Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Precious Things by Kelly Doust

Precious Things

Maggie is an auctioneer with a love of all things vintage  She juggles life, love, family and career.  She finds a beautiful beaded collar in a box of items and is immediately drawn to it.   She isn't the only person who has been attracted to this odd, hand-made item and the story of how this collar travelled from France to Shanghai, Italy and Istanbul is as intriguing as people who owned it.

Reading "Precious Things" is almost like reading five short stories woven together by the glittering beads on the collar.  The journey begins in 1891 and ends in 2016 with each of the collar's subsequent owner's story interspersed with Maggie's present situation.

I think the idea about the kind of "precious things" which the author talks about in her notes at the end of the book must have passed me by.  For me, the "precious things" conjured up an image of Gollum torn between his love and hate of the ring.  For me, the collar appeared to hold only negative emotions despite its beauty.

There was as nearly as much to read at the end of the story.  A "Reading Guide" included an interview with the author, book club discussion notes, a timeline for the collar's journey and a list of Kelly Doust's favourite books.  Now I love a few extras at the end of a novel but maybe this was a little excessive (cut out the timeline, we did understand the plot).  I did like the lovely illustrations that headed the chapters and sections.

If you like women's literature and a little historical fiction this might be a book you'd enjoy.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Life or Death by Michael Robotham

Life or Death

Okay, so I did keep visualizing Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman but aside from a touch of Shawkshank Redemption I found myself thoroughly absorbed in this story by Michael Robotham.

Audie Palmer was shot in the head during a bungled armed robbery but survived.  He spends the next ten years in prison surviving brutal beatings and attempts on his life because the seven million dollars stolen in the raid was never recovered.  So why would he escape from jail the day before he is due to be released and why didn't he say anything to his closest friend in jail, Moss?

Following his escape, Audie journeys across Texas to fulfil a promise he made.  As he travels towards his end goal he reminisces about his life and how he came to be in this situation.  Meanwhile the FBI, local cops and even his friend Moss are determined to track him down.

This feels like it could be a film - it has all the right ingredients.  Audie and Moses are likeable cons and the story flows along at a good pace, keeping you engrossed while you work out the finer details of the plot. 

A story of love and money, strength of character with plenty of action thrown in.....and recommended.

"how can one man be so unlucky and so lucky? she asked
"I guess I broke a mirror and found a horseshoe on the same day."

Thursday, 2 March 2017

The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee

The Expatriates

The Expatriates follows the lives of three American women “Expats” in Hong Kong.   Told through their own voices, the story takes us on a journey, that as a reader, you know will end in a collision of some sort.  

The three main characters are Mercy, Hilary and Margaret.  They move in the small, often claustrophobic circles, that the Expats seem to live in. Margaret and Mercy's lives have already collided and shattered as a result of a terrible shared event.

The story is more about the journey that each women takes, and as such, the book feels slow - like a recovery from a traumatic incident.  For Margaret in particular, she is in the process of healing from a terrible loss.   Young, single and "unlucky", Mercy’s life seems as if it has always been in freefall  but the repercussions of the situation she shares with Margaret hit her in ways that outsiders might not imagine.  Meanwhile the third woman, Hilary, seems to have everything she wants in life, except a child.

In some ways I felt there was a red herring thrown in the story…which I fell for right up until the last few pages so when the “collision” came, it was almost an anticlimax.  However, I had to remind myself that this book was more about the reality of people’s lives rather than a climactic ending designed for impact.

Did I enjoy it? Not sure…interesting, thoughtful, but no, I wouldn’t rush out and look for more by this author.  I think I prefer to be “entertained” by the books I read, not traumatised by the sadness of others.   I imagine that women interested in the Expat life in Hong Kong or other parts of Asia might be interested to read this.

Have you read any other books set in Hong Kong?

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train grabs your attention and doesn't let you go until the end.  

I saw the film first so it's unusual for me to bother reading the book but since films are often a let-down or change the story considerably, I decided to give this book a chance.  Surprisingly, the book and the film are very close and just as I thought the film was was the book.

The Girl on the Train is a story told through the voices of the three women, alcohol-dependent Rachel, messed-up Megan and "the other woman" Anna.  All three women's lives are loosely woven together but not necessarily as expected. 

When Megan disappears, Rachel, who feels as if she knows this woman - because she sees her everyday from the train window - decides to try and help matters.  Only the police can't trust an unreliable witness who has alcohol induced black-outs and who is harassing her ex-husband and his new family. 

As the story continued I began to wonder if I could trust her, but then again was there anyone trustworthy?  So many lives, tangled up and problematic....

This is a terrific thriller and a real page-turner.  The characters draw you in, scarily close and the pieces of information come to you as if you were experiencing the alcoholic blur of Rachel's mind at work.

Great book, seriously messed up characters (don't expect any strong or particularly likeable women). Well worth reading even if you have seen the film.

Do you enjoy reading a story that's told through different characters voices?

