Reading Rewards - reviews

Miracle Cure

Miracle Cure by Harlan Coben

From the cover:  Sara Lowell and Michael Silverman are the ideal celebrity couple: she’s TV’s most popular journalist and he’s New York’s hottest basketball star.  Their lives would soon be shattered by Dr. Harvey Riker’s clinic and the miracle cure that millions seek.  One-by-one his patients are getting well.  One-by-one they are targeted by a serial killer more fatal than their disease.

Harlan Coben has a huge following, his books are always mega sellers, and he’s published on a global scale.  How come I find them quite hard going?!  They always seem way too long, dragging in the middle.  

I also am not a fan of violence just for the hell of it, with which this book was dealt in spades.  And, even though this was very well narrated by Eric Meyers, Aids, homosexuality, politics and religion are definitely not my favourite topics to listen to every day.  Coben does, however, come up with some good, twisting storylines – I didn’t start to pick up where we were headed till quite close to the end; and I do appreciate an epilogue.  Would I recommend this book to a friend?  No, sorry, but fans will probably lap it up. We've got it in Hardcover, paperback, Large Print, audio CD and Playaway formats.  Click on the title if you'd like to borrow. 

Fictitious Dishes

Fictitious Dishes: an album of literature’s most memorable meals by Dinah Fried
From the cover:  Fictitious Dishes serves up a delectable assortment of photographic interpretations of culinary moments from contemporary and classic literature. Showcasing famous meals such as the madcap tea party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the watery gruel from Oliver Twist, the lavish chicken breakfast from To Kill a Mockingbird, etc., the unique volume pairs each place setting with the text from the book that inspired its creation.  Interesting food facts and entertaining anecdotes about the authors, their work, and their culinary predilections complete this charming book, which is sure to whet the appetites of lovers of great literature and delicious dishes.

In the introduction, the author explains how she was at the Rhode Island School of Design where the idea struck her to cook, style, and photograph memorable meals she had read about in novels.  After taking first photos – Oliver Twist, The Catcher in the Rye, Moby-Dick, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – she became completely hooked on the process.  “So many books, so many more meals”, she said.  “I had to keep going, and I did, long past the assignment’s due date.”  

This is the result and what a whimsical delight this little volume is!  I became totally absorbed in the introduction – don’t flip past it, it’s integral to appreciating the detail – and thoroughly enjoyed the trivia snippets that accompanied each title and paragraph.  The full-page photos are a treat, I loved The Great Gatsby one; there is just so much work in creating all those dishes and getting the props organised! Highly recommended for a light and entertaining read and bonus, you really don’t need to be a literary buff or culinary whizz. Just enjoy it for what it is.

The author says: “Reading and eating are natural companions, and they’ve got a lot in common.  Reading is consumption.  Eating is consumption.  Both are comforting, nourishing, restorative, relaxing and mostly enjoyable.” 

Seriously... I'm Kidding

Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
While this book is a Biography, you almost forget it is because of the large amount of topics covered and I found that while reading this book I could almost hear the words in Ellen’s voice, like a stand-up routine.
It’s a very uplifting read, very well written, and Ellen seems to be such a positive person. You do find out quite a bit about her but not in the way that other Biographies lay it out. This book is more about her thoughts and feelings on certain topics such as finding out that she doesn’t like clutter, her wife Portia hoards lotion, Ellen doesn’t believe in judging people and she likes being unique. Ellen also writes about her time as a judge on American Idol and there is a chapter titled “Labels” where she writes about the stereotypes associated with being gay.

It’s a very positive, funny read and it tackles some difficult subjects, but Ellen does it in her own way which is hilarious and puts a lot of things into perspective. 

