Reading Rewards - reviews

Aussie Midwives

Aussie Midwives by Fiona McArthur

Midwives play a vital role in supporting women through some of the most challenging and rewarding moments of their lives. These remarkable professionals watch over births across Australia and this inspiring collection features stories from the remote outback to busy urban hospitals. From homebirth midwives, to rural and remote island nurses, to midwifery educators and clinical midwifery consultants, these stories are brimming with warmth, hope, heartbreak and courage.

Some of you may know Fiona McArthur for her medical inspired romance and rural romance novels, but she is a trained nurse and midwife herself. She is also the author of two non-fiction books for expectant mothers and a Mum to five boys too, so can speak from experience!

This book was so interesting to read; Fiona shares stories of real Australian midwives who work in sometimes unbelievable circumstances and conditions. There are stories about midwives who work for the Royal Flying Doctor Service who fly in and out to deliver babies - sometimes on the plane! There are also stories of midwives who work in remote areas with the indigenous community and island community, while respecting their cultural traditions. There is also a story about a male midwife (or should he be midhusband?) and trainee midwives who are 'thrown in at the deep end'. These midwives have incredible stories to share as they deal with different challenges, joys and heartbreaks - just like the mothers and families they serve. A very enjoyable read.

~ Janine


Relativity by Antonia Hayes

Ethan is a bright young boy obsessed with physics and astronomy who lives with his mother, Claire. She is fiercely protective of her talented, vulnerable son, and of her own feelings. When Ethan falls ill, tied to a tragic event from when he was a baby, Claire's tightly held world is split open. On the other side of the country, Mark is trying to forget about the events that tore his family apart. Then a sudden and unexpected call home forces him to confront his past, and the hole in his life that was once filled with his wife and son. When Ethan secretly intercepts a letter from Mark to Claire, he unleashes long-suppressed forces that, like gravity, pull the three together again, testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

This is a stunning and original debut novel by Antonia Hayes. She interweaves a wonderful heartfelt story and quantum physics with absolute beauty and ease. The characters are all strong, as is the imagery, and the physics metaphors are very powerful. Moving, sad and unique. 

~ Ali

The One Who Got Away

The One Who Got Away by Caroline Overington

We all keep secrets. Some are deadly. Loren Wynne-Estes appears to have it all: she's the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who's landed a handsome husband, a stunning home, a fleet of shiny cars and two beautiful daughters. Then one day a fellow parent taps Loren on the shoulder outside the grand school gate, hands her a note ... and suddenly everything's at stake. Loren's Facebook-perfect marriage is spectacularly exposed - revealing an underbelly of lies and betrayal. What is uncovered will scandalise a small town, destroy lives and leave a family divided. But who is to be believed and who is to blame? Will the right person be brought to justice or is there one who got away.

Why we love it: 
Loren has a seemingly perfect life, but underneath this charming veneer, husband David is a total creep and far from the great catch she’s convinced herself he is. She’d always been warned about him, even back when they started dating in New York, but did she listen? No, of course not. David’s other sex life is only just ramping up though and the things that David is getting up to behind her back would make a regular sleaze-bag look chaste. Inevitably, events catch up with David, and his financial and personal life seem about to implode. So when Loren goes missing on a Mexican cruise, suspicion falls on David. But will he manage to talk himself out of trouble this time?  Australian author Caroline Overington’s latest novel The One Who Got Away is a twisted yet funny psychological thriller that culminates in a gripping courtroom drama.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Red Hot

Red Hot by Cheryl and Leonie Alldis

A vividly written story based on true events.

It's 1964 when a crazed arsonist begins torching the once tranquil Hamilton Valley in NSW Australia.
Night after night the ail of sirens wake the locals from their sleep. Little did they realise, this rampage would last for close on four years!

The detectives have their eye on several persons of interest, then they discover the method the lunatic is using to light the fires! Clever indeed!

Father Damien the priest from the local seminary has a penchant for lurking around watching the aftermath of the fires...

Grandma Emmie, the keeper of family secrets, holds the key to the reason a newcomer has arrived in the valley. She has to make a decision to reveal the truth for everyone concerned.

Beautiful Ellie becomes tangled in a shocking web of lust, with dire consequences...

The Christmas Eve fire looks like it may destroy the valley...will this maniac ever be stopped?

Evil has entered Hamilton Valley in more ways than one...RED HOT... chilling, tantalising, erotic and emotional.

