Category Archives: Fiction – Light

The Dry – Jane Harper

The Dry - Jane Harper

The Dry – Jane Harper

This book is everywhere – huge piles of it at Dymocks and you could buy it cheaply from Big W. It’s ubiquity put me off, but when it was selected by my book club I was prepared to give it a go.

Here is the blurb …

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…
When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.
And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…

What this book did brilliantly was create the feeling of heat

The late afternoon heat draped itself around him like a blanket.

and the belligerent men at the pub (I think they come standard with all small Australian towns).

This was a real page turner I wanted to know what happened to the Hadlers, but I also wanted to know what happened to Ellie. I did guess who did it, but not why.

This was a quick and enjoyable read, which I think would make a great movie (you can almost hear the background cricket noise – the insect not the game).

 

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The Birdman’s Wife – Melissa Ashley

The Birdman's Wife -

The Birdman’s Wife – Melissa Ashley

This is a beautiful book – it has some of Elizabeth Gould’s painting reproduced on the cover and flyleaf.

This is the story of Elizabeth Gould wife of the more famous John Gould. Here is the blurb …

Inspired by a letter found tucked inside her famous husband’s papers, The Birdman’s Wife imagines the fascinating inner life of Elizabeth Gould, who was so much more than just the woman behind the man.
Elizabeth was a woman ahead of her time, juggling the demands of her artistic life with her roles as wife, lover and helpmate to a passionate and demanding genius, and as a devoted mother who gave birth to eight children. In a society obsessed with natural history and the discovery of new species, the birdman’s wife was at its glittering epicentre. Her artistry breathed life into hundreds of exotic finds, from her husband’s celebrated collections to Charles Darwin’s famous Galapagos finches.
Fired by Darwin’s discoveries, in 1838 Elizabeth defied convention by joining John on a trailblazing expedition to the untamed wilderness of Van Diemen’s Land and New South Wales to collect and illustrate Australia’s ‘curious’ birdlife.
From a naïve and uncertain young girl to a bold adventurer determined to find her own voice and place in the world, The Birdman’s Wife paints an indelible portrait of an extraordinary woman overlooked by history, until now.

I knew nothing about the Goulds John or Elizabeth. So to learn about them and the whole culture of discovering and classifying species was fascinating. In the modern photographic era you forget or dismiss how hard it must have been to describe definitively a new species. The Goulds, and many of their contemporaries I assume, painted pictures (Elizabeth’s work) and provided stuffed specimens. I must admit there was a lot of killing and stuffing in this book.

Elizabeth was an intrepid (and hard-working) adventurer who embarked on an expedition to Australia leaving all but one of her children behind. She valued her work and arranged her household so that she could work – quite modern in her approach.

I am not a fan of first person narrated historical fiction there is something about the way it flows or doesn’t flow that I don’t like. There were moments in this novel where the research sat heavily on the story – I felt I was being lectured. However, I am glad I have read it and I now feel I know more about Elizabeth Gould and collecting and classifying animals.

Another review …

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/review-the-birdmans-wife-by-melissa-ashley-and-the-atomic-weight-of-love-by-elizabeth-j-church-20161103-gshg3x.html

 

 

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To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine – Christy English

To Be Queen

To Be Queen – Christy English

My historical book group read this novel. I have to say I was surprised when I saw the cover!

Here’s the blurb …

After her father’s sudden death, fifteen-year-old Eleanor is quickly crowned Duchess of Aquitaine and betrothed to King Louis VII. When her new husband cannot pronounce her given name, Alienor becomes Eleanor, Queen of France.

Although Louis is enamored of his bride, the newly crowned king is easily manipulated by the church and a God that Eleanor doesn’t believe in. Now, if she can find the strength to fight for what she wants, Eleanor may finally find the passion she has longed for, and the means to fulfill her legacy as Queen.

There is no doubt that this was a bodice ripper, but I found Eleanor fascinating and I want to read more of her and her time. Therefore, this novel is a good starting of point and I think the history was reasonably accurate. My plan is to move onto some of the novels written by Elizabeth Chadwick (like The Summer Queen), or finish Alison Weir’s biography. Ralph V Turner has a biography as well.

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A Summer at Sea – Katie Fforde

A Summer at Sea - Katie Fforde

A Summer at Sea – Katie Fforde

I do like Katie Fforde novels – they’re so comforting in their sameness and yet I learn something new. Some work better than others and I think this is one of her better ones – it even has knitting!

