Over 550 book reviews with full author links

27 February 2013

Mark Black: D-Day: A Very Brief History

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I am finding that this Very Short History series is extending my knowledge about a number of major historical events. I knew that the plans for the invasion of Normandy on D-Day in 1944 were very secret but I didn't realise that the invasion could have been a monumental disaster if Hitler and his Generals had been fully prepared for a landing at that location. From this Very Brief History I learnt about the vast campaign of misinformation by the Allies about where the invasion would take place, including false Divisions, mock-up tanks and temporary camps, misleading messages from German double agents and decoy invasions. When the invasion happened Hitler still believed that it would take place around Calais because it was nearer to England and had access to good port facilities and the Normandy coast was relatively lightly defended.

While the casualties were large, they could have been monumental if Hitler had been prepared. This Very Short History has filled a big gap in my detailed knowledge about WWII.


Jack Higgins: Solo

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Whenever I see a Jack Higgins book on the Amazon deals page I snap it up because they are always easy reading thrillers. This one was no exception. While it was written in 1980 it doesn't show signs of age like many others and I have seen similar plot lines in several more modern thrillers.

A psychopathic but artistically gifted killer whose career sends him around the world has found a regular and satisfying source of victims. While the source is politically inspired he is not interested in political gain, only the adrenaline kick of another successful kill. Things start to go wrong when he accidentally kills an innocent young girl in a hit-and-run accident when he is getting away from the scene of another assassination. The girl is the daughter of Asa Morgan, one of England's most dangerous soldiers with a record of violent success in many dangerous flash-points around the world.

Asa vows to avenge the killing himself. Through his contacts he is able to find clues where MI5 and Scotland Yard cannot venture. But the ultimate clue is uncovered through Asa's sheer cunning.

Higgins racks up the drama with an unlikely relationship between Dr. Katherine Riley, a foremost authority on terrorist mentality, and the killer. Riley becomes part of an emotional sandwich when she slowly uncovers the truth from her friendship with Asa.

The finale is high drama and great spy-craft as the Asa, the killer, his source, the MI5, and Katherine meet in a highly charged public performance.

A page-turning and satisfying thriller - well recommended.


25 February 2013

Daniel Berenson: Firebug

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It is not easy to write a book about the dangers of fire, especially to young people in their formative years. Daniel Berenson has told this difficult story well via the relationship between an extreme burn victim and a potential firebug.

Bobby lacks self-confidence at school and support at home. He thinks "I hate this school...I wish someone would march right in and burn it down." With this idea he gets an adrenaline kick, and a feeling of excitement and power. On the other hand Curtis, who had no apparent fear, has already found out the dangers of fire - the hard way.

Because of the subject matter, at times this is not an easy story to read but Berenson has done his best to make it both an educational and a emotionally rewarding one. He has used his knowledge from his close association with the Burns Unit of his local hospital to bring the fate of burns victims and the attitude of youth to fires to our attention (and some of the proceeds of the book will go to that unit). One chilling fact is that over half of burned kids had their parents do it to them.

For once I agree with the book description - it is "a story of pain, friendship, courage, and hope". It is very hard to rate a book on a basic subject that is hardly enjoyable but it is well written and thought provoking. I recommend it to anyone who wants to read a relatively short, emotional and educational book on a challenging subject. It really should be read by young adults but I wonder if people in the target audience would be motivated to do so.

I was gifted a copy of this book by the author and asked for an independent review.


21 February 2013

Jeffrey Archer: Best Kept Secret: The Clifton Chronicles 3

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Jeffrey Archer scores again with another page-turning best-seller with the next book in the addictive Clifton Chronicles series. Archer is a consummate story teller and this series continues to display his skills in writing easy-reading and exciting family-based stories. If you have read the first books in the series this one is a must-read. If not you will still enjoy it but it would help if you are able to read the other books first.

