Over 550 book reviews with full author links

27 September 2014

Graeme Simsion: The Rosie Effect

"The Baby Project"
THE ROSIE PROJECT was one of the most memorable books I read last year. It was an entertaining and amusing feel-good story that made me laugh, and sometimes cry and looked at love, personal relationships and self-discovery in a very different way. "The Rosie Effect" further explores the relationship between the compulsive personality and strictly regimented life of Professor of Genetics, Don Tillman as he settles down to married life with Rosie, his loving wife who has a totally different personality.

Don and Rosie have moved from Melbourne to New York where he is teaching genetics and researching alcoholic mice at Columbia University and Rosie is about to complete her second year at Columbia Medical School. What happens when Rosie tells Don that she is pregnant? Don faces total meltdown because in his regulated life there should not be surprises. He is not psychologically ready for one of the most important tasks in his life.

So what does he do? He starts up his Baby Project (guided by a spreadsheet for planned parenthood written on the tiles of his bathroom) and quickly tries to become an expert on all things obstetric, and researches the skills of parenthood. He even implements a new Standardised Meal System designed for pregnancy. Of course, in the process he again gets things wrong emotionally and gets involved in some hilarious incidents and errors of judgement. All of this risks alienating Rosie at one of the most important times of their lives.

As an amusing side-plot, Simsion brings back Don's best friend Gene (who Rosie dislikes) who has a lifetime project to have sex with a woman from every country in the world. This project has recently wrecked his open marriage to Claudia and brings further stress into Don and Rosie's life when he becomes their house guest during his time on a sabbatical at Columbia. Gene swears off his project but by chance Don's female research assistant turns out to be Lithuanian.

It is very hard to follow up on something that was so memorable but Simsion shows that he can keep us absorbed, fascinated and amused by the story of Don and Rosie as their strange lives together progress into parenthood. Once again this is an amusing and frequently very touching human story about two different and unique characters that will make you laugh and feel sad and glad right up to the last page. Well done Graeme Simpsion - you have another winner on your hands.

25 September 2014

Melissa F Miller: Irrevocable Trust (Sasha McCandless Legal Thriller Book 6)

Another easy-reading Sasha McCandless legal thriller
I have read several of the Sasha McCandless legal thrillers by Melissa F Miller and have found them easy-reading, and well written. I enjoyed them despite some unbelievable plots.

Sasha McCandless and Leo Connelly have just started to settle down to everyday life after their exciting wedding (see A MARRIAGE OF TWO MINDS) where prison escapee Jeffrey Bricker hired two thugs to kill her on her wedding day to revenge her recent success stopping him releasing a killer flu that would have brought the US to its knees. 

Bricker is still on the run and a danger to Sasha and his wife and six children who have made a new life under the witness protection system. The threat becomes greater when his wife Allison is murdered and Bricker is the prime suspect. Allison leaves Sasha an Irrevocable Trust that gives her a responsibility in the future lives of her children and puts all of them in increased danger from Bricker.

What follows is an exciting and nail-biting game of cat and mouse between Bricker, Sasha, Leo and fellow agent Hank about the future of Bricker's family. Leo has always called Sasha "A trouble magnet" and this time the magnet affects the life of six orphaned children.

While this couldn't be classified as literary fiction, it is a good exciting page-turning read from a talented Indie author who is quickly making a name for herself in the field of US legal thrillers.There is an interesting twist in the tale that might have a huge impact on Sasha and Leo's future lives.

22 September 2014

Robyn Carr: Virgin River (A Virgin River Novel Book 1)

Delightful emotional and uplifting story
From time to time I need to have a break from my normal diet of thrillers and settle down with a light romance. VIRGIN RIVER was a delightful and satisfying break because it mixed an unusual romance with strong emotional impact set against very small-town USA.

