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Keating: the biography

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Keating: the biography by David Day


In the tradition of his bestselling 'Curtin' and 'Chifley', this is David Day's exhaustive biography of one of our most fascinating prime ministers. Paul Keating was one of the most significant political figures of the late twentieth century, first as Treasurer for eight years and then Prime Minister for five years. Although he has spent all of his adult life in the public eye, Keating has eschewed the idea of publishing his memoirs and has discouraged biographers from writing about his life. Undaunted, David Day has taken on the task of giving Keating the biography that he deserves. Based on extensive research in libraries and archives, interviews with Keating's former colleagues and associates, and walking the tracks of Keating's life, Day has painted the first complete portrait of Paul Keating, covering both the public and private man.

Via careful research and many interviews with Keating himself and those who knew him, Day tells the story of Keating from his childhood, through his glory years as federal treasurer and the Prime Minister and into his continuing role as political and social commentator.  Some little known facts emerge along the way… I did not know that Keating arrived in parliament in 1969 courtesy of a well organised branch stack! While Day generally paints Keating in a favourable light, he does not ignore the serious character flaws that ultimately lead to his downfall at the hands of John Howard in 1996.

If you enjoy revisiting the dramas of Australian political life during a period of massive reform in the 19980s and 1990s, and have an admiration (grudging or not) for this political giant, you will be enthralled by this book.

Teresa

Narrow Road to the Deep North

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The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan’s story, of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle’s wife, journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel; from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival; from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It takes its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho’s travel journal.

This Man Booker Prize winner is a harrowing tale of a doctor's experience on the Thai Burma railway during World War Two. It tells the story of Dorrigo Evans, a doctor trying to survive and help soldiers in appalling conditions. This novel also tells the story of war through the Japanese sergeant’s eyes, and the colourful characters that Dorrigo tries to save from fever, infection, starvation and brutal beatings. It's also a love story of a love that can never be, a loveless marriage, and a life of infidelity. It is an epic novel that courses through the lives of people brutally affected by war. 

Sandra C


Diagram Prize

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My favourite post of the year - it's Diagram Prize time!  The Bookseller/Diagram Prize for the Oddest Title of the year is a humorous 'literary' award that is bestowed annually in the UK by The Bookseller, a British trade magazine for the publishing industry.  The winner was initially decided by a panel of judges, but since 2000, it has been decided by a public vote on the magazine's website.  

The Bookseller magazine’s annual award highlights “a year of astonishing publishing depth, range and bat-guano eccentricity”, the magazine said. 

And the winner is ... drum roll please ... 
Divorcing a Real Witch: for Pagans and the people that used to love them by Diana Rajchel. 

Rajchel’s title was up against :
-  Nature’s Nether Regions by Menno Schilthuizen
-  Advanced Pavement Research: Selected, Peer Reviewed Papers from the 3rd International Conference on Concrete Pavements Design, Construction, and Rehabilitation, ed. Bo Tian
-  The Madwoman in the Volvo: my year of raging hormones by Sandra Tsing-Loh
-  Where Do Camels Belong? by Ken Thompson
-  The Ugly Wife is Treasured at Home by Melissa Margaret Schneider, and 
-  Strangers Have the Best Candy by Margaret Meps Schulte.

Deb

Coastal guide to nature and history 2: Mornington Peninsula's ocean shore, Western Port, Phillip Island & French Island

Links to our Past - history -

Graham Patterson has recently published his second Coastal Guide Book and this one covers Western Port, Phillip Island, French Island and Mornington's Peninsula ocean shore. Graham has walked the entire 320 kilometre shoreline from Port Phillip Heads to San Remo then Phillip Island and French Island and this naturally includes parts of the City of Casey and the Cardinia Shire. The local section starts at Quail Island, covers the coastal towns of Cannons Creek, Warneet, Blind Bight, Tooradin then around the Bay to Lang Lang and Jam Jerrup.

