Book Review: Visioner (The Shifter War Book 2) by KK Ness

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Danil and Hafryn are back! If you liked Messenger, then you’ll like Visioner as well as they are very similar books. Danil is still a fish out of water, Hafryn is still his devoted lover and protector, and they still don’t know who they can really trust.

After winning the battle at the end of Messenger to save the deadlands from Roldaerian magi and the evil Kaul, Danil is now its custodian. It’s a position that chooses the person, not the other way around. Under his care, the once lifeless area is flourishing with greenery and, more importantly, leylines and kiandrite crystals that speak to him. Danil has just found his first proper kiandrite crystal (instead of the flecks that the magi have been stealing for decades to use in their magic spells) when he is surprised by a Roldaerian emissary and her guards. They wish to be taken to the High Council of Amas to negotiate a peace treaty on orders from King Liam of Roldaer. Continue reading

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Book Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

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The problem with satire these days is that it looks and feels so much like the real world, particularly when it comes to politics, that it’s hard to tell what’s parody and what’s not. Ten years after Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was first published, that is the book’s primary problem.

Dr Alfred Jones is a fisheries scientist who works for the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence in the UK. When he’s approached by the representatives of a Yemeni sheikh who wants to introduce salmon fishing into his hot, dry, dusty, Middle Eastern country, he dismisses the idea of out of hand. After all, salmon require cool, well-oxygenated water, something not found in abundance on the Arabian peninsula. But the sheikh has seemingly endless amounts of money to throw around, so the NCFE figures why not funnel some of it into their coffers in exchange for Alfred’s services and he’s ordered to do everything he can to get the project off the ground (and therefore the money to come rolling in). Continue reading

Book Review: Genesis (Book 1 of The Rosie Black Chronicles) by Lara Morgan

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Welcome to the city of Newperth, a futuristic version of present-day Perth in Australia. The oceans have risen, the gap between the haves (the Centrals) and the have-nots (the Bankers) has widened dramatically and the homeless (the Ferals) are pretty much as they are today, misunderstood and shunned. Rosie Black is a Banker but she goes to a Central school thanks to her aunt Essie’s charity and dreams of being a space pilot just like her aunt.

One day when she’s exploring the ruins of the Old City with her Central friend, Juli, Rosie finds a box with a mysterious logo on it and some mysterious contents in it, including a comkey. When they plug it into the comnet at Juli’s house, it tells them a beacon has been activated and a retrieval team is on the way. Rosie yanks it out of the comnet but it’s too late. The events of the novel have already been triggered. Continue reading

Book Review: The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

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You have to give Michael Connelly credit – I don’t think he’s ever written a bad book. And for someone who’s written so many, that’s a genuinely impressive record. But the problem with many of his most recent efforts is that they’re like comfy old slippers – they’re reliable and familiar but there’s nothing surprising or challenging about them and sometimes what you really want is to slip into a beautiful pair of stilettoes just to experience something different.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye is more like two smaller novels than one big one. Connelly himself acknowledges this, referring to it in draft form as “an unwieldy block of a manuscript”. Despite the help of his editors, it still feels a lot like that. I kept wondering how the stories were eventually going to intersect but they never did. And when I read the acknowledgements at the end with the reference to the unwieldy manuscript, I realised it was something Connelly himself had struggled with while writing the book. Continue reading

Book Review: The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

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Jed Rubenfeld is a modern-day Renaissance man. A professor of law at Yale University who has also taught at Stanford and Duke, he is an expert on constitutional law, privacy and the First Amendment. He studied theatre and Shakespeare at Julliard and wrote a thesis on Sigmund Freud during his senior undergraduate year at Princeton. He is also the author of six books, two of which are novels. It seems as though there’s nothing he can’t do. If I didn’t admire him so much, I’d be horribly jealous. (Well, maybe I can do both at the same time.)

The Interpretation of Murder was his first novel. It’s a very intricate weaving of true events and characters with fictional events and characters. Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Sandor Ferenczi, Ernest Jones, Abraham Brill – all real life figures in the early 1900s movement of psychoanalysis, which was new, controversial and in competition with neurology – mingle with the fictional Elizabeth Riverford, Dr Stratham Younger, Nora Acton, George and Clara Banwell, Coroner Hugel and Detective Littlemore. There’s a miniature essay at the end of the book clearly outlining what’s real and what’s not and the artistic licence taken, which is a good thing because the blending of them is seamless. Continue reading

Book Review: Men Explain Things to Me and Other Essays by Rebecca Solnit

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I picked this book up solely on the basis of the title, briefly considered giving it to my sixteen-year-old niece for Christmas, then decided to keep it for myself and buy her some perfume instead. It’s probably for the best. Because while the themes are important to me and I hope important to my niece (although how much time she spends thinking about feminism and marriage equality and domestic violence and rape culture compared with the amount of time she spends thinking about boys and clothes and her potential sporting career is not clear), they are couched in a writing style and language that I think she would have had difficulty deciphering. I had some difficulty deciphering it.

Words like “irreducibility”, “uncircumscribable” and “quotidian” are sprinkled throughout liberally. Even though I know what they mean, her use of them made me want to reach for my dictionary to make absolutely sure. The fluid and operatic way in which she writes almost disguises her meaning at times, detrimental to both the writer’s message and the reader’s understanding. Continue reading

Book Review: The Last Grand Passion by Emma Darcy

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Just to round out a couple of months devoted to romance novels, I’m going to review some Mills & Boon books that were a formative part of my young adult reading experience. That sounds a little weird but I am talking about the latter end of my teenage years. I don’t read romance anymore but I have reread these books for the purpose of these reviews. Enjoy!

*****

I first read this book more than two decades ago and included it on a list of my top ten books about fifteen years ago, writing, “Although romance isn’t always high class literature, it can have an actual plotline that means something. This is the kind of novel I aspire to write, with believable conflicts and an ending that makes your breath catch and your heart skip a beat with the absolute beauty and perfectness of it.”

The problem is that those are the only things to recommend it. There are a few books I’ve read that while I was reading them, I didn’t like them at all. And then because of a surprise ending that was jaw-dropping, it made me forget about the fact that I didn’t actually like the book. The Last Grand Passion falls squarely into this category. Continue reading