Here’s the blurb …

She has a career as a midwife that she loves . She enjoys living on her own as a single woman. But she’s also feels it’s time for a change and a spot of some sea air. So when her best friend Rebecca asks whether she’d like to spend the summer cooking on a ‘puffer’ boat just off the Scottish coast, she jumps at the chance. But she barely has time to get to grips with the galley before she finds herself with a lot on her plate. Rebecca is heavily pregnant and is thrilled to have her friend on board doing most of the work. Then there’s Emily’s competitive and jealous kitchen assistant who thinks she should be head-cook, not Emily. And there’s Alasdair, the handsome local doctor who Emily is desperately trying not to notice. Because if she falls in love with him, as he appears to be falling for her, will she ever want her old life back again?

I think the blurb pretty much says it all – sometimes I think the conflict is contrived, but this time it was quite reasonable.  This is a fun, easy to read romance, which none the less is well-written (there is nothing jarring about it at all).

Another review …

http://www.pendletoday.co.uk/what-s-on/reviews/book-review-a-summer-at-sea-by-katie-fforde-1-7734638

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The Job – Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Job -

The Job – Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

I really like Ms Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels (although they are all the same), so when a friend lent me this one I was happy to give it a go.

Here’s the blurb …

Charming con man Nicolas Fox and dedicated FBI agent Kate O’Hare secretly take down world’s most-wanted and untouchable felons, next job Violante, the brutal leader of a global drug-smuggling empire. The FBI doesn’t know what he looks like, where he is, or how to find him, but Nick knows his tastes in gourmet chocolate.
From Nashville to Lisbon back alleys, from Istanbul rooftops to Thames, they chase clues to lookalike thefts. Pitted against a psychopathic bodyguard Reyna holding Kate hostage and a Portuguese enforcer getting advice from an ancestor’s pickled head, they again call driver Willie for ship, actor Boyd for one-eyed Captain Bridger, special effects carpenter Tom, her father Jake – retired Special Forces, and his talent – machete-wielding Somali pirate Billy Dee. This could be their biggest job – if they survive.

It was a light easy read full of drama and excitement, but it doesn’t have the same joy (or laugh out loud moments) as the Stephanie Plum novels. It would make a good movie though …

Another review…

http://www.austcrimefiction.org/review/review-job-janet-evanovich-and-lee-goldberg

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The Ladies of Missalonghi – Colleen McCullough

The Ladies of Missalonghi - Colleen McCullough

The Ladies of Missalonghi – Colleen McCullough

I read this book years ago – probably when it was first published in 1987 – and then there was the plagiarism controversy and it vanished (was it out of print). Anyway, I found a copy at the Rottnest General Store and I decided it was a good beach read.

Here is the blurb …

 Sometimes fairy tales can come true–even for plain, shy spinsters like Missy Wright. Neither as pretty as cousin Alicia nor as domineering as mother Drusilla, she seems doomed to a quiet life of near poverty at Missalonghi, her family’s pitifully small homestead in Australia’s Blue Mountains. But it’s a brand new century–the twentieth–a time for new thoughts and bold new actions. And Missy Wright is about to set every self-righteous tongue in the town of Byron wagging. Because she has just set her sights on a mysterious, mistrusted, and unsuspecting stranger… who just might be Prince Charming in disguise.

This was a light, fun read without too much going on – the awful cousin and the terrible men of the family get what they deserve, Missy finds wealth and will live happily ever after. There is also a mystical/ghostly element to it. What’s not to like? It is definitely like The Blue Castle written by L.M Montgomery (of whom I am a huge fan) just moved from Canada to Australia (and a little bit rougher around the edges shall we say). The Blue Castle is available on Project Gutenberg Australia, which means it must be out of copy right (at least here) and that’s why The Ladies of Missalonghi has been re-released.

Read it as a curiosity, but if you haven’t read The Blue Castle, then I would read that first and not bother with this one.

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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend - Katr

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – Katarina Bivald

This came highly recommended by a friend, so I downloaded it straight away.

Here’s the blurb …

Warning: once you let books into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

This is a book about books. All sorts of books, from Little Women and Harry Potter to Jodi Picoult and Jane Austen, from to Stieg Larsson to Joyce Carol Oates to Proust. It’s about the joy and pleasure of books, about learning from and escaping into them, and possibly even hiding behind them. It’s about whether or not books are better than real life.

It’s also a book about a Swedish girl called Sara, her elderly American penfriend Amy and what happens when you land a very different kind of bookshop in the middle of a town so broken it’s almost beyond repair.

Or is it?

