Thursday, 25 August 2016

If the shoe fits

I think I must have subconsciously channelled Di Morrissey.

I mentioned that her last book felt like a pair of comfortable slippers so I was very surprised to see her use this analogy  in the novel I'm currently reading,  “The Silent Country”.  Here character Bill Rowe, the new TV network CEO, is talking about one of the programmes:

“My concern is that a lot of the programming of the station is a bit - comfortable.  I’d rather we became less the favourite slipper and hit somewhere between the stiletto and  the Doc Martin”.

I still think Di might be in slipper mode. As for stiletto of the book world, I’m thinking more Tasmina Perry (Goldiggers, Daddy’s Girls, Original Sin etc.) Apart from her ability to dress her characters in the most exclusive designer shoes with names like Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choos dropping from her pages, the glamorous world of the rich and powerful is always cut-throat and bitchy.   Great reading if you want to discover some of the worst aspects of power and escape to a jet-setting world of designer labels.

Gold Diggers

The Doc Martin of books was a bit more difficult. Having just pulled an Inspector Linlay novel off the shelf,  "Banquet of Consequences" by Elizabeth George, her character Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers springs to mind.  Her rough diamond character but dogged determination fits.  It’s a great detective series that I’m just getting into (the TV series missed me somehow).
A Banquet of Consequences (Inspector Lynley Novel)

So sticking with the shoe analogy, personally I think its great to break out and try a different style every so often.  After all, we all know slippers don’t last forever and it's refreshing to break out of the comfort zone occasionally.

What’s your shoe style?

Monday, 22 August 2016

Book Review: The Winter Sea by Di Morrissey

The Winter Sea

I feel like I’ve been on vacation, savouring the atmosphere of Whitby Point in New South Wales, Australia.  A “nice” gentle read, Di Morrissey’s family saga revolves around  the Italian Aquino family and newcomer Cassie Holloway.  Cassie, like so many female characters, is escaping her city life and broken marriage, taking time out in the small fishing town of Whitby Point. 

The story is told in past and present sequences.  We follow Giuseppe De Aquino as he leaves his Italian village after the first World War and finds himself heading to Australia with nothing but a suitcase, determination, charm and his fishing skills.  Shifting to the present, we observe Cassie find herself again in Whitby Point, discovering love (Michael, Giuseppe’s grandson)  life (setting up a new restaurant) and of course, a family secret (can't tell you that!).

It’s enjoyable story-telling and the chapter heading illustrations which set each scene are a lovely touch. While there are some interesting pieces of history woven into the story, such as the internment of many Italian immigrants during WWII and how the fishing industry developed in the area, there’s perhaps less depth to the historical side and more focus on the storyline than some other sagas I’ve read.  The author describes the area well, it's easy to imagine the good food, wine and fishing.  Occasionally I found the conversations a little stilted but ultimately I enjoyed it  (it felt like a comfortable pair of slippers, if that makes any sense) and plan to read another one of her books, The Silent Country, next.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Extra. Extra. Read all about it!

Changeover time…just starting my first Di Morrissey novel “The Winter Sea”. A family saga so I may be a while before I get to that review.

In the meantime I was thinking back to those chapter headings in “Promising Azra” (definitions of chemistry terms that give you an inkling about what the chapter could be about).  I came across it before in “The Art of Baking Blind” by Sarah Vaughan, a lovely story about a cookery competition. The chapter headings had descriptions of baking terms which gave clues about what might lie ahead in the chapter. So as well as those maps and plans at the beginnings of a book, there are quite a few other clever devices that writers use and other nice surprises that pop up occasionally.

I do like to read about the author and depending on the book, how they researched the story.  The work that must go into these historical sagas is unbelievable.  I’ll admit that  I might even read the acknowledgements but that’s one area that is usually dull as reading the cereal packet over breakfast (except in the recent case of Carrie Hope Fisher and I found her very lengthy, gushing one as odd as the book). 

Though I’m not interested in recipes, I’ve seen a few added to couple of cooking-themed stories and “Paris from the West” had that great-play list of Jazz music at the end which I thought was brilliant. Then there’s Jack Reacher’s C.V. - great to see the character almost as a real person.

So what else is out there and what do you look at?

The Art of Baking Blind
The Art of Baking Blind via

Monday, 15 August 2016

Book Review: Promising Azra by Helen Thurloe

Promising Azra
available at

I won an uncorrected proof copy of this book from Allen and Unwin via my first Goodreads giveaway (thanks!)

Wow! What a powerful story.  I was engrossed after the first few pages.

Promising Azra is an extremely apt title, Azra is both promising and promised.  At 16 years old she has her whole life ahead of her.  Talented at chemistry, a good pupil, she has her sights set on University.  However, Azra moved to Australia from Pakistan when she was 12, her parents still follow the customs and traditions from home. Her Uncle dictates what happens in their extended family including arrangements to ensure that Azra’s future marriage will benefit “the family”.

Azra is aware that she may be “promised” at some point. She has seen it happen to other girls at school, but none of her immediate family have mentioned marriage yet. Her immediate problem concerns finding a way to be permitted to attend a chemistry competition which involves mixed-sex teams and out- of school hours.