Nineteen Eighty-Four

In most stories, we are presented with a hero. In the George Orwell novel 1984, the prime example of dystopian science fiction, there are no heroes.
Oceania, one of the three superstates that emerged following the end of the Second World War. Posters adorn the walls reading “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.” Large futuristic pyramids which house the Ministry of Love, Ministry of Plenty, Ministry of Truth, and Ministry of Peace dot the cityscape. Across every government building, the slogans “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH” adorn each and every wall.  Telescreens, acting as microphones and CCTV Cameras, observe every moment of every corner of London, chief city of Airstrip One. However, there is one alcove in one cheap government flat in which a man known as Winston Smith writes “Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death.”
Winston Smith, an ageing Outer Party member living in London. Winston is the chief editor of the Historical Revisionism Department of the Ministry of Truth. He works at his desk, erasing “unpersons,” which are executed thoughtcriminals, from photographs and newspapers. Even at the Ministry of Truth, the Thought Police watch for any sign of dissent, any grimace of disgust or flash of righteous anger at Big Brother. The Thought Police work behind the scenes, kidnapping suspected dissenters, or thoughtcriminals, and torturing them in the Ministry of Love.
Winston, in his Alcove, writes various phrases in a journal. The slogans disparage Big Brother, and as such Winston would be put to death if he was found to possess it. The Slogans range from the above quote about thoughtcrime, to the brazen act of thoughtcrime possible, which is to think the phrase “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER.”
Through his secret dissent and attempts to hide his opinions, he comes into contact with a young girl named Julia, a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League.  She hands him a note reading the phrase “I LOVE YOU.” The novel then follows the story of Winston and Julia attempting to hide their dissent and continue their illegal love affair. They are also contacted by O'Brien, a member of a dissident organisation known as The Brotherhood. Threatened with capture by the omnipresent Thought Police, torture in the Ministry of Love, and the all-consuming hunger for power possessed by Big Brother, Winston, Julia and O'Brien must also contend with their ever-diminishing trust of each other.
The world created by Orwell is a depressingly dark Dystopian nightmare, in which simple dissenting opinions are punished with torture and death, the new language of Newspeak threatening to make dissent or disagreement impossible, each and every person lives  a repressed, aggression filled life, and all pleasure other than love for Big Brother having been exterminated. It is particularly relevant to the world today, as our ever increasing surveillance state, cyberpunk-like repression of human rights, and political instability threaten to topple the real world into Oceania.
1984 is a highly important and well written book. The prose is suitably dry and depressing; the story pulls no punches with regards to life in a totalitarian state and accurately portrays the psychological and emotional effects of total repression and submission to an overlord figure such as Big Brother. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in politics, psychology, Dystopian fiction or simply trying to find a window into our potential future.
Matthew Costella. Narre Warren Library Work Experience.

The Empty Bed

The Empty Bed by Paul Thomas  

From the cover:  Do you believe in love? Do you trust your partner? Nick Souter did, he and Anne had something special, up until when Nick discovers a love note written to Anne.  After investigating on his own, he is convinced that Anne is having an affair.  A few weeks later Anne is found murdered in her bed and suddenly Nick has gone from being estranged husband to the prime, and only, suspect. It quickly becomes apparent that it is up to him not only to prove his innocence but also to find the real killer.

More than halfway into the story when Anne is murdered, the meter changes from what was an interesting character study of a marriage under duress, to a psychological suspense/mystery/whodunit.  The ending came rather abruptly I thought, and was not one that I was expecting!   This New Zealand author of four previous mystery/suspense novels and former Ned Kelly winner, has penned an eventually gripping tale which is very well-narrated by the talented David Tredinnick.  
I downloaded this from our Bolinda audio site but we have this title in print and CD format too, so click here to check the catalogue.

Pillars of the Earth

Author Ken Follett surprised me with his long list of novels, starting in 1976 with The Modligiani Scandal, a novel where art forgers, masterpiece hunters and thieves collide.  He then moved on to a 'whodunit' in 1977, and later turned his talents to a WWII/MI5/enemy agent book.  He then surprised readers by radically changing course with The Pillars of the Earth, a novel about building a cathedral in the Middle Ages.