The Readers of Broken Wheel has touches of 84 Charing Cross Road, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Chocolat, but adds an off-beat originality and intelligence all its own.

This is a really sweet book about books and reading – it reminded me a bit of The Collected Works of A J FikrySara, a bit of a lost soul, arrives in Broken Wheel to visit her pen-pal Amy. Unfortunately Amy has died, but the locals are expecting Sara and she ends up staying in Amy’s house. She slowly gets to know the locals and decides everyone’s lives would be better if they just read more (or even just read a book). She sets up a store selling Amy’s books. It is a failure at first, but when town pride is at stake (the local ‘big town’ are scoffing at Broken Wheel having a book store) the local people rally around to make it a success. There is romance, community and creating a sense of belonging.

One of the great things about this novel – apart from all of the book references – is the characters; Poor George, Grace (who comes from a line of rebellious women), Caroline (an extraordinary organiser who has an unexpected romance), Gertrude and May (they remind me of the two men from the Muppets who sat in the balcony and criticised everything) , Tom, Andy and the impossibly handsome Carl.

Another review …

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-readers-of-broken-wheel-recommend-by-katarina-bivald-book-review-finding-solace-far-from-home-10348117.html

 

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Poldark – Winston Graham

Poldark - Winston Graham

Poldark – Winston Graham

Well I had to read this after watching this …

Poldark - the TV series

Poldark – the TV series

For those of you who don’t know (like me before I read it) this book covers about half the television series.

Here is the blurb …

In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.

Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.

I liked it, but having said that I haven’t read the next one in the series. It has a wonderful sense of place – the cornish coast, Ross’s house. I do find dialogue written as it would sound annoying and this had a bit of that – probably why I haven’t rushed to read any more. It has the feel of a sweeping family saga – reminded me of The Thorn Birds  – so if you enjoy great sense of place, a bit of history, a bit of melodrama and the trials and tribulations of one family, then this novel is for you.

More reviews

http://austenprose.com/2015/07/11/ross-poldark-a-novel-of-cornwall-by-winston-graham-a-review/

https://ellenandjim.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/graham-winstons-ross-poldark-the-revenant/

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Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

A friend lent me this – I have previously read What Alice Forgot (which I didn’t mind) so thought I would give this one a go.

Here is the blurb …

‘I guess it started with the mothers.’
‘It was all just a terrible misunderstanding.’
‘I’ll tell you exactly why it happened.’

Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. One parent is dead. Was it murder, a tragic accident…or something else entirely?
Big Little Lies is a funny, heartbreaking, challenging story of ex-husbands and second wives, new friendships, old betrayals and schoolyard politics.
No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Liane Moriarty turns her unique gaze on the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves every day and what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.
Let me be clear. This is not a circus. This is a murder investigation.

I have children at primary school – the school in the novel reminded me so much of my school. The blonde bobs organising everything, the politics of party invitations, even the boozy trivia night (although we call it a quiz night and no one has been murdered yet).

This is an entertaining, funny story which tackles a couple of serious issues and is fun to read. I spent a lot of time identifying the various school mums with people from my school – definitely worth reading if you have children attending school. Who would want to be the mum who loses Harry the Hippo and replaces him with something ‘cheap and nasty’?

More reviews …

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/review-big-little-lies-by-liane-moriarty-20140723-zvmtf.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/25/books/in-big-little-lies-liane-moriarty-finds-new-complications.html?_r=0

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The List of My Desires – Grégoire Delacourt

The List of My Desires

The List of My Desires – Grégoire Delacourt

I bought this book simply for the buttons on the cover! I’ve been learning French, so should have attempted to read it in French, but I read a translation.

Here is the blurb …

Money can buy you freedom. But what about happiness?

When Jocelyne looks at herself in the mirror, she sees a middle-aged, married woman who runs a dressmaking shop in a small provincial French town and lives a very ordinary existence. But what happened to all those dreams she had when she was 17?

Then she wins millions on the lottery and has the chance to change her life for ever. So why does she find herself reluctant to accept the money? To help her decide what to do, she begins to compile a list of her heart’s desires, never suspecting for one moment that the decision might be taken out of her hands …

This is a light, easy and fun read (with the occasional serious moment). I don’t have a lot to say about it – I enjoyed it and it was a nice read after some hard slogs.

More reviews …

http://www.myfrenchlife.org/2014/02/13/french-bestseller-list-desires-delacourt/

http://www.cornflowerbooks.co.uk/2013/06/book-of-the-day-the-list-of-my-desires.html

 

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