I was attracted to this story as it is based on a true story of the Lavington Firebug crime mystery that took place near Albury, NSW in the mid-1960s. Over several years, the firebug caused financial loss to many farmers and fruit growers in the area. Fires would take place several times a week, month after month, and year after year! The local authorities were perplexed as to who this firebug was! 

The authors, Cheryl and Leonie Alldis, grew up in the area during the 1960s when all this took place - their first-hand experience being the inspiration for their novel. While it is interesting and intriguing, it is at times frustrating due to the many characters interwoven in the storyline, some with similar sounding names! The relationships between characters were complex and not always believable; however, if you can be forgiving of these indiscretions then you'll enjoy this Australian whodunit mystery. 

~ Narelle

Henry & Banjo

Henry & Banjo by James Knight

We know about Waltzing Matilda, Clancy of the Overflow, The Man from Snowy River, The Drover's Wife, While the Billy Boils and Joe Wilson and His Mates, but we don't know about the two men who captured our imagination.  Now, in Henry & Banjo, the storytellers become the story. And there is much to tell.

Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson and Henry Lawson were both country born, Henry on the goldfields of Grenfell and Banjo on a property near Orange, but their paths to literary immortality took very different routes - indeed at times their lives were ones of savage and all too tragic contrasts. The divide between the bush and the city, the haves and the have-nots, is sharply revealed. There are broken hearts and thwarted dreams. Both men would become household names during their lifetimes. Both would have regrets.

In this compelling exploration, James Knight reveals the lives and times of the two men whose words had the power to influence and change Australia. Their stories live on and now, so too, can they.

I don't agree with that very first line above - that is one all-encompassing 'We'. Aside from Waltzing Matilda, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone under the age of 30 who could honestly say they've heard of either name, more than one published title, or recite even one line, but I would be delighted to be proven wrong. 

I have always had a love for the rhyme and meter of Banjo's bush poetry, possibly stemming from school days during stinking hot summers when our teacher would take the class outside to sit under the peppercorn tree to read: "There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around, that the colt from old Regret had got away ..." (Patterson); or have us in stitches laughing over the escapades in The Loaded Dog (Lawson). 

Henry & Banjo was quite an eye-opener for me because despite familiarity with both authors' work, I knew not much about the men themselves other than their early compositions appeared in the Australian news magazine, The Bulletin. 

James Knight has done his homework well in bringing out the flavour and turbulence of the times, plus a 'swag' of personal facts and information to flesh out these two stalwarts in early Colonial publishing; far better actually than reading his own work for this Bolinda audiobook.  His narration is flat and lacking colour, and unfortunately there's a bit of a lisp as well, which makes the audio version somewhat unattractive.  Henry & Banjo however is well worth the read, so do yourself a favour and reserve a print copy now, with a bonus of eight pages of illustrations and portraits.

" I had written him a letter which I had, for want of betterKnowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,Just 'on spec' addressed as follows: 'Clancy of The Overflow'.
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,(and I think the same was written with a thumbnail dipped in tar)'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."
Clancy of The Overflow" is a poem by Banjo Paterson, first published in The Bulletin on 21 December 1889.


The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye by P. J. Parker

Spanning three generations, The Long Goodbye takes us deep into the lives of an Australian family as they survive record-breaking floods, outlast epic droughts and face the unforgiving realities of life on the land.

This remarkable true story of grit and resilience depicts a family at their zenith, set against the spectacular backdrop of rural Queensland where life and death are never far apart. But not even the harshness of the Australian landscape can prepare them for what is to come.

Written with astounding lyricism, warmth and humour, The Long Goodbye is a deeply moving memoir about the unbreakable bonds of marriage, love and family. And it poses the most heartbreaking moral dilemma of all: when a loved one is suffering, is euthanasia the answer?

I didn't know anything about this book until I read Pam's story in the Good Weekend magazine supplement in The Age newspaper. This is much more than a story of how her father killed her mother then killed himself. It is about three generations of an Australian family living in Charters Towers in Queensland. 

I would describe this memoir as an honest depiction of Australian country life in rural Queensland. I loved the Australian slang and the way life was back in the day. I did chuckle about the description of when the floods came and Grandma and the kids had to keep moving to higher ground, the image of Grandma (who was not a small woman) climbing out through the window making me smile. The story describes beautifully what it was like to be a girl at an all boys' school; the challenges of living through drought, flood, losing animals that were pets, courting and strict rules with parenting; but overall, it is about family.