Mel Monroe is a nurse practitioner and midwife, happily married to a brilliant doctor and working together at a top LA hospital. Her life in ER is traumatic, dealing with gunshot wounds, stabbings, druggies and vagrants every day. Her life becomes more traumatic when her husband is shot during an armed holdup of a local 7/11

Mel comes to Virgin River to escape from the trauma, a very small town in the the beautiful forest covered hinterland in northern California. She arrives on a stormy night to find nothing is as she expects, the cabin promised to her is almost falling down, and the grumpy old town doctor doesn't want her help.

Jack Sheridan also escaped to Virgin River after years of trauma in the Army. He runs the local bar/restaurant and is drawn to Mel, despite her continuing grief for her murdered husband. Mel immediately decides to leave but finds she can't leave yet when she discovers a new-born baby on the doorstep.

This is an interesting tale which explores the dynamics of very small-town USA and the relationship between two fascinating traumatically bruised characters. Robyn Carr has written a delightful first book in what has become a very popular series.

Jodi Picault: Leaving Time

Great book if you like elephants
One of the things I like about reading different books is that you learn something from most of them. This time I learnt a lot about the fascinating world of elephants, how they bond together and get security through the matriarch of the herd,and especially the way they grieve and remember. This was an eye-opener and the real strength the book for me.

The rest of the book was pretty ordinary, with weak and flat characters, waffling away with little real story to an ending I have already forgotten. Several people told me that Jodi Picoult's books were great reading but I won't be going out of my way to read any more of her books.

The driver of my three star rating was the elephants, not the story or the writing.

This review was written by MonicaD. Thanks to The Reading Room and the publisher for a copy of this book.

Santa Montefiore:The Beekeepers Daughter

Multi-generational feel-good love story
This is multigenerational feel-good love story over two generations. Grace Valentine grows up in England in the late 1930's living on the beautiful estate of the Marquess and Marchioness of Penselwood. She has a crush on the son of the Lord but knows her place in society as the daughter of the Lord's beekeeper. The onset of WWII turns her life around but she never forgets her first love.

Moving forward to the 1970's Grace is living in a small community in the US which is shocked when her daughter Trixie spends a weekend with her aspiring rock-star lover. Grace soon finds that Trixie's situation with an unsuitable man has similarities to her situation at the same age. It is a frequently very touching story of a mother and daughter both searching for love and happiness in a similar way who are unaware of the secrets that bind them. To solve them they must confront the current and the past, and unravel the lies told long ago.

I have always loved Santa Montefiore's easy reading page-turning style, great characters and servings of romance. This is probably her best book which I strongly recommend to anyone who likes these kind of books.

My thanks to The Reading Room and the publisher for a copy of this book.

This review was written by MonicaD.

13 September 2014

Barry Lancet: Japantown: A Thriller (A Jim Brodie Novel)

Didn't fulfill early promise as a great début thriller  
Barry Lancet's début novel started with great promise of being a thriller that bridged the cultural gap between Japanese and American life. Unfortunately as the plot developed it became another overblown major conspiracy thriller where the hero and a few helpers took on well-organised baddies and managed to defeat them almost singlehanded.

Jim Brodie was born in Japan to American parents. He went to Japanese schools and integrated the Japanese society as well as any Gaijin (foreigner) is allowed and has a great expertise in Japanese culture, history, and martial arts. He shares his time as a dealer in Japanese art and antiques in San Francisco with running his late father's Tokyo-based private investigation firm.

When five members of  a rich and powerful Japanese family are gunned down assassination-style at a pedestrian mall in San Francisco's Japantown, Lieutenant Frank Renna from the SFPD asks for Brodie's help in deciphering a single Japanese Kanji character (a complex logographic which is part of the most complex Japanese writing system) left on a scrap of paper at the scene. What is chilling to Jim is that he had seen the same obscure and unidentifiable Kanji at the scene of a fire which destroyed the life of his wife Meiko.

Having lived 2 years as a true Gaijin in Tokyo, working and living with the Japanese I was fascinated by Lancet's fantastic perception of Japanese life, traditions and society from growing up in Japan in a similar way to fictional Brodie. I got lost when Brodie discovered that the Kanji led him to the ruthless and powerful Soga clan, the product of an ancient conspiracy (akin to the scope of the Da Vinci Code) that had its violent tentacles entangled around the most influential parts of Japanese business and government. I got further lost when Brodie and his PI firm took on the powerful Saga almost singlehanded.

