it, for example on the back cover it reads, 'Upside of being a parent: PURE LOVE. Downside: SH*T on my hands.'

I found this book in a book shop and knew it was meant for me. Being a first time mum I wanted to get all the facts without the hours upon hours of reading to get them. And of course there's the humour factor....

This brightly coloured book brings a certain quirky humour to your reading experience that gives you that entertained feeling and being educated at the same time! No wonder I was able to retain so many little facts that will no doubt come in handy as the imminent journey of parenthood approaches.

A nice little touch I found helpful was the compilation of these facts and handy tips; the information is collated by month milestones, such as "0-6 months". Even better was that you don't have to read this book from start to finish because it still makes sense even if you pick and choose what month or what chapter title you'd like to read about. That's of course if you do retain ANY information at all because this book will literally bring you into a hysterical laughing fit that may or may not be accompanied by tears.....

I was going to put a quote or two as an example but a laughing fit ensued and I had to put the book down. I couldn't choose because the whole book is brilliant and wonderful that for first, second or third time parents they would still get so much out of it. All the scary aspects suddenly don't seem so scary after all, you can manage this amazing parenthood journey AND cope with all its ups and downs, even with SH*T on your hands.....

~ Laura


If you got a second chance at love,Would you make the same call?
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble- it has been in trouble for some time but Georgie doesn’t know how to fix it. She loves her husband and he her but it seems in the adult world that maybe love isn’t always enough.

Two days before they are supposed to visit family for Christmas Georgie gets pulled away for work, so her husband packs up the kids and leaves without her. Wondering if their marriage is finally over Georgie finds herself capable of communicating with her husband in the past with the help of a little old yellow phone. Can past Neal help Georgie save her marriage or will Georgie learn that her and Neal would have been better off if their marriage had never happened? A tale of love, life and all the problems that come along with it.
So I will admit I considered passing this one by simply based on the fantastical plot line, however as a major fan of Rowell’s other works I decided I would give it ago and I am glad I did. This was a funny, heartfelt contemporary read with only a slightly paranormal aspect. While the idea of being able to phone the past is a bit far-fetched, Rowell manages to make it work; the magical phone simple is and no explanation is given for it past-phoning capabilities, which works because it allows the relationship between Neal and Georgie to really shine. This relationship between these two characters is what really drives this book with dramatic clichés avoided in favour of the realistic challenges of real life relationships. The characters are both likable but frustrating; part of the appeal of Georgie is her imperfections, the blatantly bad choices she makes in her relationship, which help define her character and make her more relatable in the eyes of those of us who have been there done that.
There is also a magic to Rowell’s writing that just engrosses you in her story and characters; so much so that the words simply jump of the page. In this case the emotional journey of these characters is engaging; the exploration of one’s hopes, fears, and dreams from the perspective of an optimistic young adult through to the jaded mature adult allows for a connection to readers of all ages. This is a book about growing up, from young adult to adult, and growing old; and all those pesky problems that we all must face. Landline is a refreshing read that will make you love, cry and reflect. This is one delightfully funny and unforgettable read.

Courtney :)

The Other Side of the World

Evocative and heartbreaking, The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop kept us spellbound.

It’s a beautifully told story of motherhood, marriage, creativity, identity, and nostalgia for place. Its vivid and gorgeous descriptions transported us from the wintry fields of Cambridge, to the intense light of a Perth summer and to the mud, dust and chaos of 1960s India.

English-born Charlotte is struggling with motherhood and trying to find time for her painting. Her Indian-born, poetry-professor husband wants things to be as they were and dreads the thought of another harsh English winter. As the distance between Charlotte and Henry grows, he grasps at the promise offered by a brochure proclaiming ‘Australia brings out the best in you’. Charlotte doesn’t want to leave her familiar home, but is too exhausted to fight, and gives in.

But their new life is not the answer either was hoping for, as Henry is increasingly isolated among his parochial university colleagues and Charlotte finds herself lost and anchorless in the Perth suburbs. What will she sacrifice to regain her feeling of ‘home’?