The last part of the book deals with Pam's mother's rapid decline with dementia and moving to a hostel with her husband who was a campaigner for euthanasia. Her father was 10 years older than her mother and at the age of 94 decided that his wife was not there any more, and as she had no quality of life left he made the decision to end her life, then his own a month later. Despite the controversial subject within this memoir, it was a great read.

~ Janine

Standing Strong

Standing Strong by Fiona McCallum

The follow-up to her 2012 bestseller, Wattle Creek, Standing Strong returns to the town, where psychologist Jacqueline Havelock is starting to feel properly settled. She has a rewarding job, is making new friends, and beginning to explore her blossoming feelings for local farmer Damien. He too seems more at peace as he works on his new animal shelter, Esperance, and slowly comes further out of his shell.

To Jacqueline, it all feels suspiciously too good to be true. When she comes face to face with a tough ethical situation, Jacqueline realises that she may have to choose between her career and her heart – or is there another way to keep the job, town, and man she loves?

Why we love it: 

If you enjoyed Wattle Creek, you’ll be itching to get back to the community of characters McCallum has created. Ethel (Damien’s lovable aunt and Josephine’s neighbour) returns, with as much quirky kindness as ever. There’s Josephine’s boss, Doctor Squire, who might just end up being full of surprises. We also get to see more of both Josephine and Damien’s respective families, and understand how their family backgrounds shaped who they each became.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Primary School Confidential

Primary School Confidential by Mrs Woog

Popular columnist and blogger Mrs Woog lifts the lid on a world that's part jungle, part nursery, a place both sweet and feral, where the rule of law is tenuous at best and primitive desires hold sway over order and discipline. And wait till you see the children! 

We're talking about primary school, that special place where little kids turn into big kids, where letters turn into words, numbers turn into more confusing numbers and lunchboxes turn into bacterial breeding grounds. Where teachers rule (mostly) and parents realise primary school's not just for children - that they’re back at school too, just in different roles. 

Primary school... we’ve all been there; some of us more recently than others. My “baby” started high school earlier this year, so I no longer experience the joys of primary school myself, but I can certainly relate to some of the stories Mrs Woog tells, in fact I experienced many of them first hand. There are the classic nit outbreaks, the disastrous swimming carnivals and the never working school drinking taps to name a few.

Mrs Woog reflects on the then and now of primary school e.g. Then: walk to a teacher’s house for a cooking lesson in her kitchen. Now: risk assesments done and parental consent forms signed in triplicate before putting a toe out of the school gate.

For a literal laugh out loud read that has the right balance of nostalgia, insight and hilarity, reserve a copy of Primary School Confidential: confessions from the classroom, now. 

~ Leanne

Cometh the Hour

Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer

Cometh the Hour opens with the reading of a suicide note, which has devastating consequences for Harry and Emma Clifton, Giles Barrington and Lady Virginia.

Giles must decide if he should withdraw from politics and try to rescue Karin, the woman he loves, from behind the Iron Curtain... but is Karin who she says she is?

Sebastian Clifton is now the Chief Executive of Farthings Bank but his rivals continue their attempts to supplant him.

Harry Clifton remains determined to get Anatoly Babakov released from a gulag in Siberia, following theinternational success of his acclaimed book, Uncle Joe. 

Harry's wife Emma convinces her new friend Margaret 
Thatcher to raise the subject with the Russian President when she visits Moscow.

But then something unexpected 
happens that none of them could have anticipated.

This is the sixth book in the Clifton Chronicles Saga by Jeffrey Archer and I must admit that I waited with bated breath for each and every one in this series. In order they are: 

1. Only Time Will Tell
2. The Sins of the Father
3. Best Kept Secret
4. Be Careful What You Wish For
5. Mightier than the sword
6. Cometh the Hour
7. This Was a Man (to be released in November 2016).

Jeffrey Archer is a great storyteller and this book is no exception. It continues the story of the Barrington and Clifton families and once again ends in a cliff-hanger which leaves me anticipating the final book in this series. If you enjoy a good saga with a bit of intrigue, romance, history, family, then this is for you, but do yourself a favour and read them in order so you get the whole story - you won't be sorry.

~ Janine

You're still hot to me

Before you get worried, no this is not a saucy romance, but a wonderful exploration of a mysterious time in a woman's life - menopause.  Comedienne Jean Kitson has written You're still hot to me to explore the joys (and other aspects) of menopause, utilising her own experience and the stories of others, to help demystify the process and to gain acceptance for women going through it.