Graham covers local history, coastal fauna and flora and land forms. You don't need to actually walk the 320 kilometres to get the most of this book - there are maps to get to places of interest. It's a great book - lots of illustrations, maps and information and well worth reading if you have an interest in the local and natural history of the Western Port region.

It's called Coastal guide to nature and history 2 : Mornington Peninsula's ocean shore, Western Port, Phillip Island & French Island and is a companion volume to Coastal guide to nature and history : Port Phillip Bay ,

This is Graham's website, www.coastalguidebooks.net.au if you want to purchase a copy. other wise click on the titles above and it will take you to our catalogue. Graham is an electrical engineer and has taught science at a secondary school level and is a keen bush walker.

IMPAC Awards open

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Each year public libraries throughout the world join together to submit titles for consideration in the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, one of the world's richest literary prizes with a €100,000 prize (AUD $145,000).

 
The State Library of Victoria invites you to help select Victoria’s titles from the list below:

A Million Windows by Gerald Murnane
Amnesia by Peter Carey
Asking for Trouble by Peter Timms
Challenge by Paul Daley 
Cicada by Moira McKinnon
Demons by Wayne Macauley
Goddess by Kelly Gardiner
Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett
Joyful by Robert Hillman
Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas
Quota by Jock Serong
The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew by Eli Glasman
The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna
The Glass Kingdom by Chris Flynn
The Lost Child by Suzanne McCourt
The War of the Four Isles: The Ship Kings 3 by Andrew McGahan
The Word Ghost by Christine Paice
This Picture of You by Sarah Hopkins
Tree Palace by Craig Sherborne
What Came Before by Anna George

You can vote for your preferred title, one only please, at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MC8DZBB by close of business Friday 10 April.  The State Library of Victoria will put forward the top three titles to be in the running, with the winner announced 17 June, 2015. 

Deb

The Strays

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The Strays by Emily Bitto

Evan Trentham is the wild child of the Melbourne art world of the 1930s. He and his captivating wife, Helena, attempt to carve out their own small niche, to escape the stifling conservatism they see around them, by gathering together other like-minded artists. They create a Utopian circle within their family home, offering these young artists a place to live and work, and the mixed benefits of being associated with the infamous Evan. 

At the periphery of this circle is Lily Struthers, the best friend of Evan and Helena's daughter Eva. Lily is infatuated by the world she bears witness to, and longs to be part of this enthralling makeshift family. As Lily observes years later, looking back on events that she still carries painfully within her, the story of this groundbreaking circle involved the same themes as Evan Trentham's art: Faustian bargains and terrible recompense; spectacular fortunes and falls from grace. Yet it was not Evan, nor the other artists he gathered around him, but his own daughters, who paid the debt that was owing.

I really enjoyed the story and characters, in particular the friendships between the girls. The discussions about new and frantic creativity brought an energy and excitement to the story which, for the time, was right at the forefront for art. The story is most likely inspired by the Melbourne art scenes of the time. A great read. 

Ali

The Girl on the Train

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

From the cover:  Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?"

This is a debut novel by a former journalist. Rachel witnesses something on her daily train journey, but with a history of alcoholism, a broken marriage, a lost job, who possibly would believe her? You hear the individual stories of the key characters in the book and how they are all linked into the disappearance of Megan, whose story begins one year before Rachel's. 

I must admit, initially it was a little confusing with the dates interspersed throughout the story, but you have to just go with it, all will be revealed! Megan's story seems to move quickly forward, while Rachel's, very slowly. I thought they were a perfect analogy for two trains on different tracks, bound to converge at some point along the way. And they do. 

Megan goes missing on a day Rachel has drunk herself into a blackout. What has happened to Megan and what does her story have to do with not only Rachel herself, but also her fantasy story of the perfect couple? Also, what about Rachel's ex-husband and his new wife who just happen to live five houses away, how have they become linked? You can't help but get involved in the individual character's lives and develop some empathy for them.

This is definitely a thriller that kept me moving quickly through the pages once the pace picked up. Think Gone Girl crossed with Rear Window!! It's no surprise that this book has already been optioned for a film version.