Stephanie Bishop is a rising literary star, with critics singing her praises. In 2006 she was recognised as one of The Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian novelists, and Helen Garner has described her as ‘a striking new voice, calm and fresh.’

Geordie Williamson, The Australian’s Chief Literary Critic, says ‘the story of Charlotte and Henry – the melancholy beauty of its prose and the sharpness of its insights into nostalgia and belonging – has stayed with me for weeks now.’

With its deep themes and emotionally charged ending, The Other Side of the World is a book to curl up and spend time with, and book clubs and reading groups will love it.

~ From the team at Better Reading

The Last Precinct

The Last Precinct  by Patricia Cornwell

Thwarting an attack by a suspected serial killer puts Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta in the harsh glare of the spotlight. As her personal and professional lives come under suspicion, she discovers that the so-called Werewolf murders may have extended to New York City and into the darkest corners of her past. A formidable prosecutor, a female assistant district attorney from New York, is brought into the case, and Scarpetta must struggle to make what she knows to be the truth prevail against mounting and unnerving evidence to the contrary. Tested in every way, she turns inward to ask, where do you go when there is nowhere left?

Sometimes you can be lucky to stumble across a book that you didn’t know was part of a series, and it stands alone as a good read.  This unfortunately was not the case - this is book 11 in the Kay Scarpetta series.  It is very much a link in the series with frequent and unexplained references to past storylines and characters and if you haven’t read them, you have no idea of what it is all about.  

That aside, the Scarpetta series is gritty crime with a twist of intelligence and although at times brutal and confronting, the stories are put together well.  

We have this title in all formats – I chose the audio and once again, narrator Lorelei King delivers an expert job with the many accents, particularly the male New York/Italian Detective, Marino.  Her voice portrait has him pictured as real and large as life right before your very eyes! 


Certain admissions

Certain admissions : a beach, a body & a lifetime of secrets by Gideon Haigh

In December 1949 the dead body of 22 year old typist Beth Williams was found on Albert Park beach. A short time afterwards police arrested the suave and handsome John Bryan Kerr, a commercial radio star and son of the establishment, for her murder. Kerr steadfastly denied the charge, despite a “confession” he claimed was fabricated by the police. After three dramatic trials attended by enormous crowds, Kerr, spared the death sentence by the State Governor’s clemency, was incarcerated in Pentridge Prison, where he spent the next 10 years. After his release he changed his name and fabricated a false history to disguise his past. Then, shortly after his death, another man confessed to the murder, but the truth of that confession too was just as doubtful.

Well known journalist Gideon Haigh does a wonderful job of recreating the restrictive social mores of Melbourne in the 1950s and 60s, planting doubt and uncertainty about who was lying and who was telling the truth – if indeed any of the main players were.

Even if you don’t usually enjoy true crime stories (like me), you will be enthralled by this tale of “Who really did it”?

~ Teresa Wight

A commonplace killing

Commonplace Killing by Siân Busby.

From the back cover:
London, July 1946. A woman’s body is found in a disused bomb site off the Holloway Road. She is identified as Lillian Frobisher, “a respectable wife and mother” who lived with her family nearby. The police assume that Lillian must have been the victim of a sexual assault; but when the autopsy finds no evidence of rape, they turn their attention to her private life… How did she come to be in the bomb site, a well-known lovers’ haunt? Why was her husband seemingly unaware that she’d failed to come home on the night she was killed? In this deeply evocative crime drama, Sian Busby strips away the veneer of stoicism and respectability in post-war Britain to reveal a society riven with disillusionment and loss. 

This story is told through the eyes of two main characters, Lillian Frobisher, and Divisional Detective Inspector Jim Cooper. Lillian is a desperate housewife who is missing something in her life, despite the fact that her husband Walter returned home safely from the war and that she has a loving son who is growing into a responsible young man. Lillian is represented as a spirited and attractive woman who craved independence and ultimately found trouble.

