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Reviews Published

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

This is the best thing I've read in a long time. I couldn't make up my mind whether to race on to see how the story unfolded, or pause every few pages to prolong the pleasure of being in Crow Lake. Mary Lawson (a Canadian writer, and, according to the Wikipedia, a distant relative of LM Montgomery) has created a masterpiece of balance between the past and the present, between the mystery and the microscopic mindfulness, between beautiful writing and simplicity.

What is the book about? Family, love, destiny, happiness, living in a small community in Northern Ontario.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Secrets We Kept

"The Secrets We Kept" by Lara Prescott is a fantastic read: engaging, thought-provoking, moving. I used to think I didn't care for spy thrillers - now I know I didn't care for male-centric spy thrillers. Women spies - bring them on!

The book follows women who work for the CIA during the Cold War. Over in Russia, the plot revolves around the woman who was the inspiration for "Doctor Zhivago", a book that the CIA is hoping to turn into an anti-Soviet weapon.

As you fall in love with the characters, you get a glimpse of what life was like in the 1950s on both sides of the Iron Curtain.


Cry Baby

This one's different! I've been following Mark Billingham since his first official visit to New Zealand (the Auckland Writers' Festival), where he shared the podium with two other authors and joked that with that many people in the audience, we could all go up and hold the presentation in his hotel room. I fell in love with his humour right then and promptly bought "Sleepyhead" and all those that came after. I don't regret it.

***THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS***

The plot of "Cry Baby", written two decades after "Sleepyhead", actually predates it. Don't let it be the first Tom Thorne book you read, because you'll deprive yourself of the little "aha" moments when Tom meets Phil Hendricks for the first time, or walks away from his future flat in Kentish Town, or visits his parents. "Cry Baby" is a throwback to the times when people didn't carry cell phones and there was no CCTV footage to do the police legwork - and it's also a throwback to a younger, less cynical, Tom.

Of course, if you don't want to commit to reading 16 Tom Thorne books before "Cry Baby", go right ahead. It can be enjoyed as a stand-alone. 



Monday, June 29, 2020

Exit

A difficult topic skilfully explored. 

****Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD ****

"Exit" by Belinda Bauer is about the controversial question of whether a terminally patient has the right to end their own life. The characters in the book don't assist the suicides - they are only there to provide company during that final act - but the reader can't think of those deeper issues as the plot unfolds.

Speaking of the plot, about halfway through the book I thought I knew what the ending would be. I was wrong.

I love Belinda Bauer's unusual characters, and this book is no exception: PC Calvin Bridge is my favourite, but all the characters are worth getting to know, so don't be put off by the sombre subject. and read the book.


Saturday, April 11, 2020

5-star review for Serial Wives

(Reviewed by Team Golfwell)

I was given a complimentary copy of this book, but it does not in any way influence this review of “Serial Wives.”

I was very much entertained in reading this mystery thriller, “Serial Wives: Introducing Zero Zimmerman” by Yvonne Eve Walus, who in my opinion is a highly creative and extremely talented writer.  She writes an exciting and thrilling multi-faceted story in this book.  

I think opening lines in many books tend to be mundane. However, when I began reading this book, I knew immediately after reading the first few pages, I was going to enjoy her writing style and this very exciting and intriguing book.

Here is an excerpt,

“The crayon moved down the page. Red, livid, ready. Spread on the table, splayed like a sacrifice, was the Classifieds section of the New Zealand Herald. He could’ve found the information faster online, but the risk of leaving an electronic trail made him turn to the old fashioned, the tactile, the untraceable. 
“The scent of fake wax from the crayon mingled with the fresh ink of the newspaper.  He paged to the adverts in the Adult Entertainment column. 
“’Bored? Lonely? Looking for a good time?’  
“No, that wasn’t it.  
“‘Fat? So what?’  
“He raised his eyebrows, continued his search. Suddenly, the red crayon halted.  
“’A gentle massage using modern or ancient Eastern techniques. Leaves you invigorated and stress-free. For appointments, phone...’”
“Unconventional. Not into rules. Yes, this one had potential. The crayon swooped, trailed a jagged red oval around the ad.
“’Honey? Are you coming to bed?’
“The voice wafted down the stairwell. He closed the newspaper, careful to line up its edges and smooth out its spine.”  
“’In a minute.’
“He read the advert again.  His blood raced.  The addiction simmered inside him. Excited. Expectant. 
“Yes. 
“Definite potential.”