Published in September 1989 to rave reviews, it was on the New York Times bestseller list for eighteen weeks. It also reached the No. 1 position on lists in Canada, Great Britain and Italy, and was on the German bestseller list for six years. 

In 2004, it was voted the third greatest book ever written by 250,000 viewers of a German television station, beaten only by The Lord of the Rings and the Bible. When The Times of London asked its readers to vote for the 60 greatest novels of the last 60 years, The Pillars of the Earth was placed at No.2 (the sequel, World Without End, was No.23 on the same list), after To Kill a Mockingbird.  In November 2007 'Pillars' became the most popular-ever choice of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, returning to No.1 on the New York Times bestseller list. 

And of course, the mini-series in 2010 produced by Ridley Scott and starring Ian McShane and Matthew Macfadyen.  The eight-part TV miniseries debuted in the U.S. and Canada in July of that year, with the UK premier in October.  The series was nominated for 3 Golden Globes, including Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, Ian McShane for Best Actor and Hayley Atwell for Best Actress at the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

I found the above information when helping someone find information on author Ken Follett and just had to read the book.  Not my usual fare I must say but I became totally immersed in it. At a daunting 973 pages, this tome is not one to carry in your handbag [go the e-version!]  In what could be an almighty boring story of church construction, which is the idea that fuelled the novel, it is very well written with memorable characters and interwoven storylines.

Set in 12th Century England, Philip, a devout and resourceful monk, is driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known. It’s also the story of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect; the elusive Lady Aliena; Jack, brought up in the forest by his mother, Ellen, an accused witch; and a struggle between good and evil that turns church against state, and brother against brother.

Classic movie material indeed and an excellent book to lose yourself in.


Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

A searing and provocative novel by the acclaimed author of the international bestseller The Slap. Barracuda is an unflinching look at modern Australia, at our hopes and dreams, our friendships, and our families. 

Should we teach our children to win, or should we teach them to live? How do we make and remake our lives? Can we atone for our past? Can we overcome shame? And what does it mean to be a good person?.. Barracuda is about living in Australia right now, about class and sport and politics and migration and education.
Danny Kelly is a talented young and determined swimmer. He is also from a multicultural background and out of place in the elite private school that he’s awarded a scholarship to.  He is at home in the water and only thinks of success and he is successful … to a point.

Christos Tsiolkas again hits the mark with another Melbourne based contemporary epic. This novel explores failure, rejection, racism and sexuality. Although sometimes an uncomfortable read, Barracuda is definitely thought provoking and beautifully expressed.

Audrey's Door

Today is Friday the 13th and what better than a review of a Bram Stoker Award-winning supernatural thriller, the creepy, haunting, horror-fest of a book – Audrey’s Door by Sarah Langan.

Built on the Upper West Side, the elegant Breviary claims a regal history. But despite 14B's astonishingly low rental price, the recent tragedy within its walls has frightened away all potential tenants . . . except for Audrey Lucas.

No stranger to tragedy at 32—a survivor of a fatherless childhood and a mother's hopeless dementia— Audrey is obsessively determined to make her own way in a city that often strangles the weak. But is it something otherworldly or Audrey's own increasing instability that's to blame for the dark visions that haunt her . . . and for the voice that demands that she build a door? A door it would be true madness to open.

This book is a dead-set combination of a bog-standard classic and a quirky original. Our protagonist, Audrey, is an abused child, suffers OCD, is an architect, loves smoking Hash and has a 250 pound giant of a boyfriend who is Indian by birth with a big heart and a chip on his shoulder.  Her boss has four sons, one an over-achiever, one gay, and a pair of twins where one is dying of cancer.  