DDI Cooper is a Great War veteran who is a shadow of the man he once was. He feels irrational guilt for not participating in the recent war, he is broken-hearted and lonely after a love affair ended with his mistress, but yet despite his personal demons, he is determined to successfully solve his first murder investigation. A murder which is considered: “a commonplace killing”.

Busby delves into the minds, hearts and times of post-war England. The story is intriguing, and would be of interest to those who like historical mysteries.

This was Sian Busby’s second and final novel. Sadly she passed away while writing this story and never saw it published. Her husband, BBC Business Editor, Robert Peston, transcribed the book’s final few chapters from a notebook he found after her death. It was published shortly thereafter.


The Bone Season

Calling the Harry Potter Generation; did you grow up reading the Potter books, eagerly anticipating the next book release? Are you looking for something to fill the void and define your adulthood as Harry define your childhood? Then The Bone Season  by Samantha Shannon is the series for you.
Welcome to Scion
No place safer
In the year 2059, Paige Mahoney a nineteen year old, lives in a society where most of the world’s population is under the control of the security force known as Scion. With the unnatural ability of clairvoyance spread among the population and declared a crime, Paige, a rare kind of clairvoyant known as a dreamwalker someone who can freely move in and out of people’s mind, must live and work in the criminal underworld simply to survive.
Paige’s world changes one rainy night when she is captured and sent to die within the confines of a 200 year old prison in Oxford. Under the watchful eye of a mysterious new race known as the Rephaite, who value clairvoyance as a commodity, Paige will have to fight for her freedom while surviving the harshest conditions. Sinister plans are in place and it is more than just Paige’s life on the line. In the place where she is meant to die Paige will discover extraordinary things that will change not only her life but the world as she knows it. The question is Paige strong enough to survive it?
What can I say about this book other than it was Phenomenal! A truly fantastic and original piece of writing that hooked me from page one right through to page 452. The imagination and world building on the part of Shannon is nothing short of spectacular; the construct of this world is so detailed that maps and glossaries have been included (and are much appreciated) to help ease the reader into life in the Scion. While such a massive amount of detail is disorientating at first the further you read the more you become to appreciate the detail of this magnificently complex narrative.Paige is everything you want in a protagonist; strong, adaptable, and independent. She is a girl who knows her own mind and is often conflicted because her views don’t always line up with the reality she faces. Warden is a mystery who intrigues, the guy you love to hate but can’t. The dynamic between these two characters is really what drives the story and I was relieved that Shannon steered cleared of any romantic clichés when it came to their relationship.In an industry where “this book” is a copy of “that book” Shannon has managed to deliver a completely original and enthralling read. The emotions run high throughout, with so many unexpected plot twists, one cannot help but to become hooked. Incredible. Intense. Mind Blowing. You must pick this one up immediately and be prepared for the read of your life.
The Bone Season e-book
Sequel: The Mime Order

Courtney :)

Invisible Library

I am always curious when I see a title with "library" in it.  Then the blurb for The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, made me curious enough to pick it up and read it.

Irene is a dimension-hopping 'book spy' for the secretive Library. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, they're posted to an alternative London to retrieve a dangerous book. But some will kill to retain it. Stealing a book is standard, if required, but nothing has prepared them for the dangers in store. This world is chaos-infested, so the usual laws of nature have been bent to allow werewolves, fae and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is hiding a few secrets of his own. And when they arrive, the book they seek has already been lifted - by a notorious lady cat-burglar. Plus London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the death to get 'her book'. Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in thieves, murderers, secret societies, the fae and giant mechanical centipedes. Good thing Irene can call on the aid of a deer-stalker wearing detective (who bears more than a passing similarity to a certain fictional sleuth) for assistance. And when things get tough, Irene is more than ready to do whatever it takes. For this assignment could endanger The Library and the nature of reality itself.

Mix a bit of fantasy with intrigue, a murder mystery and a chase and you have the Invisible Library. Although it was a bit slow to start, the varying degrees of relationship between Irene and the other keys players were fascinating and once the action really started, I was hooked.