Jean Kittson thinks it's time to break menopause out of the closet, throw it in a fabulous dress and march it through town. Women are hitting menopause at the peak of their careers; many are still actively parenting; most are starting to care for ageing parents. As if they didn't have enough on their plate. Breaking through the cone of silence with trademark wit and wisdom, she tackles the difficult questions about common symptoms (would you like hot flushes with that?), how to seek help, what treatments work and how to still be talking to your family when you emerge.

As a women of the right age, I was looking to find information on the 'mystery' that is this stage of our lives.  When I discovered one by a comedienne, my search was finished.  I didn't want something that was too involved in medical jargon and I definitely wanted one that gave a personal perspective. You're still hot to me gave me both, but also with a relevant and much welcome humour that made it easy to take in - to the point that I wanted to read more.

That's not to say that Kittson doesn't cover the medical - she does and she calls on and refers to the experts as appropriate. She also uses case studies to cover the wide range of experiences that women have during the various stages of menopause, to give you a bigger picture of what may happen.

It was very helpful to me in my exploration of this life stage and I think others will find it so too.  And by others, I mean women who are either in or approaching menopause, younger women who will one day be in this place and the families of all these women - if you know what is coming, you will be better prepared.

And you need to know what's coming.

Well done Jean Kittson!

~ Michelle


Maestra by L.S. Hilton

Judith Rashleigh works as an assistant in a prestigious London auction house, but her dreams of breaking into the art world have been gradually dulled by the blunt forces of snobbery and corruption. To make ends meet she moonlights as a hostess in one of the West End's less salubrious bars - although her work there pales against her activities on nights off. When Judith stumbles across a conspiracy at her auction house, she is fired before she can expose the fraud. In desperation, she accepts an offer from one of the bar's clients to accompany him to the French Riviera. But when an ill-advised attempt to slip him sedatives has momentous consequences, Judith finds herself fleeing for her life. Now alone and in danger, all Judith has to rely on is her consummate ability to fake it amongst the rich and famous - and the inside track on the hugely lucrative art fraud that triggered her dismissal.

This debut novel, the first in a series, has engendered a lot of air time, wildly polarising reviews, and plenty of column inches in the tabloids -- you'll either love it or hate it.  Or be like me ...

I really liked parts of it! The art world is not a familiar one for me, so I found that fascinating.  I also enjoyed the travel side of it, Paris, Venice, etc.  The author sounds quite at home and conversant whether in Italy or France.  And trying to keep a handle on "the conspiracy" - just what exactly is going on and how's it going to pan out?  There's a lot unsaid in the way this is written. Small details that could make everything plain and simple are teased out along the way, plus there are a few "I should've seen that coming" moments which make the narrative stronger for it.

What made this story even more enjoyable is the narrator of the Bolinda e-audiobook I downloaded.  Emilia Fox has just the perfect voice to handle the multi-nationals that appear in this story, from Judith's (and Leanne's) original home-town Liverpudlian accent, to her eventual uppercrust English; plus all scales of Italians, from mafioso to the glitterati cruising the globe in superyachts and playing idly with hedgefunds and the money market, to French gendarmes and Parisienne restauranteurs, plus both male and female and everything in-between!  Just an excellent delivery!

What I didn't like was the constant brand-name dropping.  Like who cares about Hermes and Channel handbags and monogrammed cuffs and collars? The clothing, the scarves/bags/shoes, the furniture, cars, yachts, it is so repetitious, so constant, that it really becomes tedious and aggravating. 

And what I really, really didn't like, so much so that I nearly gave up on the book, is that Judith is an "anti-hero".  She's cold, calculating, deceptive, vicious and has a massive ego. The frequent violence in this book is quite breathtaking, as is the full-on graphic sex, written in such a confronting way you can hear it and smell it.  If you have a problem with offensive four letter words, threesomes, daisy chains, swinging clubs, sadism, bondage and people doing things to each other that make you gag - well ...

The book finishes with Judith leaping on to the 12.12am train to Amsterdam.  Then there's an epilogue.  And then three words ... To Be Continued.  Will we jump aboard for book no. 2?  I really don't know.  

~ Deb.

PS - the movie option is already underway.
PPS - 'Maestra' is the feminine form of Maestro - by definition from the Spanish, a master of any art. 