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson

Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars

Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars is the thoroughly engrossing debut novel by Miranda Emmerson.  Set in 1965, in and around Soho, London, this is a story that hooks you and reels you right in to the end.

Anna Treadway is a dresser for an American actress who has gone AWOL.  Fearing that the police are not doing enough to find Iolanthe Green, Anna embarks on her own investigation and  teams up with an  accountant at a Jazz club who believes he has some information that could help her.  Together they follow the clues and Iolanthe’s trail.

There’s a tight collection of fascinating characters in this tale which include the Turkish cafĂ© owner and his family, an accountant who is from Jamaica and an Irish policeman and his family.   Each one of them has their own secrets and struggles, trying to achieve a life they thought they should have.

The author  manages to show how a shiny, bright, appealing city like London could attract so many “escapees” from other lives and yet somehow manages to keep them firmly on the sidelines of life.  It captures the essence of the era brilliantly, giving the reader a glimpse into the exciting yet seedy clubs, the unjust nature of people’s prejudices and the day to day difficulties for people on the fringe of what should be a wonderful place to live. 

The word whimsical springs to mind, with its pace and tempo, humour, sadness  and a range of emotions which come and go quickly as you read through the quirkily named chapter headings.  The story starts and almost ends with a newspaper article….but you can never believe anything you read in a paper can you?

Have you read any debut novels which you’ve enjoyed recently?

many thanks to HarperCollins Publishers, NZ for this prize copy of Miss Treadway &the Field of Stars.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Festive in Death by J.D. Robb

Festive in Death (In Death)

Lieutenant Eve Dallas returns in the 39th  “in death” book  by J. D. Robb, titled “Festive in Death”.  Its 2060, it's nearly Christmas, a personal trainer is found dead in his apartment with a knife through his heart and a note saying “Santa says you’ve been bad!!! Ho! Ho! Ho!”.   It doesn’t matter that nobody liked the scheming, conceited body buff but a job’s got to be done, so Dallas and her partner Peabody dig for clues.

I’ve read a couple of the “in death” books featuring Eve Dallas, Peabody,  Dallas’s partner, Roarke and a few other returning characters.   Whilst not a page-turner,  the “in death” series of books do appeal to the detective who-dunnit style book-lovers.  Dallas is like a dog with a bone, not resting until she has probed and poked into all the likely suspect’s lives  for clues.  The light relief in the book comes from her alternative lifestyle afforded to her by billionaire hubby, Irish rogue, Roarke,  In this story we see them preparing for the ultimate Christmas party, complete with party designers, a gift ROOM !!  Makeup session for Dallas in order get ready for the party. Okay, I am a little bit jealous of Dallas’s lifestyle (which she seems to find quite traumatic), but it is a bit of pure escapism for most people, including Dallas partner Peabody, who at least gets her own “magic coat” in this story. i.e. a super techie bullet proof designer leather coat.

It’s interesting that the book is set into the future but there is very little reference to anything “futuristic” in the story.  Cops still behave like cops and the motives for murder don’t change either.

The books can be read alone and out of order . Occasionally I pick up something of a back story that I’ve missed  (Summerset and the “urbans” in this one, which was obviously an urban war) so no doubt it would be better to read the books in sequence if you can.

Like a  pure who-dunnit? Enjoy imagining yourself in the lives of the rich and famous? Then you’ll probably enjoy this one.

Eve and Roarke have an intriguing relationship.  Do you have any favourite book couples?

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Brutal Art by Jesse Kellerman (The Genius, 2008) - book review

The Brutal Art

An engrossing story and just a little bit different from the run of the mill crime detective type tales. 

The story is told mostly from the main character’s point of view - an art dealer called Ethan Muller.  When Ethan gets a call to check out some drawings that a tenant has left behind in his father’s residential block, Ethan finds himself pulled in different directions.  The unusual art is highly saleable and he seizes the opportunity to market it but in doing so he attracts the attention of an ex-cop looking to solve some cold cases.  Could the mysterious artist who has disappeared be connected to the cases?  It’s a situation that puts Ethan in a quandary but he finds himself getting more and more involved.   Risking his business, lover and personal safely, he teams up with the ex-cop's daughter to try and solve the mystery.  What Ethan doesn’t know is that the answer is closer to home than he thinks.

Ethan’s narrative is broken in parts by “interludes” from the past which recalled how immigrant, Solomon Mueller, established one of the most powerful and wealthiest families in New York.  I did find the “interludes” a bit awkward at first and as the story progressed there were times that they proved difficult to read both from the situation and the narrative style but I think this was a necessary aspect of the story.  

The characters were well drawn and the pace was just right for the type of story which I understand has also been published under the title “The Genius”.  

I gather that author Jesse Kellerman comes from great literary stock with parents being novelists Faye and Jonathan Kellerman.

Do you find it irritating that books are sometimes published with a different title....ever bought the same book again by accident?