There is so much happening behind the scenes, with the 'bad guy' not who he seems to be, nor Irene's 'competitor' or her 'intern'. Throw in a stereotypical steadfast detective and you have an interesting mix of characters.

Through it all, Irene represents the profession well by being smart, savvy and persistent to the end.

Although not every part of the many storylines running through this novel was neatly tied up in a bow, it was still a very satisfying read and a wonderful journey to experience.

If you like fantasy, libraries, mysteries, zeppelins or any combination of these, you will really enjoy The Invisible Library.

~ Michelle

Chanel: an intimate life

Chanel: an intimate life by Lisa Chaney

By the end of the First World War, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel had revolutionised women's dress. But dress was the most visible aspect of more profound changes she helped to bring about. During the course of her extraordinary and unconventional journey - from abject poverty to a new kind of glamour - Chanel would help forge the very idea of modern woman. 

Unearthing an astonishing life, this remarkable biography shows how the most influential designer of her century became synonymous with a rebellious and progressive style. Her numerous liaisons, whose most poignant details have eluded all previous biographers, were the stuff of legend. Witty, strange, mesmerizing, Chanel became muse, patron or mistress to some of the century's most celebrated artists, including Stravinsky, Picasso and Dali. Drawing on newly discovered love-letters, police records, and interviews, Lisa Chaney reveals the truth about Chanel's drug habit and lesbian affairs. She also answers definitively the long-running question about Chanel's German lover: was he a spy for the Nazis? 

Highlighting the designer's far-reaching connections with modernism and its artists, this book explores the origins, the creative power, and the secret suffering of this exceptional and often misread woman. Movingly, it paints a deeper and darker picture of Chanel than any so far.

This is an interesting, albeit a slow read. If you don’t know much about the legendary Gabrielle Chanel, aka Coco, you certainly will by the end of it. It will drown you with detail, too much detail in my opinion, which is probably why the book is a bit of a hard slog. [But if something was left out of a biography imagine the complaints!] I think the enjoyment factor of this book will truly be up to the reader and their level of interest.  I borrowed the audio version and Carole Boyd delivers a first class narration - her fluent French, together with the many other accents - English, American and German - are spot on!



Jilted by Rachael Johns

From the cover:  After more than ten years away, Australian soap opera star Ellie Hughes returns to the small town of Hope Junction, determined to fly under the radar while caring for her injured godmother, Matilda. But word spreads fast in the tight-knit community. It isn't long before the people of Hope Junction are gossiping about the real reason for Ellie's visit and why she broke the heart of golden boy Flynn Quartermaine all those years ago. 

Soon Ellie and Flynn are thrown back together, forced to deal with the unresolved emotions between them. Because Ellie is not the only one with secrets. Flynn has his own demons to battle, and Matilda is hiding something from her much-beloved goddaughter. When all is uncovered, can the ill-fated lovers overcome the wounds of their past? Or is Flynn destined to be jilted again?

I am a bit of a late starter in discovering Rachael John's books so am playing catch up! 

Ellie and Flynn are thrown together again through circumstances and people are not happy especially nurse Lauren who has Flynn firmly in her sights. Everyone has secrets that will come out. Rachael's characters are complex at times and she gradually exposes you to their inner feelings and secrets which is pleasing to the reader.

Rachael's latest release The Road to Hope follows on from Jilted. If you are a fan of Rural Romance then Rachael should be at the top of your list.


So, Anyway

So, Anyway by John Cleese

Cleese:  “I know that this book is supposed to be an autobiography, but the fact is that most of you don’t give a tinker’s cuss for me as a human being or feel for the many different forms of suffering that make me so special. No, you are just flipping through my heart-rending life story in the hope of getting a couple of laughs, aren't you?"

To an extent this is true and had Cleese just written about suffering the book would have been insufferable because of the sadness but in other ways the comment does his readers a disservice as I didn't want to read the book for laughs and there aren't many, but to get an understanding of a man who I consider a comic genius and who's work was an influence on my growing up, my love of comedy and appreciation of the absurdities of life.