Those of you who have read the first two books in the series will know that at the end of each one Archer leaves you with a cliff-hanger (I call them "Clifton" hangers) of an ending so you have to wait on tenterhooks for the next book in the series to be released find the answer. At the end of "Sins of the Father" a tied vote in the House of Lords on whether Harry Clifton or his best friend Giles Barrington inherits the Barrington title and property has been left to the Lord Chancellor to decide. All I can safely tell you is that the Lord Chancellor found this the most difficult decision in his career and he "would never admit, even to his closest confidant, that he changed his mind at the last moment."

Harry settles down to pursue a career as a best-selling detective novelist, while Emma goes in search of her illegitimate half-sister who was put into foster care when both her father and mother died after a fight. Giles Barrington pursues his career as Labour MP for Bristol with the slimmest of majorities.

As usual Archer adds a few baddies to spice up things. Among them are Alex Fisher, who bullied Giles and Harry at school and nearly got Giles killed at Tobruk, and Lady Virginia Fenwick - a beautiful, aristocratic, gold-digging control-freak.

The story moves to the next generation when Sebastian, the son of Harry and Emma, grows up and when he leaves school gets involved in the next "Clifton-hanger" ending where we have to wait for the next book to find out what really happened.

I don't know if even Archer knows how many Chronicles are to come - he has only taken us to the mid 1950's so far and the next generation of Clifton's are only just starting to flap their wings.

19 February 2013

Jack Higgins: Night of the Fox

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This is an old one but a really good one. Jack Higgins can always be relied upon to tell a fast and gripping tale - and this is one of the best of them (IMHO a little better than "The Eagle has Landed").

D-Day is only a few days away when Hugh Kelso, an American officer with vital information about the pending landing in France, is in a boat that is sunk in the English Channel. His rescue raft washes up on the shore of the Isle of German-occupied Jersey. Fortunately he is found by sympathetic locals who hide him and pass a message to the French resistance to send to London.

Eisenhower and the British are stunned as many lives could be lost if Kelso falls into the hands of the Germans. In desperation the British send a senior SS imposter and his mistress to the island to help the locals get Kelso back to England. Things go terribly and amusingly wrong when Rommel visits the island when they are there - but is it really Rommel?

The characters are good, the action fast, and sometimes emotional and impossible - what more do you want?


17 February 2013

Mark Black: Edwardian Britain: A Very Brief History

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This very brief history helped to fill in the background to the Edwardian era in the UK better than popular TV series like Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs.

The Edwardian era marked the end of the stuffy Victorian era and became an era of economic and some social change. For example a start was made in 1911 on national insurance for the unemployed, the elderly and the unemployed. During his short reign Edward VII still lived his life as a regal playboy but he did help the pace of progress, especially in international affairs through his vast network of relatives in the royal families of Europe and Russia.

While some things were changing, as we see in the Edwardian soap operas, English high society continued to live a life of privilege and the working class, especially the servant class lived a poor and downtrodden existence. High society lived by a rigid set of rules and regulations aimed to divide the haves from the have nots and membership could be likened to an elite club with entry by invitation only. The rich held onto their wealth while the poor had to fend for themselves.

Some examples of high society morals are worth quoting. Divorce was rare and irrespective of the cause the husband always got custody of the children. Affairs within high society were common, but not if you were a single female whose duty was to remain pure until marriage and then single and married men were allowed to eye them. At some country house parties a special bell was rung at 6 am for men to return to their own rooms before the servants arrived to light the fires.

Altogether this short history is a fascinating insight to a world that is only just over a century ago. While Edward was fondly known as the Peacemaker it was just 4 years after he died that WWI started (editors please note there are a couple of places where this is shown as WWII).


15 February 2013

Joel C Rosenberg: The Twelfth Imam

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I was nearly half way through this well crafted thriller about a CIA agent trying to get information about Iran's nuclear program before I realised that the underlying basis for the story line was Christian religious fiction. I should have read the tags more closely as this is not my genre.