The building – the Breviary – is haunted by your usual suspects but the building throbs, moves, is ‘alive’ and talks through its walls.  The residents are straight from the 30s, have cocktail parties, drink Manhattans, wear tattered satin evening clothes, play discordant love songs on the Steinway in Audrey’s apartment, have black eyes and are desiccated, decaying, and dead, dead, dead.  There have been more murders and suicides here than you can count, including the building’s superintendent who has been bashed and shoved down the laundry chute, and a mother with a beautiful voice who drowned her four children in the bath – in the apartment that Audrey moves into. No resident has really been up to scratch in building the much-wanted door, but now the Breviary has an architect in residence!

I downloaded the audio from our Bolinda site and it was brilliantly narrated by Jennifer Wiltsie.  Chapter 31 is still in my mind… it’s so dark in the apartment Audrey can’t even see her own hands.  Something is following her … creak, shoomp shoomp.  Creeeeaaaaaak.  Shoomp shoomp.  Getting closer.  Fetid breath near her neck.  And now something is dripping on her from above. 
Eeeek … let’s leave it there!

Mornings in Jenin

As a patron pushed this novel through the returns chute I asked about another book she’d returned. 'Read that one,’ she said, pointing to Mornings in Jenin. ‘It’s amazing.’ And it was.

Mornings in Jenin is a first novel by Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa. It begins in a Palestine belonging to the Palestinian people who have been there for 40 generations in their villages. It sets us up to invest in one family in which we travel as the generations age and the focus changes, through from their quiet traditional life, to the occupation of Palestine, the people suddenly taken from their homes and herded and placed in refugee camps not far from their old village, their rights as people gradually eroded until they are worth nothing more than playthings for soldiers.

The last main character of the story is born there, Amal, into the midst of a tormented family on the edge of falling apart, with the violence escalating as she reaches adolescence. We then follow her and the trails she finds of her lost remaining family members as she is given the opportunity of a change through educational scholarships, first to Jerusalem and then to Pennsylvania. We follow her through the rejection of her heritage to the reclamation of it, and then right to the end of her own life.

The book is most definitely beautiful and devastating. Although the author is a human rights activist for Palestine, her portayals of Jewish characters are just as complex and sympathetic as the Palestinian characters. Though the story is fiction, all of the events that weave through the story and serve to twist the fates of the main characters, are factual. And it is this element of the book that is quite the torment, for all the questions it raises about why we have been given so little information on what has happened over decades to a people. Of how all of these events have passed me by in my knowledge of history, and all of the people whose stories I will never know.

Thankfully, Mornings in Jenin tries to at least tell some of them, and I am appreciative of having been able to witness for a moment that point of view.

~ Sam

The Lucky One

The Lucky One by Krystal Barter

'I feel lucky I was born with cancer in my DNA. Crazy as it sounds, I consider myself lucky that, when I was just twenty-two years old, I discovered I had a ninety per cent chance of developing breast cancer: the same, insidious disease that had attacked my Mum, and my Nan before her and my Great-Grandma before her.'

Krystal Barter is an extraordinary young woman: a fighter, a survivor, a wife, a mother and a crusader. She was born with the breast cancer gene, a hereditary curse that has run through generation after generation in her family, claiming at least twenty of her close relatives. But unlike them, Krystal was able to take the BRCA1 gene test, and found out the devastating news that she too was carrying the rogue gene. She had the courage to face her greatest fear, knowing that she could control and change her destiny - and even more courageously, she did.'

This book had me hooked from the beginning. From a troublesome teenager struggling to come to terms with her mother's illness and the family curse, to a young wife and mother faced with a terrible choice, to a courageous woman who has inspired tens of thousands of others, The Lucky One is a story of love, courage and transformation that will move all who read it.

Krystal made the decision at the age of 25 with her husband and two children beside her, to have a double mastectomy - on national television, no less, so she could inspire others in similar circumstances to do the same. While recovering from her double mastectomy Krystal founded the charity, Pink Hope, a community dedicated to inspiring, supporting and informing women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Its a must read!