Cleese writes of his early years in Weston-Super-Mare, one of England's more boring towns, his love for his father and the more troubled relationship with his mother, who even if you discount some of his memories does seem to be best described as self-absorbed. He goes through his school and university years and the growing influence of comedy in his life to his decision right at the end of university to accept a position as a writer for the BBC rather than take up the legal job he had lined up. From there he goes on to describe his experiences in his early working career and the people he worked with. The book ends as the python years begin which is fitting yet frustrating. I would love to know if he was going to write a sequel covering the Python years and Fawlty Towers but there is no mention of this.

A reviewer from the Telegraph described his book as odd and troubled and that Cleese feels he has been short changed by life but these comments, though possibly correct, didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. He IS an odd and troubled man but sometimes the dark humour that springs from this sets off a chord that resonates with me.  Available in print and CD audio format.


Miles Franklin Award 2015

The winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2015 is Sofie Laguna for her novel The Eye of the Sheep, a story of a family struggling to cope with their young son who has learning difficulties. 

Sofie will receive $60,000 in prize money for her book judged as being ‘of the highest literary merit’ and which presents ‘Australian life in any of its phases’. Named after Stella “Miles” Franklin , author of My Brilliant Career, the award was established in 1954 with a bequest from her will.

Other shortlisted titles were:



Hush by Karen Robards

From the cover:  When Riley Cowan finds her estranged husband Jeff dead in his palatial home, she's sure it's no coincidence. The police rule it a suicide, but Riley thinks someone's out for blood--specifically someone Jeff's father ripped off in one of the biggest financial fraud cases of all time. She suspects that someone is trying to send a message to Jeff's father: Tell me where the money is, or everyone you care about will die. Riley's in-laws might be billionaires, but she's afraid that not even their dirty money can protect her from an irate investor who will stop at nothing to get his hands on his misappropriated cash. 

Enter Finn Bradley, Philly-based FBI agent and Riley's love interest from way back when. Finn agrees to help Riley, and the two reignite sparks they both thought were extinguished long ago. But can they discover the killer's identity in time, before he resurfaces and strikes again?

Karen Robards combines romance and suspense, or ‘thrills and chills’ as she likes to call it, in her new standalone novel, Hush. I found this to be quite a page-turner; nearly every chapter starts or ends with action and suspense. This really has it all with CIA, FBI, handsome hero, seductive heroine, kidnapping, murder, greed, sexual encounters and enemies in abundance. Who the actual enemies are will keep you guessing. If you don’t mind a bit of spicy intrigue, then this is for you!

Karen Robards is a New York Times bestselling author of over forty novels. Fans of Karen Rose, Lisa Jackson and Iris Johansen will absolutely love this book!

~ Narelle

Silent Shock

Silent shock: the men behind the thalidomide scandal and an Australian family’s long road to justice by Michael Magazanik

IN 1962 Lyn Rowe was born in Melbourne, entirely without limbs. Months earlier, her mother Wendy was given a new wonder drug for morning sickness called thalidomide. In 2012, after almost 50 years of struggle and poverty, Lyn won a multi-million-dollar settlement from the drug's distributor, Distillers. It was the first compensation she ever received.

In Silent Shock, Michael Magazanik tells Lyn Rowe's story - and lifts the lid on how the thalidomide tragedy was allowed to happen. He shows how the guilty did their best to get away with it. He explodes the myth that the whole scandal was just a tragic accident, unavoidable within the safety standards of the time. And he exposes the disgraceful cover-up at the heart of Distillers' Australian thalidomide operation

Silent Shock is an epic account of corporate wrongdoing against a backdrop of heroic personal struggle and sacrifice. It is crucial, compelling reading.

Michael Magazanik is a journalist who worked on the legal case of Lyn Rowe.  He lifts the lid on how this tragedy was allowed to happen. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this story for me is that I was born just a few years before Lyn, and so this could have happened to me. It maybe could have happened to you too.