Janine

When the Night Comes

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When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett

When the Night Comes tells the story of a young girl learning what is important in life and who to trust; and of a crewman on the Antarctic supply ship, the Nella Dan, a modern Viking searching to understand his past and find a place in this world for himself. When their paths cross, he teaches her the gift of stillness, of watching birds and shares tales of sailing south to the ice. She shows him what is missing in his life. Though their time together is cut short, the small gifts have been enough to set her path towards the sea. And maybe what they give to each other will mean they can both eventually find their way home.

Bo is a cook on the 'Nella Dan' while Isla and her brother have moved from the mainland to Tasmania with their mother for a 'better' life. It’s obvious there is a romantic relationship between Isla’s mother and Bo, but the real story focuses on the connection between Bo and Isla. 

The actual timeline of the story is brief - two summers. When the Night Comes is not a plot-driven story. The tension is understated. Emotion is the main focus. Parrett's characters are living, breathing, feeling human beings laid out on the page in a way that reminds the reader that the smallest happening can sometimes have the largest impact. 

It is said that everyone who enters your life is either there for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Bo opened up the world for Isla. He helped her to dream big dreams and to be unafraid of following them. Isla helped Bo realise that he wanted to have a family of his own and to raise them where he was raised, to share the traditions and experiences his father shared with him. The lives of these two characters were made better by simply knowing one another.

The writing is lyrical, soulful, real. Parett’s storytelling is gentle, yet masterful, with its ability to draw you in so deeply with very little going on.

Lisa

ED: This is an abridged version of Lisa's review.  You can read the full review at
http://lisa-wardle.blogspot.com    Lisa's poetry and stories have been published in various literary magazines and journals. Her short story collection "Reflections" was published in Dec 2009 by Ginninderra Press.

The Anniversary Man

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The Anniversary Man by R.J. Ellory

From the cover:  John Costello and girlfriend Nadia became victims of the deranged "Hammer of God" killer who terrorized Jersey City throughout the summer of 1984. This murderer went after young courting couples in an attempt to "save their souls." Nadia was killed, but John survived. Physically and psychologically scarred, he withdrew from society and now only emerges to work as a crime researcher for a major newspaper. No one in New Jersey knows more about serial killers than John Costello. So, when a new spate of murders starts - all seemingly random and unrelated - he is the only one who can discern the pattern that lies behind them. But could this dark knowledge threaten his own life?

This book is definitely in the suspense genre, but thriller it’s not. It’s so long and drawn out that you have to wait quite a while for the aforementioned suspense to kick in, but when it does, it packs a whallop.  It's also different; it’s gritty, and to my mind, more realistic than a lot of crime fiction which can be a bit too slick with relationships that work out, murderers all explained and nice pat endings tidied up and pigeonholed.  This police department is overworked, understaffed, hamstrung by politics and mayoral elections.  Our lead detective Ray Irving is frustrated, exhausted, still missing his significant other who passed away more than a year ago, sad, lonely and depressed with the lack of progress in identifying the serial killer that is playing games with him.  

I did read an interesting review that said Ellory, an award-nominated English thriller writer, is out of his comfort zone by setting this story in New York, Manhattan to be exact.  It mentioned the feeling of Ellory seemingly working his way through the Manhattan ‘Melway’ and that’s pretty much spot on. There are so many street references, it drives you nuts!!  

I listened to The Anniversary Man on Playaway and it is deftly narrated by Kyle Riley but we also have this in hard copy, large print and CD audio.   If you can stick with the almost 80 chapters, it is worth it.  Take note:  there is some full-on language and some graphic murder scenes, so it’s not a novel for the fair-weather crime reader. 
Deb

Outback Dreams

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Outback Dreams by Rachael Johns


Faith Forrester is at a crossroads. Single, thirty and living on a farm in a small Western Australian town, she’s sick of being treated like a kitchen slave by her brother and father. Ten years ago, her mother died of breast cancer, and Faith has been treading water ever since. 