~ Janine

Through the Cracks

Through the Cracks by Honey Brown
From the cover:  Four-year-old Nathan Fisher disappears from the bank of a rocky creek. Did he drown or was he taken? The search for the missing boy grips the nation.
A decade later, young teen Adam Vander has grown tall enough and strong enough to escape his abusive father. Emerging from behind the locked door of their rambling suburban home, Adam steps into a world he’s been kept isolated from.
In the days that follow, with the charismatic and streetwise Billy as his guide, Adam begins to experience all that he’s missed out on. As the bond between the boys grows, questions begin to surface. Who is Adam really? Was it just luck that Billy found him, or an unsettling kind of fate? And how dangerous is revealing the shocking truth of Adam’s identity?  It’s treacherous climb from the darkness. For one boy to make it, the other might have to fall through the cracks.

This latest novel by Honey Brown is all about child abduction, child neglect, a child escaping an abusive father and a child abused by the Church.
Adam Vander lived locked away since he had been abducted ten years earlier. He was so young at the time he truly believed his captor was his father. With the spirit of a true survivor, he took an opportunity to change his life direction when one presented itself.
As fate would have it, his best ally and support was Billy, a troubled young man. Both were survivors of abuse. Although Billy couldn’t alter his own life direction, he tried desperately to make a difference for Adam. With streetwise Billy, Adam started to catch up on experiences he had missed out on. Some of the decision-making made by Billy during the story is infuriating and mind-blowing for the reader, but stirred real emotion. It truly is a powerful story.
Brown’s inspiration came from news stories of neglect and abuse reported in the media. She is quoted as saying “By using fiction in this way we can give exposure to tough topics, these really confronting things humanity does, but with a little bit of distance because it is fiction,” (Sydney Morning Herald, 19 May 2014).
I enjoyed this psychological thriller which did not outline in detail the abuse but rather subtly referred to it. I was left at the end of the story with hope for the survivors, even though their journey would be a long and arduous one. 
~ Narelle

Access Road

Access Road by Maurice Gee.

From the cover:  The old family home in Access Road, where Lionel, Roly and Rowan grew up, is crumbling away - but after more than 50 years Lionel and Roly are back. Rowan too, otherwise safe in her 'upper crusty' suburb, is drawn more and more strongly 'out west'.
The past is dangerously alive. Clyde Buckley - violent as a boy; enigmatic, subterranean as an old man - returns to his childhood territory. What does he want? What crimes does he hide? And how is Lionel involved? As she watches her brother losing the battle with his memories, Rowan wonders how long she can keep her own past at bay.

I read that Access Road is “at once a novel of chilling tension and expansive humanity; both a beautifully crafted work of literature and an effortlessly seductive family story.”  Hmmmm, are we being duped again by publisher’s hype? 
Widely considered ‘New Zealand’s greatest living author’, Nelson-based Maurice Gee has penned dozens and dozens of books over the years.  Gee was 78 when he wrote this and that how it ‘feels’ - the story is told with a mixture of flashback and present day narrative, as Rowan, now 78, tries to account for her brother Lionel's withdrawn, hostile personality and his decision to give up on living life.
The story is a mildly engaging, totally character-driven tale that unfortunately drags on for too long.  The characters are a depressing lot, a bit Tim Winton-ish in that regard, and although this author has literary praise, a remarkably long writing career and lifelong fans around the globe, I won’t be jumping on the Gee train.  Available in various formats, I listened to the Bolinda audio version, adequately narrated by Heather Bolton.

Baileys Prize

Irish author Eimear McBride has won the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction with her debut novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.

It is awarded annually to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom in the preceding year. 
Helen Fraser, Chair of judges, said: "An amazing and ambitious first novel that impressed the judges with its inventiveness and energy.  This is an extraordinary new voice - this novel will move and astonish the reader".