It hooked me in, and I enjoyed this book very much. I also like the pace of the story and its clever organization.  The story kept my interest with increasing intensity, suspense, clever twists and turns, unexpected events, intriguing thoughts all of which increased as I read. I enjoyed the way the author wrote the story with clarity, great attention to detail, yet very concisely (saying a lot with few words) which is a style of writing I very much enjoy.
 
I also liked the way the author developed the diverse characters by relating what was going on in their heads and the true to life conversations and reactions all of whom in my opinion, she described very well.  I especially the female Constable Zero Zimmerman who is portrayed in a very realistic manner.

All in all, very well done and highly recommended!


Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Boy from the Woods

"The boy from the woods" by Harlan Coben is a page-turner. I finished it in one day (during the Coved 19 lockdown, so there were no distractions like, you know, work), and I want to read it again really soon.

The book is pure Coben and it has everything: banter, lovable characters, pacing, philosophical bits to think about when you finish the last page. Go for it!

(Oh, except Win. This book doesn't have Win Horne Lockwood the Third, who is the sexiest man ever to inhabit the printed world. Win, please come back.)

From the blurb:
... a man whose past is shrouded in mystery must find a missing teenage girl before her disappearance brings about disastrous consequences for her community . . . and the world.

The man known as Wilde is a mystery to everyone, including himself. Decades ago, he was found as a boy living feral in the woods, with no memory of his past. After the police concluded an exhaustive hunt for the child's family, which was never found, he was turned over to the foster system.

Now, thirty years later, Wilde still doesn't know where he comes from, and he's back living in the woods on the outskirts of town, content to be an outcast, comfortable only outdoors, preferably alone, and with few deep connections to other people.

When a local girl goes missing, famous TV lawyer Hester Crimstein--with whom Wilde shares a tragic connection--asks him to use his unique skills to help find her. Meanwhile, a group of ex-military security experts arrive in town, and when another teen disappears, the case's impact expands far beyond the borders of the peaceful suburb. Wilde must return to the community where he has never fit in, and where the powerful are protected even when they harbor secrets that could destroy the lives of millions . . . secrets that Wilde must uncover before it's too late.



The Giver of Stars

"The Giver of Stars" by Jojo Moyes was written in the author's trademark voice, full of warmth and charm. I confess to sad-crying midway and happy-crying at the end.

I don't read many historicals, and this book is set in the 1930s' Kentucky, so if it weren't for the fact that I really like this author, I probably wouldn't have read it. I'm so glad I did. This book is about women - librarians - who carry books on horseback to the families who can't make the journey into town. It's about friendship and about love and about justice.

Speaking of justice, I'd like to voice my two cents about the question of alleged plagiarism (https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tomiobaro/jojo-moyes-the-giver-of-stars-kim-richardson-bookwoman-of): there is no copyright on a setting, or on ideas.





Monday, February 24, 2020

Conviction by Denise Mina

Denise Mina is famous for page-turning crime fiction. This book is no exception. Engaging characters, a good sense of place, an intriguing story. Definitely read it.

Blurb:
The day Anna McDonald's quiet, respectable life explodes starts off like all the days before: packing up the kids for school, making breakfast, listening to yet another true crime podcast. Then her husband comes downstairs with an announcement, and Anna is suddenly, shockingly alone.

Reeling and desperate for distraction, Anna returns to the podcast. Other people's problems are much better than one's own--a sunken yacht, a murdered family, a hint of international conspiracy, but this case actually is Anna's problem. She knows one of the victims from an earlier life, a life she's taken great pains to leave behind, and she is convinced that she knows what really happened.

Then an unexpected visitor arrives on her front stoop; a meddling neighbor intervenes; and life as Anna knows it is well and truly over. The devils of her past are awakened--and in hot pursuit. Convinced she has no other options, she goes on the run, and in pursuit of the truth, with a washed-up musician at her side and the podcast as her guide.