For as long as he can remember, Daniel ‘Monty’ Montgomery has been Faith’s best friend. When he was ten, his parents sold the family property and moved to Perth, and ever since, Monty’s dreamed of having his own farm. So for the last ten years, he’s been back on the land, working odd jobs and saving every dollar to put toward his dream. 

So when Faith embarks on a mission to raise money for a charity close to her heart, and Monty’s dream property comes on the market, things seem like they are falling into place for them both. Until a drunken night out ends with them sleeping together. Suddenly, the best friends are faced with a new load of challenges...

I don't usually read rural romances as I was disappointed with the first one by another Australian author, but this time I was pleasantly surprised after being lucky enough to receive a signed copy from Rachael herself! 

The story of Faith and Monty was good, and yes, it is a romance, but the story itself had a lot more substance to it. As well as getting into both sides of their families, I thought the autism storyline was very refreshing. I also liked the fact that it was not too predictable - just when you thought they were going to live happily ever after something happened!

The author now has two more books about the residents of Bunyip Bay and I'm hoping that Faith and Monty make an appearance in these too.

Janine

Are You Seeing Me?

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

Twins Justine and Perry are about to embark on the road trip of a lifetime in the Pacific Northwest. It's been a year since they watched their dad lose his battle with cancer. Now, at only nineteen, Justine is the sole carer for her disabled brother. But with Perry having been accepted into an assisted-living residence, their reliance on each other is set to shift. Before they go their separate ways, they're seeking to create the perfect memory. For Perry, the trip is a glorious celebration of his favourite things: mythical sea monsters, Jackie Chan movies and the study of earthquakes. For Justine, it's a chance to reconcile the decision to 'free' her twin, to see who she is without her boyfriend, Marc - and to offer their mother the chance to atone for past wrongs. But the instability that has shaped their lives will not subside, and the seismic event that Perry forewarned threatens to reduce their worlds to rubble...

I was such a fan of Kindling that I was automatically interested in reading Are You Seeing Me? I was not disappointed.  The author's use of the twin's father’s letters and journal add an extra layer to this dual narrator story, and the theme of independence is a big one. 

During their trip, Perry predicts an earthquake and his prediction comes true. Justine is hurt during the earthquake. She isn’t breathing. Perry, rather than melting down in this high stress situation and failing to function, revives Justine using CPR and gets the help of a stranger to get her to the hospital. These are things he would normally have problems with, things Justine would never expect him to be able to deal with on his own, but he does.  

Perry has far more self-awareness and empathy than those around him can understand. There is a difference with being independent and being interdependent. Independence suggests you do everything for yourself without the need for assistance. Interdependence is the skill of being able to ask for the help you need when you need it. I believe this is far more important and Perry proved he is capable of doing just that. He saved his sister’s life. She has to respect and admire him for that. He is not the ’little’ brother she’s always taken care of anymore, he’s much more than that. He’s a man.

Groth has created a story with heart. Family is the main focus, but in particular, forgiveness.

Lisa

ED: This is an abridged version of Lisa's review.  You can read the full review at
http://lisa-wardle.blogspot.com    Lisa's poetry and stories have been published in various literary magazines and journals. Her short story collection "Reflections" was published in Dec 2009 by Ginninderra Press.


Nona and Me

Quicksand -

If you are looking for a smart and intelligent teenage novel, then 'Nona and Me' by Clare Atkins may be the book for you!

Rosie is a white teenager who lives with her mother on an Aboriginal community.
As a child, she was best friends with Nona, an Aboriginal girl, and they were brought up as sisters or 'yapas' due to strong family connections.

But Rosie hasn't seen Nona in years and is now ensconsed with her best friends Selena and Anya and is developing a relationship with Selena's brother. Selena is bright and bitchy and peer group pressure is well evident as the girls go 'fridging' (stealing alcohol) before a party. Rosie is uncomfortable but goes along. It is also evident that Selena has little time for Rosie's Aboriginal friends and connections and Selena could easily write her off.