The action parts were great but the religious parts, both about certain Islamic beliefs and their relationship with Jesus, were far fetched and unbelievable.


14 February 2013

Lesley Pearse: Forgive Me

"Forgive Me" is an emotional and gripping story full of suspense, drama and mystery which is destined to be another best-seller for Lesley Pearse. It is one of her best stories I have read for some time. You will remember Eva Patterson, the strong and gutsy prime character for a long time.

A few days before her 21st birthday Eva returns home to find that her mother Flora has committed suicide leaving a simple note "Forgive me". From that time on Eva will find that everything she believed about herself and her comfortable and secure family life with her loving mother and father is based on a web of lies.

In her mother's will Eva is left an artist's studio in a trendy area of London which Eva didn't know anything about. Her father's cold reaction to Flora's death and her will and his almost immediate rejection of Eva will alter her life forever.

Eva discovers that her mother had been a successful artist before her marriage. Eva finds diaries, paintings and a box of baby clothes and sketches in the attic of the studio that tell her something about her mother's past which prompt her to track down the full story.

This is a fast-paced, page-turning and emotional read as Eva searches for answers about her mother's past and meets people who knew her before she married. The characters from all parts of the spectrum are superbly crafted especially Phil who helps her to renovate her studio and find out the truth about her life.

Lesley Pearse builds her plots like a fast game of snakes and ladders. A fortune teller warns Eva to avoid disturbing the Serpent as it will only bring her pain. In facing the Serpent Lesley Pierce skilfully steers Eva through traumas, violence, and lies which change Eva forever and affect her chance of happiness.

If you are a Lesley Pearse fan you will love another dose of her emotional, easy-reading magic books filled with unforgettable characters. If not, please try this book and I am sure that you will join the ranks of Pearse's many fans. It is easy to see why Lesley Pearse has been a number 1 best-seller in the UK and Australia for many years. So many of the top UK authors are also very popular in the US and it astounds me that her books, published by multi-national Penguin, are not released in the US on Kindle and Amazon is only selling print versions in that market via third party booksellers. Maybe someone can tell me why this is so.

Nelson DeMille: Plum Island (John Corey)

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From time to time I revisit an early book in some of my favourite series to see how they have stood the test of time. Plum Island is an early book in Nelson Demille's John Corey series and when it was released it knocked John Grisham off the top of the US bestseller lists and held the no.1 spot for five weeks. I have just read and enjoyed "The Panther", the latest John Corey adventure and wanted to see how the character had evolved over time.

In "Plum Island" Corey is still a NYPD homicide detective and is staying at his Uncle's beachside house on Long Island recovering from three, almost fatal, gunshots in the course of duty. His neighbours, Tom and Judy Gordon, biologists who worked on Plum Island, the site of animal disease research for the Department of Agriculture, are murdered and Corey is hired by the local police to consult on the murder investigation. A smart and attractive detective Beth Penrose leads the team.

Inevitably the investigations focus first on the possibility that the Gordon's were involved in selling viruses or vaccines to terrorists. The investigation team gets packed with FBI and CIA agents tripping over themselves to prevent a life-threatening tragedy.

Corey quickly dismisses the Plum Island disease connection and works on his own to look at unusual things in the Gordon's lifestyle which is well overspent. They have a rarely used but very expensive speed boat with a missing ice-chest, and recently purchased an isolated block of land on the beach-side that can't be developed. He also looks at their membership of a local historical society and meets and is instantly attracted to the president of the society, Emma Whitestone.

Corey is still full of smart alec wisecracks, but IMHO they are better in "The Panther" as he matures. Most people are disarmed and annoyed by his attitude which makes him look a bit idiotic - but it really is a technique to keep people off balance so they don't realise how smart he really is.

I enjoyed revisiting this early Demille which has an interesting and somewhat unusual plot. The characters are well crafted, and the plot moves around and around, finishing with an exciting but somewhat unbelievable boat chase.