A Guide to Berlin

A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones

Six international travellers made up of two Italians, two Japanese, an American and an Australian form a group while in Berlin. They meet regularly in empty apartments and share stories of themselves which they call “speak memories”. Each of the members is familiar with the work of writer Vladamir Nabokov (author of Lolita), who lived in Berlin in 1925 and wrote a short story called “A Guide to Berlin”. The strangers become friends and yet there’s always a polite respect within the group -   rules of the meetings seem to be implied, not overtly expressed. Berlin is the perfect winter host of the gatherings. The friendships evolve, and Cass, the Australian, forms a close bond with Italian Marco. Then unexpected and devastating incidents pull the whole group, shell-shocked, apart. 

A Guide to Berlin was written in Berlin by Gail Jones during an 'Artists Fellowship'. The wonderful descriptions of the city during winter really make Berlin like the 7th member of the group.  The city is fascinating – icy cold, snowy cold, bleak and grey, with reminders of its dark history making appearances here and there. There is a quiet assuredness to the characters - having a love of words and stories and with secrets which they may or may not reveal in their “speak memories”. The Nabokovian events which bring about the end of the group are surprising and satisfying.

I loved this book. It was unique and wonderfully written. Highly recommended. 
~ Ali

Bricks that Built the Houses

The Bricks that Built the Houses by Kate Tempest

Harry is an androgynous thirty-year-old woman living in south east London. She and her oldest friend Leon are successfully selling eye-watering amounts of cocaine to the higher echelons of London society, but only until they have enough money to escape their lives – and they’re getting close. Harry’s younger brother Pete is unemployed, smokes too much dope and is way too paranoid. So paranoid that he’s struggling to control his trust issues with his beautiful new girlfriend, Becky. Becky is struggling too. A talented dancer estranged from her parents, she’s making ends meet by delivering intimate massages to London businessmen.

What Pete doesn’t know is that Becky has already met his sister Harry at a nightclub and sparks flew between the two. Becky is attracted to both the brother and sister, but when she finds out that Pete doesn’t trust her, her attraction to Harry only intensifies. The action culminates when Harry and Leon’s regular trusted drug supplier is sent to prison. When they’re confronted with a deal that goes disastrously wrong, they are forced to flee for their lives.

Why we love it: 
The Bricks That Built the Houses is a fast-paced, urban tale about a group of young friends struggling in contemporary London. Its poetic, almost explosive writing style and modern, disillusioned characters are reminiscent of the author’s poetry and rap for which she is drawing huge critical acclaim around the globe. This is her debut novel.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Fool me once

I am a big Harlan Coben fan and have only once given him a so so rating on one of his titles.  He is an excellent mystery writer with the amazing skill of 'doing your head in', whilst still giving you a believable story.

However, with Fool me once, he has outdone even himself.

Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya's husband, Joe--who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband--and herself.

Fool me once is a perfect title, as I was fooled many times.  Coben had my head whirling trying to work out "whodunnit" and changing my mind so many times that in the end I gave up trying to guess and just went along for the ride.

And what a ride it was!  This is one of those 'can't put down books' and when I had to put it down, I found my way back to it as soon as I could.

The story is third person perspective from Maya's point of view, which is delivered amazingly well. The other characters in the story either engender your support or your antagonism and in this, Coben doesn't let you down.  The good guys are still the good guys at the end, as are the bad guys.  Except for one.....  and are they really a bad guy in the end?

And if you want to know which 'one' and the answer to that question you will have to read it for yourself.

~ Michelle

Man Booker Shortlist

The Man Booker International Prize: Six shortlisted books in six languages.  Four countries appear for the first time. The list includes one previous finalist, two Independent Foreign Fiction Prize winners and one Nobel Prize winner.  Each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000, while the £50,000 prize will be divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning entry.

A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola) translated by Daniel Hahn (UK)

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (Italy) translated by Ann Goldstein (USA)

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (South Korea) translated by Deborah Smith (UK)

A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk (Turkey) translated by Ekin Oklap (Turkey)

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler (Austria) translated by Charlotte Collins (UK)

The Four Books by Yan Lianke (China) translated by Carlos Rojas (USA)

The winner of the 2016 Prize will be announced on 16 May, 2016.

~ Deb

Stella Prize 2016

The winner of the 2016 Stella Prize is Charlotte Wood for her novel The Natural Way of Things.