'Nona and Me' is set in the era of the Northern Territory intervention in 2007, when the Australian Government sought fit to send in the Army to bring about an overhaul in Aboriginal health and education.
Was this action good or bad? Positive or negative? Nothing is simple and there are differing and complex ways of looking at these issues. Many Aboriginal people were terrified and felt that the intervention would bring about another era of the Stolen Generation.
In many respects Rosie lives in two different worlds. Can she find a path through for herself?

Strong and capable writing that gives the reader an insight into race relations, peer pressure and modern communities.

-Ann

What Came Before

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What Came Before by Anna George
From the cover: David sits in his car, sick to his stomach and barely able to order his thoughts, but determined to record his statement of events. His wife, Elle, hovers over her lifeless body as it lies on the laundry floor of the house they shared. David thinks back on their relationship - intimate, passionate, intense - and what led to this violent endpoint. Elle traces their shared past as well and her version of events gradually reveals how wrong she was about the man she'd loved.

Although this novel has a grim beginning, I found it to be a fascinating and compelling read.

What Came Before is set in the inner western suburbs of Melbourne and revisits the early days of the relationship of scriptwriter/director Elle and solicitor David. It is a passionate relationship that descends fairly quickly into domestic violence. The author has used the unusual technique of one character narrating from the afterlife while hovering over her battered body on the laundry floor.

The novel gives a remarkable insight into this intimate relationship and enables the reader to get a better understanding of how these situations are never black and white. It can happen to anybody. Abuse is not always physical. And it's not just a matter of leaving - it often takes several attempts to make the break.

The passionate nature of the relationship between Elle and David reminded me a little of Amy and Nick's connection in Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl- although thankfully neither character is as warped or manipulative.
What Came Before was one of 10 Victorian books selected for The Summer Read, an initiative of the State Library of Victoria.

Sandra E

Love in the Time of Contempt

Reading Rewards - reviews -

Love in the Time of Contempt by Joanne Fedler

Welcome to the world of parenting teens. This new era is about enduring intermittent bouts of contempt and not taking it personally. It's about picking the fights that are worth having because through them your kids get to know who you are as a person, what you stand for and what you won't tolerate. Love in the Time of Contempt is not a how-to manual on parenting 13-19 year-olds. It is a gritty look at the day-to-day interactions with teenagers in which Joanne Fedler takes us on a journey from frustration, to confusion, to elation and back again.

Joanne Fedler's latest offering is part pep-talk, part personal memoir and an open invitation to consider yourself a part of the club devoted to the 'Raising of Teenagers'.

The book can be enjoyed from many points of view; that of the parent in the midst of raising teens, that of the parent who is done with that particular challenge, and that of the parent (or non-parent) remembering their own teenaged years. The stories in this book can't help but jog your memory about your own behaviour during those tumultuous years, and your feelings about your parents at the time. 

Fedler's writing is honest, humorous, and insightful. She shares her experiences generously, without being didactic. With warmth and a touch of irony she gives the reader that sense of solidarity and support that, during what is often one of the most difficult stages of parenting, we are not alone. In the end we are all in this together. As parents, we just have to do the best we know how to do, learning on-the-job, while staying open and available to our teenagers. 

I highly recommend Love in the Time of Contempt.

Lisa

He Who Must Be Obeid

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He Who Must Be Obeid by Kate McClymont & Linton Besser

There is something about a court case followed by the withdrawal and pulping of a book which instantly arouses interest. Add to that the name of Eddie Obeid, easily the name most likely to invoke adjectives like “corrupt”, “sleazy” and “criminal”, and how could anyone resist this tale of a megalomaniac’s fall from power? 