On balance I enjoyed "The Panther" slightly better which I gave 5 stars. This earlier book is a good read, but slightly lengthy and the plot is a bit unbelievable so I gave it 4 stars.

My favourite Demille book is still "Word of Honor", which IMHO is one of the best novels about the Vietnam war.


13 February 2013

Mark Black: Queen Victoria: A Very Brief History

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This is a very satisfying potted history of Queen Victoria - the longest serving English monarch in history. Queen Victoria reigned for over 63 years (Queen Elizabeth II has currently reigned for 61 years). Victoria became Queen less than 3 weeks after her 18th birthday and during her reign she lived through several assassination attempts, many changes of governments and reigned over the largest empire in world history.

She married Prince Albert early in her marriage and within months her Consort became her valued confidant and adviser. Although Victoria hated being pregnant she had nine babies with Albert during their 21 years of marriage and after his death from typhoid idolised him for the rest of her life.

One of the best things about these brief histories is that I always I discover something new. From the movie "Mrs Brown" (starring Billy Connolly and Judy Dench) many of us will have heard about the enigmatic commoner John Brown who became Victoria's close companion in her later life. I was stunned to learn that when she was buried Victoria wore a wedding ring which had belonged to Brown's mother and had a lock of Brown's hair and a picture of him placed in her coffin.

Despite being brief I found this history gave me a good overview of the reign of a fairly ordinary woman whose influence helped to shape the UK's modern system of constitutional monarchy. While this history was brief, researchers now have an immense source of information about her life as Victoria kept detailed diaries from 1832 until her death in 1901. 40,000 pages of the surviving volumes are now available to researchers on-line.


12 February 2013

Melissa F Miller: Lovers and Madmen: A Sasha McCandless Novella

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What a fantastic surprise to get another Sasha McCandless thriller and be able to read it in just over an hour. I am a novella junkie and this is the most complete, enthralling and exciting novella I have read for ages, especially for someone who has followed the Sasha McCandless series from the beginning.

This book touches on most of the things that make the series different from other legal thrillers. First there is some important further information about the relationship between Sasha and Leo which thank goodness is moving in the right (and steamy) direction. Of course it also covers Sasha's fantastic martial arts's skills and pathetic culinary skills. The story line (apart from Valentines Day) carries on from a previous murder case where Sasha was left with a legal dilemma.

I loved this line from Sasha - "Don't worry. Remember my resolution? No more danger, no more drama." Great words from a diminutive female lawyer who has had four near-death experiences in the last year and a half.

If you have read some or all of the series, this is a must. If you haven't there is no harm in starting here as an introduction and then moving on to the full series.


11 February 2013

Mark Black: Stalin: A Very Brief History

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It is a brave author who attempts to encapsulate the life of one of the world's most tyrannical leaders in 35 pages. Mark Black does his best to document most of the key elements of Stalin's life but the book really needed to be twice as long to cover Stalin's life and rule adequately.

The old saying "absolute power corrupts absolutely" accurately describes Stalin's reign of terror where he wielded power for over 30 years to create the Soviet Union as a world superpower. This was at an incredible cost in terms of humanity and millions were killed or died because of Stalin's regime, through executions, deaths in concentration camps, forced deportations to areas without sufficient food, avoidable famines and in WWII POW camps. The exact numbers will never be known but they far exceed the number of deaths by Germany during the racially inspired Holocaust.

As communist Soviet Union was a closed society where news was carefully censored, Stalin's record does not seem to be fully understood even now by the Russian people. A poll of Russians in 2006 revealed that more than 35% would vote for Stalin if he was still alive and less than 35% of them saw him as a "murderous tyrant". Similarly we in the West forget that Stalin's Russia was critical to the defeat of Germany and more Russians were killed in WWII than any other combatant country, including Germany.