Harlan Coben's CAUGHT

Caught by Harlan Coben
Narrated by Christopher Evan Welch

From the cover:  17-year-old Haley McWaid is a good girl, the pride of her suburban New Jersey family, captain of the lacrosse team, headed off to college next year with all the hopes and dreams her doting parents can pin on her. Which is why, when her mother wakes one morning to find that Haley never came home the night before, and three months quickly pass without word from the girl, the community assumes the worst.
Wendy Tynes is a reporter on a mission, to identify and bring down sexual predators via elaborate-and nationally televised-sting operations. Working with local police on her news program Caught in the Act, Wendy and her team have publicly shamed dozens of men by the time she encounters her latest target. Dan Mercer is a social worker known as a friend to troubled teens, but his story soon becomes more complicated than Wendy could have imagined.

As you can probably tell from the two different paras above, there are multiple storylines threading through this book, populated with so many characters it’s almost impossible to remember them all.  This very complex story features most of what appears in the daily news – finance traders ripping retirees out of their retirement; a reality TV show; teenage drinking; adult drinking and manslaughter while DUI; someone seeking revenge for a child who has been abused; a man falsely accused; kidnapping a teenager; single motherhood; the haves and have nots; young cops, old cops, retiring cops;  attorneys old, young, gay, female; doctors, deans and housekeepers, old university buddies and a man holding the clues to pretty much everything. Phew!

Somehow though, everything is neatly tied up and slotted into place at the end, with an ending I definitely did not see coming.  I honestly don’t know if I liked this book or not, which, by the way, we have in many formats.  If you’ve read it, what’s your opinion? 


Blood Witness

Blood Witness by Alex Hammond is a debut novel for this new Melbourne crime writer.
From the cover: Defence lawyer Will Harris is reluctantly drawn into a bizarre murder trial. A terminally ill man claims to have witnessed the brutal crime – in a vision. But the looming trial is more than just a media circus: it’s Will’s first big case since the tragic death of his fiancée. With the pressure mounting, Will’s loyalties are split when his fiancee’s sister is charged with drug trafficking. The strain of balancing both cases takes its toll and Will finds himself torn between following the law and seeking justice. 
I found this a great read and a real page-turner - it was intriguing, thrilling and enthralling! Given it has “A Will Harris novel” at the top of the front cover; I do so hope that Alex continues Will Harris’ character in future novels he may write.  It was great to read a crime and legal thriller set in the heart of Melbourne. The main character, Will Harris, is a defence lawyer with a vulnerable side. It is easy for the reader to believe in the integrity of this character, and for readers to become supporters of this fictitious hero of the Melbourne legal system. 

Thanks to the State Library of Victoria and the Public Library Victoria Network, the Endeavour Hills Library will be hosting a visit by this new emerging Melbourne crime writer, Alex Hammond, on Monday 16th June, 7-8pm. Bookings can be made at or by phone on 9700 7177.

Meet the author

Don't miss your chance to meet the author ... 

A former lawyer, Alex Hammond was exposed to many of the superstitions and sects of the profession.  He found himself fascinated by the culture, passion and grey moral world that lawyers inhabit. 
His debut novel is one of the State Library of Victoria’s Summer Read titles.  Blood Witness is a contemporary thriller featuring defence lawyer Will Harris.  A sequel is underway and due to be released in 2015. 

NO COST, bookings essential at
Monday 16 June, 7-8pm at Endeavour Hills Library, Raymond McMahon Boulevard.

Look out next week for a staff review of Blood Witness!

Gourmand Cookbook Awards

The sun has set on the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2014 and Colombia has walked away with the honour of being the home country of the Best Cookbook in the World.

Cocina Palenquera para el Mundo (Palenquera Cuisine for the World), a cookbook containing 60 ancestral recipes handwritten by previously illiterate senior citizens, received the first prize during the awards ceremony held in Beijing. The title beat competitors from 187 countries facing off in 102 categories.

In second place we find Historic Heston, a cookbook written by British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and Dave McKean, while third place went to Thailand's Issaya Siamese Club Cookbook  by Chef Ian Kittichai and Joe Cummings.