Dreaming Spies

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R King

From the cover:  It is a normal afternoon in Sussex when Russell and Holmes return home to find a peculiar addition to their garden: a beautiful stone that once occupied the Imperial gardens in Kyoto. The stone immediately recalls the spring of 1924, when, on their way back from India (The Game), Russell and Holmes agreed to perform a small but exceedingly dangerous job for the emperor of Japan. At the time, Russell encountered a young Japanese woman on board their ship who tutored the two foreigners about her country and guided them into a secret meeting with the Prince Regent himself. Now, when Russell heads for Oxford to resume her long-delayed studies, she comes face-to-face with that very same young Japanese woman--and quickly realizes Miss Sato Haruki is not all that she seems.

This latest volume in the long running Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series is a great read!  Based in the early 1920s and starting on a cruise from India to Japan, Holmes and Russell set out to foil a blackmailer who has set his sights very high. The description of their travels in Japan, at a time when western culture was meeting age-old traditions for the first time, was interesting in itself but the intrigue surrounding their travel adds to the story. On their return to England the pair realise the job has not been completed. They, and their Japanese friend Haruki, uncover forgers and blackmailers and solve the problem for their illustrious client. 

Mary Russell is a wonderful character, a myopic, blue-stocking adventuress who uses knowledge, intelligence and daring to solve mysteries. Holmes is not the two-dimensional character of the Conan Doyle series but an interesting character, fiercely intelligent but occasionally wrong.  Though the whole series is great reading, each book stands alone and can be enjoyed without having read the rest. Devote a weekend as you won't want to put it down once you've started it. 



The International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award is presented annually for a novel written in English or translated into English.  Now in its 20th year, the award aims to promote excellence in world literature. Books are nominated for the Award by invited public libraries in cities throughout the world - making the Award unique in its coverage of international fiction. 

Titles are nominated on the basis of 'high literary merit' as determined by the nominating library and the winner is Jim Crace for Harvest.  Other shortlisted titles were:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Horses of God by Mahi Binebine  [translated from the French by Lulu Norman] 

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

K by Bernardo Kucinski [translated from the Portuguese by Sue Branford] 

Brief Loves that Live Forever by Andreï Makine [translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan] 

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Someone by Alice McDermott

Sparta by Roxana Robinson


Someone is Watching

Someone is Watching by Joy Fielding

Deeply shaken after a brutal attack, Bailey Carpenter struggles to reclaim control over what had once seemed like a neatly-ordered life. Unable to face her job, her friends, or even the world outside her apartment, Bailey is trapped with her thoughts, replaying the attack in a desperate search for a detail that will help the police uncover the identity of her unknown assailant. Bailey sees her attacker in the face of every stranger, and is unable to trust anyone other than her half-sister, Claire, and Claire's snarky teenage daughter Jade. 

To pass the time in her lonely apartment, Bailey plays with the binoculars she once used in her career as a private investigator, scanning the high-rise buildings around hers for entertainment. She quickly discovers a favorite source: a handsome, wealthy playboy in the apartment across the street. But she watches him strut around his bedroom, she starts to wonder if he's putting on a show - with her as his intended audience. 

Looking out the window late one night, she sees him looking tauntingly right back at her, binoculars in hand. Could it be the assailant she's been so desperate to identify has been right there, watching her, the whole time? The police, exasperated after Bailey's many paranoid false alarms, believe she's crying wolf, and Claire tries to convince her she's wrong. Doubting her own sanity, Bailey has only Jade left to turn to, and together the two hatch a dangerous plot to discover just what exactly is going on in the apartment across the way.

Joy Fielding cleverly entwines all that a victim goes through such as panic attacks, lack of confidence and paranoia after such a violent attack, while also showing her protagonist gradually normalising her life with a support network of an unlikely nature. One thing is for sure, no one ought to mess with this private investigator who decides to search out her own attacker, using what may seem unusual means. This is definitely a page-turning thriller with a surprising ending.