I would have liked to read more about Stalin's role in and setting up the Iron Curtain and the related Cold War, their effects on the world and the inhabitants of Russia and its communist allies (but I realise that most of this is the subject of another short history). I definitely would have liked to see something about the development and explosion of the first A-bomb by Russia during the latter years of Stalin's reign (and the espionage involved) that became the centrepiece of the nuclear stand-off and arms race between the US and Russia and their respective allies for decades.

Despite this I found this brief history useful in helping me to expand my knowledge and memories of the history of this key player in the 20th Century.

09 February 2013

Charles Rivers Editors: Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla: The Pioneers of Electricity

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Recently I have been enjoying reading a few short Readers' Digest style "histories" of famous people and events which are helping me to expand and keep my memories in order. This one attracted me as I only have a passing knowledge of Thomas Edison and knew little about Nicola Tesla. This is a quick and interesting read but waffles a bit towards the end. I really didn't get as much from this little book as I had hoped possibly because I don't understand the basic physics about how electrical equipment works.

This book compares the background and achievements of two very different people who both had a long term impact on the way we live. Edison was Mr Fixit, improve it and sell it. Tesla had a genius level IQ, eidetic memory and engineering education who was responsible for some fundamental developments in the use of electricity. They were both perpetual inventors and improvers, sometimes successful but frequently unsuccessful. At one time they worked together but with such different personalities they soon fell out and split.

Edison was commercially well known for his work with the electric light bulb and the phonograph. Tesla was well known in his time but his developments are not so commercially evident and his name is not as well known as Edison. Tesla's greatest achievement was winning a fierce battle with Edison over the commercialisation of large scale Alternating Current power generation and use, when Edison championed Direct Current.

Who was the Father of the Electric Age? Probably the answer on balance is lesser known Tesla for his work on AC. It is sad that such a genius died virtually penniless. Edison was the businessman always intent on the commercialisation of his products and his work is much better known


08 February 2013

Antonia Monacelli: Some Families Just Can't Hack It

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It is common knowledge that most murders are committed by persons known to them either as part of their family, a spouse or partner, or as friends. In "Some Families Just Can't Hack It" Antonia Monacelli has taken a quintet of actual murders with a family background and written short stories giving her version of what really happened. The stories are well written and crafted and give a clear insight into the background and motives and a, sometimes graphic, description of each murder.

The stories give a realistic and detailed personal and emotional view of why circumstances made certain people get to the stage of considering murdering someone close to them, and analyse the extent of pre-meditation and how the murders happened. Even the book title is a pun on an appalling axe murder. Each story is followed by a synopsis of what actually happened to the potential offender, with the police, the courts and the penal system. This adds to the realism, and on more than one occasion made me question the legal outcome.

These are a real crime based stories and not your standard murder mysteries, which are popular fictional escapism where the reader can divorce themselves from what is described. If you like real crime stories then you will enjoy them. You may not like them as much if you prefer to distance yourself from crimes through fictional escapism.

It was difficult for me to rate these short stories objectively. I am a fictional escapist so I found them a bit disturbing and despite the quality of the writing I would personally give them an OK rating (3 stars) - which is still a positive rating. If I was not affected by the reality of the topics I would probably give them a 4 star rating. Assuming that many readers would not have my sensitivity I decided to go with the higher rating - caveat emptor.

07 February 2013

Mark Black: World War One: A Very Brief History

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I am getting addicted to short histories and these brief Readers' Digest style reminders are helping me to expand and keep my memories in order. This time the reminder is about World War One, and the background to this terrible conflict has always been far too complex for me to remember and understand.

Mark Black has again done a good job in outlining the major factors but it is probably a bit too brief for such a large historical event. I am still bemused, especially as most of the nation states no longer exist. We might think that our international politics are complex but relationships and treaties between States, Emperors, the Tsar etc were even more complex than now. It is hard to imagine the long-term enmity between nations that were vying with one another for power and empires, and the tremendous patriotism that lured a generation to their deaths.

As an Aussie I thought that a little more could have been said about the debacle of the Gallipoli campaign and Churchill's part in this tragedy. Also the importance of the entry of the Americans and the new found power of tanks was probably a bit understated. I also can't recall any mention that the Versailles Treaty was not ratified by the US Congress.