Each country receives awards in separate categories and go to the best under these headings –

Authors, Chefs, Publishers, Book magazine, photography, design, corporate book translation.
World cuisine, local and individual countries.  Lifestyle, body and soul.  Single subjects.  Charity and fund raising. Wine, spirits and drinks.

In Australia the Cookbook of the Year went to Love Italy by Guy Grossi.

Click here to check out all the winners!


The Returned

The Returned by Jason Mott
Narrated by Tom Stechschulte.

From the cover:  Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him. Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep, still eight years old. All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the centre of a mysterious new reality that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

I haven’t seen the TV show, but the trailer for it caught my eye, so when this appeared on our Bolinda audio site I thought I’d check it out.  Don’t worry, I haven’t included any spoilers if you are currently watching it! 

If you’re are looking for the reason why the dead are returning, or how they return, or are asking yourself if they came from the grave how do they manage to be (a) clean, (b) in the same physical shape as they were before they died or (c) what if they were cremated, and (d) a zillion other questions this book engenders, then give up now.  There are no explanations for anything that occurs.  Talk about frustrating, you just have to accept the premise that the dead are returning and get on with it! 

This quirky story doesn’t really end anywhere, it just meanders its slow Southern grind to a very predictable halt "is all" [how many times do they say that!!] …  however, when you listen to the author’s note at the end you can finally see what he was trying to portray.  The whole trouble is by the time you realise what it is, you’ve probably hurled your book out the window.  And I've only just noticed - on the Bolinda site, it says 'The Returned' - Book 1.  More to come?  

The Masterful Mr. Montague

The Masterful Mr. Montague by Stephanie Laurens

From the cover:  Montague has devoted his life to managing the wealth of London's elite, but at a huge cost: a family of his own. Then the enticing Miss Violet Matcham seeks his help, and in the puzzle she presents him, he finds an intriguing new challenge professionally and personally. Violet, devoted lady-companion to the aging Lady Halstead, turns to Montague to reassure her ladyship that her affairs are in order. But the famous Montague is not at all what she'd expected - this man is compelling, decisive, supportive, and strong - everything Violet needs in a champion, a position to which Montague rapidly lays claim. But then Lady Halstead is murdered and Violet and Montague, aided by Barnaby Adair, Inspector Stokes, Penelope, and Griselda, race to expose a cunning and cold-blooded killer who stalks closer and closer. Will Montague and Violet learn the shocking truth too late to seize their chance at enduring love?
This is the second in a new Regency detective series featuring many of the author's characters from her aristocratic ‘Bastian’ and ‘Cynster’ families and their ‘lesser born’ contemporaries. A rattling good mystery and a meeting of old friends.  What more could you want?  Very enjoyable.  Dot.

Aus. Book Industry Awards

The 14th Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) were announced in Sydney in front of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Minister for the Arts George Brandis, with Graeme Simsion’s celebrated novel The Rosie Project taking out the coveted Book of the Year award. Other big winners included the recipient of the 2013 Man Booker Prize, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, for International Book of the Year and the multi-award-winning debut Burial Rites by Hannah Kent scooped the Literary Fiction Book of the Year.

The ABIAs are divided into two categories: book awards and business awards. In the business awards, the highly anticipated Lloyd O’Neil Award for Outstanding Service to the Australian Book Industry was award posthumously to legendary novelist Bryce Courtenay, who passed away in 2012. His wife Christine Courtenay accepted the honour on her late husband’s behalf. 

In other categories...

•General Non-fiction Book of the Year: The Stalking of Julia Gillard by Kerry-Anne Walsh
•Illustrated Book of the Year: I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson
•Biography of the Year: The Crossroad by Mark Donaldson, VC 
•Book of the Year for Younger Children (age range 0 to 8 years): The 39-storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
•Book of the Year for Older Children (age range 8 to 14 years): Weirdo by Anh Do