This book first appeared in August 2014 and was quickly recalled and pulped by the publisher due to legal action taken on behalf of the Obeid family. It has now been re-edited and tightened up to eliminate a defamation case, but it still packs a wallop.  It tells how Eddie Obeid rose from his poor immigrant Lebanese background to be a kingmaker of NSW politics, appointing and sacking Premiers at will and enriching his family’s coffers by millions of dollars in the process. What is just as tantalising is the long list of names cropping up along the way – Graham Richardson, Rene Rivkin, Morris Iemma, Carl Bitar, Arthur Sinodinos and many more - all were somehow involved with this sordid passage which was ultimately brought to a stop by the investigations of the NSW ICAC, investigations which are still not over. Criminal charges are forthcoming for a number of specific offences, and Eddie may yet end up in jail.

This story is long, involved and complicated, but truly riveting and begs the question: “Is there any such thing as an honest politician?”

Teresa

Flipping Out

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Flipping Out by Marshall Karp

From the cover:  Bestselling mystery author Nora Bannister has found herself a very lucrative sideline, house-flipping. Along with a group of female friends, she buys a run-down house in Los Angeles, and while her business partners turn it into a show home, Nora makes it the scene of a grisly murder in her latest bestselling series - A House to Die For.  It seems people are only too happy to live in a house where someone has died a violent death – in fiction at least.  But, much to the horror or Nora and her pals, a series of real murders starts taking place.

Just when it all became so obvious, things in this somewhat quirky whodunit took a left turn at Albuquerque and the blurb above became something entirely different. Instead of house renovating, writing bestsellers and murder, it became kidney harvesting, illegal Mexican immigrants, and cops and the D.A’s office!

This is quite a complex story and I had to rewind the Playaway a couple of times thinking maybe I’d missed something, but I hadn’t.  It would make a good tv show as it has a bit of everything in it, all underpinned with some snappy banter and humour to keep things humming along nicely.  Well narrated by John Chancer in LA cop/Mexican/Latino/Irish Catholic/male and female character voices, I’d recommend this if you’re looking for something a bit left field in the crime genre.  
Deb.
PS - This is one of a series featuring the two detectives, Lomax & Biggs. 



Stella Prize longlist

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The Stella Prize celebrates Australian women’s contribution to literature. It was awarded for the first time in 2013 to Carrie Tiffany for Mateship with Birds. In 2014, the winner was Clare Wright for The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka. The prize is worth $50,000, and both fiction and nonfiction books are eligible for entry.  The longlisted books are: 

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke
The Strays by Emily Bitto
Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey
This House of Grief by Helen Garner
Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett
The Invisible History of the Human Race by Christine Kenneally
The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna 
The Golden Age by Joan London
Laurinda by Alice Pung
Nest by Inga Simpson 
Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven
In My Mother's Hands by Biff Ward

The shortlist will be announced on March 12 and the winner on April 21.

Deb. 

The Memory Book

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The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

From the cover:  The name of your first-born. The face of your lover. Your age. Your address … What would happen if your memory of these began to fade?  When Claire starts to write her Memory Book, she already knows that this scrapbook of mementoes will soon be all her daughters and husband have of her.  But how can she hold onto the past when her future is slipping through her fingers?

I borrowed this Playaway as an antidote to reading too much murder and mayhem and I couldn’t have chosen anything better. In fact, this may well be my Read of the Year, so touching and memorable was it.   

The publisher blurb sounded like it was going to be upsetting but it didn’t say how funny and clever it would be.  Nor did it indicate how the author presents a genuine understanding of a marriage where a husband and wife truly share a deep love; nor what an eye opener it is into Early Onset Alzheimer’s. It is a disease I knew nothing about before this book and can now appreciate how utterly terrifying and soul destroying it is. 

Set in the UK, the story is told from the position of the main players – mother-of-two, Claire, who is suffering the disease; her husband Greg; the eldest daughter, Caitlyn; and Claire’s mother, Ruth.  The audio version utilises the wonderful talents of four narrators who bring the characters so realistically to life, you feel you personally know them.   

This book is heart achingly wonderful.  Yes you will cry, and yes, you will laugh, and at the end of it, you will quite possibly want to make a memory book of your own for your family.   

Deb.

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To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis 

Sustainability is all about making small changes now, to create a different, improved future. But what would happen if you went back in time and made changes? Could there be unintended consequences?