The "War to end all Wars" never achieved lasting peace - all it did was set the scene for an even more extensive world conflict in just over 20 years.

I will probably take a break for a while - but I will return later for another dose of history.

06 February 2013

Mark Black: Hitler's Blitzkrieg: A Very Brief History

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This short history of Hitler's Blitzkrieg was fascinating, although at times the writing was a bit disjointed and repetitious. I didn't realise that Germany had fewer tanks at the beginning of WWII than all of their enemies but were able to win stunning victories because they used the element of surprise and new/old blitzkrieg strategies with the advantage of fast mobilisation and action using light tanks and aircraft. After WWI their military strategists re-wrote the battle regime to become aggressive and avoid bogging down in dreadful trench warfare again. Most of the military in other countries at the start of the war still had the mindset of defence.

On of the key things that surprised me was that part of their battlefield success was due German High Command delegating responsibility down to the squad level allowing them to react to battlefield conditions without waiting for orders from above. This surprised me as I would have expected German commanders would not have allowed such flexibility. In business this strategy has also been successful in appropriate circumstances.

I am enjoying reading some of the wide range of >50 page Amazon Kindle "Readers' Digest" summaries of major events in history and lives of key people which have been released on Amazon by Mark Black. I am a bit of a history buff and these brief reminders are helping me to expand and keep my memories in order.

05 February 2013

Mark Black: The Pacific War: A Very Brief History

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I am enjoying reading the wide range of >50 page Amazon Kindle "Readers' Digest" summaries of lives of key people and events in history which have been released on Amazon by Mark Black.

It is a virtually impossible to cover all of the key elements of this appalling and cruel conflict in such a short book but Mark Black has done a pretty good job. This time I think Black has missed a few vital things:

  1. The US industrial war machine geared up quickly after the shock of Pearl Harbour and vastly over-produced and replaced ships and weaponry compared to the Japanese, giving a great strategic advantage.
  2. The terrible losses to gain victories on Guam, Saipan and Iwa Jima and other heavily fortified islands gave American B-29 bombers land bases from early 1945 within range of Japan to start to destroy their manufacturing capacity.
  3. Most people do not realise that B-29 fire bomb raids on Tokyo on 9-10 March 1945 with collateral damage through fire-storms resulted in more immediate deaths (around 100,000) than both A-Bombs and destroyed a vast amount of sub-contract productive capacity. It is arguable that continued large-scale bombing raids might have created conditions for surrender without the need to use the A-bombs.
  4. There is no mention of the invasion on 9 August 1945 of Japanese occupied Manchuria by 1 million battle hardened Russians. This had an important strategic impact on both the Japanese and the Americans. It could be argued that both the expected huge losses with an invasion of Japan plus the Soviet entry to the Pacific War played a part in Truman's decision to use the A-Bombs.


04 February 2013

Mark Black: Wallis Simpson: A Very Brief History

This useful brief history of Wallis Simpson is the first of the plethora of "Very Brief Histories" being released on Amazon by Mark Black. Basically they are >50 page Amazon Kindle "Readers' Digest" summaries of lives of key people and events in history.

Wallis Simpson was a key person in history because she nearly toppled the English Throne when Edward VIII (her David) wanted to marry her. The real issues were that Edward wanted to marry a twice divorced woman who was not only a commoner but a US citizen. I have watched a number of TV series covering the abdication but this small history told me a lot more, especially about Wallis (she "could no more stop flirting than she could stop breathing"). It also opened my eyes to David's personality - his staff referred to his "ethical impotence" and described him as "an anomalous abnormal being, half genius and half child". He really didn't appreciate the impact on his life when he decided to abdicate.

The fairy story had good and bad endings. After the abdication, David and Wallis lived extravagant and wealthy lives for many years throughout the world as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor but this life was always in exile from the UK. After David's death Wallis's health deteriorated badly and she was not able to protect her financial affairs from unscrupulous advisers.