The $50,000 Stella Prize celebrates Australian women’s contribution to literature in both fiction and non-fiction. It was awarded for the first time in 2013.

~ Deb.

Abstract: Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a 'nurse'. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl's past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue - but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

Stella Prize winner

The winner of the 2016 Stella Prize is Charlotte Wood for her novel The Natural Way of Things.

The $50,000 Stella Prize celebrates Australian women’s contribution to literature in both fiction and non-fiction. It was awarded for the first time in 2013.

~ Deb.

Abstract: Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a 'nurse'. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl's past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue - but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

Watchmaker of Filigree Street

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow. But he has worse fears than generous burglars; he is a telegraphist at the Home Office, which has just received a threat for what could be the largest-scale Fenian bombing in history. When the watch saves Thaniel's life in a blast that destroys Scotland Yard, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori - a kind, lonely immigrant who sweeps him into a new world of clockwork and music. Although Mori seems harmless at first, a chain of unexpected slips soon proves that he must be hiding something. Meanwhile, Grace Carrow is sneaking into an Oxford library dressed as a man. A theoretical physicist, she is desperate to prove the existence of the luminiferous ether before her mother can force her to marry. As the lives of these three characters become entwined, events spiral out of control until Thaniel is torn between loyalties, futures and opposing geniuses. 

A little bit gay Steam Punk and a tad Gaiman-esque, The Watchmaker of Filligree Street transports you out of your time zone into another place, a place where gas lamps hiss and horses hooves clip clop through the snowy cobbled streets of London.  Along with Irish bombings and a Gilbert and Sulivan operetta taking place on a Japanese set built in Hyde Park, we have an incongruous but none-the-less intriguing mix of characters who combine science, clairvoyance, fireworks, and whirlygigs of cogs and diamonds inside the captivating Katsu, a random clockwork, sock-stealing octopus. 

It's very hard to describe this book, it is beguiling; so much wafts around like Mori's clockwork fireflies and tiny birds, so maybe that will be the trigger for you to pick it up and indulge in its mellifluous lines.  Despite bombings and the stodgy constabulary wielding truncheons thither and yon, this is a slow and gentle read, just lovely within its atmospheric setting. The 'whodunnit' toward the end is my only letdown, but the finish more than made up for it.

We have this title in all formats - both print and electronic.  I downloaded the e-audiobook which was narrated perfectly by Thomas Judd.

~ Deb

People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

When Hanna Heath gets a call in the middle of the night in her Sydney home about a precious medieval manuscript which has been recovered from the smouldering ruins of war-torn Sarajevo, she knows she is on the brink of the experience of a lifetime. A renowned book conservator, she must now make her way to Bosnia to start work on restoring The Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish prayer book -- to discover its secrets and piece together the story of its miraculous survival. But the trip will also set in motion a series of events that threaten to rock Hanna's orderly life, including her encounter with Ozren Karamen, the young librarian who risked his life to save the book.

A marvellous read for the book nerd and adventure seeker alike, with dabbles of history and a twisting narrative that will keep you enthralled from start to finish. Beautifull written, it has a very clear transition between the present and past so you don't get lost! The real story centres around the people who, over years of war, turmoil and love, create an incredible legacy encased within the dusty pages of the Sarajevo Haggadah. A great book for an inquisitive couch-lounging explorer!

~ Annie

Romance Readers Awards

The Australian Romance Readers Awards (ARRA) for books published in 2015 have been announced. The awards are handed out annually in nine categories, and each year in the run-up to the awards, ARRA members are invited to choose and vote on three, special ‘reader-selected’ awards, this year Favourite Cover, Strongest Heroine and Favourite New Australian Romance Author.

And the winners are:

Paranormal Romance — Tribal Law by Shannon Curtis
Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance — Base by Cathleen Ross
Short Category Romance — Fire Me Up by Rachael Johns
Historical Romance — The Spring Bride by Anne Gracie
Contemporary Romance — The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns
Erotic Romance — Anticipation by Sarah Mayberry
Romantic Suspense — Northern Heat by Helene Young
Continuing Romance Series — Chance Sisters series by Anne Gracie

Favourite Australian Romance author - Anne Gracie


Favourite Cover — The Horse Thief by Téa Cooper
Strongest Heroine — Jane Chance in The Spring Bride by Anne Gracie
Favourite New Romance Author 2015 — Kerrie Paterson

~ Deb