Second Sight by Aoife Clifford

For fans of Jane Harper's Australian crime fiction, here comes "Second Sight" by an Irish-born author from down-under.

Blurb:
Eliza Carmody returns home to the country to work on the biggest law case of her career. The only problem is this time she’s on the ‘wrong side’ – defending a large corporation against a bushfire class action by her hometown of Kinsale.

On her first day back Eliza witnesses an old friend, Luke Tyrell, commit an act of lethal violence. As the police investigate that crime and hunt for Luke they uncover bones at The Castle, a historic homestead in the district. Eliza is convinced that they belong to someone from her past.

As Eliza becomes more and more entangled in the investigation, she is pulled back into her memories of youthful friendships and begins to question everyone she knows … and everything she once thought was true.




Wednesday, February 05, 2020

The Kitchen Without Borders

This is a very important book. Whether you love cooking or not, whether new recipes excite you or scare you, whether your friend pool is ethnically diverse, you need to own this book and display it on your coffee table as a reminder that we are all human beings and - underneath it all - we're all the same. The Kitchen Without Borders - it's more than a cook book, it's a dogma.

My favourite quote from the book: "Food is love". You cook for your family, you share meals with friends, you accept strangers by adding their recipes to your culinary repertoire.

My favourite recipes from the Kitchen Without Borders:
- Kuku Sabzi (Persian frittata)
- (the humble) Lentil Soup
- Lafiri (chicken thighs with okra)
- Doogh (salty yogurt)


Friday, January 10, 2020

Twenty-one Truths About Love: A Novel

"Twenty-one Truths About Love: A Novel" is the latest book by author Matthew Dicks, also known as Matthew Green, or the guy who wrote "Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend".

What makes this book different is that it's written entirely in bullet points. Yes, it is a book of fiction. Yes, it does have a story arc. I love bullet points, but yes, it's difficult to read, and I imagine even more difficult to write.

Yes, it's good.

Blurb
Daniel Mayrock's life is at a crossroads. He knows the following to be true:
1. He loves his wife Jill... more than anything.
2. He only regrets quitting his job and opening a bookshop a little (maybe more than a little)
3. Jill is ready to have a baby.
4. The bookshop isn’t doing well. Financial crisis is imminent. Dan doesn't know how to fix it.
5. Dan hasn’t told Jill about their financial trouble.
6. Then Jill gets pregnant.
This heartfelt story is about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances:
1. Dan wants to do something special.
2. He’s a man who is tired of feeling ordinary.
3. He’s sick of feeling like a failure.
4. He doesn't want to live in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband.
Dan is also an obsessive list maker; his story unfolds entirely in his lists, which are brimming with Dan’s hilarious sense of humor, unique world-view, and deeply personal thoughts. When read in full, his lists paint a picture of a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to do anything for the love (and soon-to-be new love) of his life.


Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery

A year ago, I saw Sally Andrew's "Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery" in a South African book shop, and added it to my to-read pile. Its time has finally come, and I was glad to be able to travel down the memory lane to the Little Karoo, the ostrich farms, bobotie and the heat of the South African summer.

This book is a "cosy" murder mystery, which makes a nice change from everything that's a thriller these days. I know there are two more books in the series, and I can't wait to get my hands on them!

Blurb
Tannie Maria (Tannie meaning Auntie, the respectful Afrikaans address for a woman older than you) is a middle-aged widow who likes to cook—and eat. She shares her culinary love as a recipe columnist for the local paper—until The Gazette decides its readers are hungrier for advice on matters of the heart rather than ideas for lunch and dinner.
Tannie Maria doesn’t like the change, but soon discovers she has a knack—and a passion—for helping people. Of course she shares her recipes and culinary advice whenever she can! Assisting other people with their problems, Tannie Maria is eventually forced to face her own issues, especially when the troubles of those she helps touch on the pain of her past, like a woman desperate to escape her abusive husband.
When the woman is murdered, Tannie Maria becomes dangerously entwined in the investigation, despite the best efforts of one striking detective determined to keep her safe. Suddenly, this practical, down-to-earth woman is involved in something much more sinister than perfecting her chocolate cake recipe . . .