I found this little history most interesting, but of course lacking in depth and analysis because of its length. As they are easy reading I will look at some of the other brief histories that take my interest.


01 February 2013

Laila Ibrahim: Yellow Crocus: A Novel

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It is very difficult to encapsulate the way of life in the American South in the 25 years leading up to the Civil War in a single novel. Laila Ibrahim has done this well through the eyes of a female slave and her relationship as a wet-nurse and proxy mother to the daughter of a the white plantation owner in Virginia. It is an emotional story which is well told and covers the major features of slavery and the power and attitude to slaves by their white owners. The content does not describe the cruelty of the times in too much detail.

The book tells its story in a believable way through the long term loving relationship and understanding between Mattie the wet-nurse and her proxy daughter, Lisbeth. There are 3 major messages in this book to me (I am an Aussie so I am not that familiar to the history of the times):

1. It was a time of harsh conditions for slaves with almost callous disregard of any human feelings to slaves by their owners. Virginia law deemed them to be real estate to be bought and sold at will. Slaves could not gain their freedom unless they escaped to one of the northern "free" states.
2. Plantation owners followed a very strong social system to maintain their power through in-breeding between wealthy families. Teenage females had strict limitations on their place in the family and were expected to make strategic marriages and act as brood-mares to maintain dynasties. This is very similar to how English society and aristocracy protected their dynasties in the 19th century and beyond.
3. There would always be some social connection between slaves and their owners through house-slaves, wet-nurses and sexual domination of some female slaves. These connections form the main themes of this book.

All in all it was a very good effort to cover such a massive subject. I felt the ending was a bit rushed and predictable so I personally gave it 4.5 stars. However I rounded it up to reflect the many other 5 star reviews given to this book.


Judy Nunn: The Wardrobe

This is a wonderful short story encapsulating both the charm of old workers' cottages in Surry Hills in Sydney with a love story that spans the world and time. It takes a skilful author to write good short stories, and Judy Nunn makes the grade.

Nancy, a young struggling journalist, is left some money by her Grandmother and decides to buy her first real estate. She finds a very small cottage in Surry Hills that charms her immediately despite its run-down condition. Some deceased estate furniture, including a oversized wardrobe, are sold with the house. Nancy's discoveries in that wardrobe connect her to the family that used to live there, and old letters stored under the wardrobe will change her life forever.

Many may think that the story is too short - but that really is the charm and the skill of the story. Judy Nunn has also written several really good and successful full-length novels mainly with an Australian background.

Judy Nunn: Maralinga

This is one of Judy Nunn's best books about an infamous time in Australia's recent history. It details the madness and excitement of early nuclear testing in the late 1950's and early 1960's and the criminal negligence of both the Australian and UK governments in despoiling a part of Australia's environment and heritage.

This is an important book which clearly points out how casually governments dealt with the effects of testing early nuclear devices in Australia that they didn't fully understand and the long-term effects on those who participated, especially the impact on the local Aboriginals whose lives were affected.

Judy Nunn tells the story through the lives of English and Australian officers and MI5 agents who were there and an adventurous young English journalist Elizabeth Hoffman who is drawn half way around the world in search of the truth.

I was aware of some of the impacts and the clean-up problems but was still stunned with reading about what actually happened. My wife knew little about what had happened and was shocked by the revelations and kept asking me "Did this really happen?". Yes it did. Even in 1985, over 20 years later a report found that significant radiation hazards still existed at many of the Maralinga test areas and millions were spent on further clean-ups. In 1994 the Australian Government paid compensation of $13.5 million to the local Maralinga Tjarutja people.

I read this book in print format when it was published in 2009 and it is in my very short list of best novels written about Australia. I was reminded to recommend this book to others via Amazon as I have just read a great short story by Judy Nunn - The Wardrobe - which contained a promotional chapter for "Maralinga".