The book is aimed at young adults but as a much older “Anglo” I was fascinated.  A nice touch by the author included the chapter titles, which were all definitions of chemistry terms and hinted at what was to come. Without giving too many details away, the author uses Azra’s thoughts and feelings to describe how difficult it is to be the “dutiful” daughter immersed in a multi-cultural school in Australia.  We also see how different Azra’s life is compared to her brother's, how teachers might not even consider the difficulties involved in attending a competition run outside school for someone like Azra.  Ultimately we see what happens when a young girl is promised to someone they have never met.  The author does find a few ways to illustrate the arguments around the benefits of arranged marriages but what happens to Azra goes way beyond the boundaries.  The issues that this story highlights are numerous and enormous.

Great characters, a terrific read, and a story that should provoke much discussion.  Highly recommended.

This review has also been posted on

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Book Review: Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse

Keep You Close
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Bit of a page-turner for me.

The story opens with a prologue - a confrontation on a rooftop.  We then discover that artist Marianne Glass has fallen to her death  but her childhood friend, Rowan Winter, doesn’t believe it was an accident.  A card she received from Marianne just before the funeral suggested that Marianne needed to talk to her - surprising because they had fallen out over 10 years ago…

Rather like an Inspector Morse story  (I wouldn’t feel safe if I lived in Oxford), the writer skillfully takes us on a tour of Oxford itself and places the reader into the heart of the well-educated, middle class families living there.  I gather that the author read Classics in Oxford which explains how well she conveys the scenes. Yet, there is a grittiness to the story as Rowan takes it upon herself to try and find out what happened on the rooftop, returning to her teenage haunts and catching up with people from their past.  Perhaps someone else knew  Marianne’s secret?  (Note to Carrie Hope Fletcher  re On the Other Side: this is exactly the kind of secret that would weigh your soul down and be worrying enough to protect ). 

The build-up is slow like a slow-rollercoaster but you’ll want to keep reading, it is worth the effort.  There were a couple of times I had to flick back a few pages as I thought I had missed some important clue and there are a few red herrings about.  There was just one point where I thought I'd hit a bump and the story changed gear but that was quickly resolved by the clever ending….

Well worth reading if you love mystery- murders.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Book Review: Walking the Himalayas by Levison Wood

Walking the Himalayas: An Adventure of Survival and Endurance
Available at

This isn’t the type of book I would normally choose to read  (I won this copy) and apart from noticing the TV trailer, I had never heard of Levison Wood.  I had obviously missed his Nile adventure so I was surprised just how much I enjoyed reading this book.

The book opens with a sketch map detailing the proposed journey across The Himalayas from Afghanistan through 5 countries before ending in Bhutan.  I can’t say that any part of the route appeals to me. Although I enjoy travel and have done some trekking in the past, Nepal and India always seem to be a magnet for travellers and backpackers but they have never particularly appealed to me.

Levison’s story begins with him recalling his travels as a teenager in 2001 when he was befriended by his trekking partner Binod, who gave him shelter during an uprising in Pokhara, Nepal.  Later, following his Nile adventure and Levison’s attempt to lead a normal life, it was his University friend Ash who encourages Levison to return to the Himalayas and plants the idea for another epic walk.

Levison’s narrative is absorbing and honest.  His rich descriptions of the scenery and the people he meets take you on the route with him.  His guides along part of the way include Binod, Ash and later his brother. It is during the period when he is joined by his brother and Binod that the story really grips hold because Levison has been warned by mystics on two occasions, that one of his ”brothers” will not make the journey.  With so many dangers ranging from Tigers, crocodiles, dangerous roads, warfare to the mountains themselves, suspense hangs over each page.

Levison also has an engaging way of delivering the history of a region and describing the culture without making the reading too heavy and tiresome.  I also liked the way he described some of the travel books and guides that inspired his love of exploration and travel.  His tale also reminds you about the huge inequalities in the world and that wealth does not necessarily equate to happiness.

Well worth reading!

and his earlier trek, and one I'll be looking out for:

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Great Expectations but has the spell been broken?

When is a book not a book?  When it’s a screenplay.

Well, I’m glad I’m not a Harry Potter fan.  Seems that there are a LOT of disappointed fans out there.  All the hope and expectations of the eighth book seem to have been  shattered when fans discovered that it's not a book but a script for the stage play presented as a book. Although approved by J.K Rowling it was penned by Jack Thorne.

Maybe this is more a case of expectations.  Not a Harry Potter fan myself, I was vaguely aware of a new book being promoted but I didn’t pay much attention. I wouldn’t have noticed it was a screenplay even though it says it clearly on the cover (I looked today).   Although reviews show heaps of Potter fans will still love it and see it as a continuation of the story, reading a screenplay just isn't the same as reading the book.  Far better to just go and see the show...or maybe that's what will happen...

I feel a bit sorry for those disappointed fans.  I’m still smarting that “On the Other Side” my last read, didn’t have a age guide or genre on the cover which might have lessened my disappointment but its all about expectations isn’t it?  Still, we get over these disappointments and learn to be a little more wary of clever marketing and hype in the future.  Or do we?

Now onto my next read….staying well away from fairytales I won Levison Wood’s book “Walking the Himalayas” this week and its off to an interesting start.  I did have a dilemma - whether to watch the TV series first or read the book but I’m going for the book first.  I didn’t want to get caught up in any hype!