Connie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction, deftly weaves time travel and history into highly entertaining novels. This story in her "Oxford Time Travel" series re-introduces her main characters as well as some new ones. They are history students at Oxford University in the mid 21st century who study history by travelling back in time to see how it all really happened. 

It opens with the students travelling back to Victorian England to research Coventry Cathedral. Mishaps occur, threatening the "space time continuum" (remember "Back to the future" with Michael J. Fox?), and our characters continually strive to avoid making social faux pas which would reveal them as imposters.

This book is a gem - it is a blend of history, science fiction, Shakespearean mis-matched romance, and an Oscar Wilde satire. Although the book is considered "science fiction", if you are not a fan of the genre, please don't be put off. The historical settings are well researched and quite believable. 

Also recommended are the other books in the Oxford Time Travel series: The Doomsday Book (set in medieval Europe), Blackout and its sequel All Clear (set in London during the blitz), and her first story, Firewatch, which introduces the main characters.

Kim



The Book of the Dead

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The Book of the Dead by Greig Beck


From the cover: Massive sinkholes are opening across the country, each larger and deeper than the previous one. Anyone living near one of the pits is reporting strange phenomena –  vibrations, sulphurous odours and strange sounds rising up from the stygian depths and the family pets go missing. Then come the reports of horrifying ‘things’ rising from the darkness.

When the people start disappearing the government is forced to act. A team is sent in to explore one of the holes – and all hell breaks loose – the Old Ones are rising up again.

From the war zones of the Syrian Desert, to the fabled Library of Alexandria, and then to Hades itself, join Professor Matt Kearns as he searches for the fabled Al Azif, known as the Book of the Dead. He must unravel an age-old prophecy, and stop Beings from a time even before the primordial ooze seeking once again to claim the planet as their own. Time is running out, for Matt, and all life on Earth.

I wish had known right up front rather than an end note that this book is in homage to the disturbed and ultimately tragic author, H. P. Lovecraft.  Lovecraft created most of the disgusting creatures in this book, including the massive ‘slug with an octopus head and wings of a dragon’ Cthulhu and its minions, the Shoggoths, way back in the early 20th century*.  Greig Beck has reincarnated them in 2015, with two of his own recurring characters, the quite delicious Professor Matt Kearns, and the not so delicious Mossad agent, Adira Sanesh.  As per usual, sundry bad guys and military types make up the rest of the cast and Sean Mangan delivers a first-class narration.

I love most of Beck’s books, they are not my usual fare and have me on tenterhooks sometimes, a bit like watching a scary movie where you don’t want to look but know you will.  His writing grabbed me from the first – Beneath the Dark Ice was an excellent ice-breaker, pun intended, and the others that followed stamped his mastery in a complex genre that melds suspense thriller, supernatural, high-tech military, ancient history, geo-political, biological science and a touch of romance into one page-turning pot boiler.

The Book of the Dead unfortunately fell more into the horror genre, which was disappointing; it was barbaric, gory and bleak.   If it was made clear at the very beginning that this is some kind of ‘tribute novel’, perhaps I wouldn’t have felt so let down.  

I for one will be looking forward to when Greig Beck, the fan, gets back to being Greig Beck, the author, creating more from his own mind rather than regurgitating someone else’s characters and trying to fit his around them.  If you want to see the author firing on all cylinders, check out the brilliant The First Bird Trilogy.    
Deb.  

* It has been noted that some of Lovecraft's work was inspired by his own nightmares – unsurprising as his Grandfather would regale gothic horror stories when he was only a small boy; and that his most significant literary influence was Edgar Allan Poe. Lovecraft once wrote about visiting New York:   "...  I had looked for poignant wonder and inspiration ... I had found instead only a sense of horror and oppression which threatened to master, paralyze, and annihilate me".  It was around this time he wrote the outline for "The Call of Cthulhu" with its theme of the insignificance of all humanity.   Howard Phillips Lovecraft died penniless, age 46, in 1937.

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