It is promised to be the first in a thrilling new Bailey Carpenter series by Joy Fielding. A must read for the lover of suspense and intrigue!

~ Narelle

The Sunlit Night

The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein

Shortly after her college graduation, Frances flees a painful breakup and her claustrophobic childhood home in Manhattan, which has become more airless in the aftermath of two family announcements: her parents' divorce and her younger sister's engagement. She seeks refuge at a Norwegian artist colony that's offered her a painting apprenticeship. Unfortunately, she finds only one artist living there: Alf, an enigmatic middle-aged descendant of the Sami reindeer hunters who specialises in the colour yellow...

Yasha, an eighteen-year-old Russian immigrant raised in a bakery in Brighton Beach, is kneading bread in the shop's window when he sees his mother for the first time in a decade. As he gains a selfish and unreliable parent, he loses his beloved father. He must carry out his father's last wish to be buried 'at the top of the world' and reconcile with the charismatic woman who abandoned them both...

And so Frances's and Yasha's paths intersect in Lofoten, a string of five islands ninety-five miles above the Arctic Circle. Their unlikely connection and growing romance fortifies them against the turmoil of their distant homes, and teaches them that to be alone is not always to be lonely, and that love and independence are not mutually exclusive.

Why We Love It:
The two different lives of these young people coincide after a disenchanted Frances journeys to a desolate artist colony north of the Artic Circle. When she meets Yasha, who by a twist of fate ends up at the ‘top of the earth’ too, they confront both their pasts and their futures.

Dinerstein, a 27-year-old from New York City, has an artist’s eye for setting, and this novel provides plenty of scope for evocative descriptions, set as it is during the long days of a Norwegian summer.  Indeed, it’s no surprise to learn that Dinerstein herself spent a year in an artist colony at Lofoten and has published a volume of poetry she wrote there.

The Sunlit Night is a poetically wrought tale about love and loss. It’s a debut novel that charms us with its whimsical young characters finding their way in a harsh, and sometimes disillusioning, world.

Though set in a moonless northern summer, The Sunlit Night makes a timely read as we approach the southern solstice at the end of this week – perfect reading to transport you to another world on a winter night.

From the team at Better Reading

House of cards

The US 'House of Cards' TV series, starring Kevin Spacey and Robyn Wright has been intriguing, so when I discovered that it was based on the book House of Cards by Michael Dobbs, I had to read it.

The first thing that I discovered was that the book is UK based.

A dark tale of greed, corruption, and unquenchable ambition, House of Cards reveals that no matter the country, politics, intrigue and passion reign in the corridors of power. Francis Urquhart has his hand on every secret in politics--and is willing to betray them all to become prime minister. Mattie Storin is a tenacious young reporter who has a knack for finding the real stories hidden behind the spin. When she stumbles upon a scandalous web of intrigue and financial corruption at the very highest levels, she vows to reveal the truth. But to do so she must battle her own demons and risk everything, even her life.

One of the captivating things about the US 'House of Cards' is the character of Frank Underwood - who is based on Francis Urquhart in the book.  Whereas the TV series is focused on Frank, the book jumps around a range of characters without really focusing on any one with any dedication. Frank Urquhart is always in the picture, but the focus on him fades in and out throughout the story-line, as does the focus on Mattie Storin the reporter.

This jumping around is disconcerting and I didn't feel as if I could really connect with any of the characters because there was no chance to 'get to know' them.  However, the passion, politics, intrigue and power plays are explored very well, although from many different viewpoints. It can be slow at times, making it a bit of an effort to get through some parts, although the action at the end where all the story-lines come together makes it worth the effort.

The TV series has not yet ended, so it will be interesting to see if it ends the way the book does. Without giving anything anyway, I hope it doesn't as I felt the author took the easy way out.  Having said that though, it was well worth reading just to see where the inspiration for the TV series came from.

And now that I know that there was a UK version, I might have to explore that too.

~ Michelle