What started out looking like an outstanding début thriller ended up as an almost unbelievable David and Goliath story. Despite this, because Lancet is undoubtedly a very talented author with an amazing understanding of Japanese life, I look forward to reading his next book, TOKYO KILL to see if he fulfills the promise shown in the first part of this book.

Fiona Palmer: The Sunnyvale Gilrs

A journey across the years
There are three Sunnyvale "girls". Maggie, the grandmother who grew up on the property during the war, Toni her daughter and her granddaughter Flick. Years ago they all moved from the old house, built by a couple of Italian prisoners of war, to a larger house built by their late grandfather.

One day Toni is clearing out and renovating the old house when she finds a box of old unopened letters under a loose board. They are all addressed to her mother, sent from Italy and have never been opened - Maggie's mother had kept them from her. The first letter starts "Bella Maggie" and ends "I made a promise. I will come back to Australia so we can be together. Ti amo, Rocco".

This was an easy read as the family starts to unravel what happened and Toni and Flick go to Italy seeking answers which will have an impact on the lives of all of the Sunnyvale girls and Maggie in particular.

This review was posted by MonicaD. Thanks to The Reading Room and the publisher for a copy of this book.

08 September 2014

Deanna Raybourn: Silent in the Moor (Lady Julia Grey Novel)

I won't be reading any "Moor"
This is the third in the Lady Julia Grey series - I read it for two reasons, firstly because it was a heavily discounted e-book, and having read #1 and #2 I wanted to finally see a passionate relationship develop between Julia and Brisbane.

I had to wait through to the end for the latter to happen and it really was an anti-climax. In between Brisbane was even more enigmatic and elusive and any lady in their right mind would have walked away a long time ago.

This time Deanna Raybourn takes us to the most remote parts of the Yorkshire moors where Brisbane has surprisingly bought a run-down house from a family with aspirations to royal blood going down the ages. Not only is the house run-down but a strange mix of survivors of the original impoverished, and run-down family are still living in the house.

The plot again takes in gypsies and poison but this time Egyptian artifacts and mummies. We also have to put up with the strange animal kingdom of ugly dogs and pet raven that accompany Julia and her sister wherever they go. Of course Julia gets involved in some sleuthing but it is far from compelling reading.

I started reading the Lady Julia Grey series after really enjoying Raybourn's breakout adventure-romance A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS and seeing how many reviewers had a hard time coming to grips with the change from their favourite Lady Julia series. This book had the opposite effect on me and I won't be reading any more in this series, despite Brisbane and Julia finally coming together as partners.

R. E. Blake: Less than nothing

Follow your dreams, however hard that may be
From time to time I come across an interesting book that I would not normally read. LESS THAN NOTHING is a coming-of-age YA/NA story about two homeless teenagers facing up to tough times living on the street. Their main connection is that they are talented musicians and singers, surviving by singing for hours on the streets for loose change of passers by.

Sage left the home of her alcoholic mother a few months ago, driven out by the violence of her mother's new husband. Derek has been on the streets longer and has a dark past that he is reluctant to share with anyone. Both of them meet in San Francisco when Derek appears to want to take over Sage's street spot where she sings each day, but reluctantly she agrees to share the spot as their duo makes far more money together.

While Sage lives day to day, Derek has a dream - to win a nationwide singing talent contest. The main problem is that the last audition is in New York only two weeks away. With only a few dollars in their pockets we see Sage and Derek attempting to cross the country to get to New York in time to audition with hundreds of other hopefuls for a spot in the contest.

This is a kind of tender love story as the two very damaged main characters start to connect. It is not the wham-bang eroticism that turns me off so many other contemporary coming-of-age novels. Blake writes this book in the first person as Sage so you experience her youth, immaturity and sensitivities. His writing style is easy reading, but somewhat addictive as he takes us through their experiences, highs and lows and disappointments. The choice of homelessness for a first YA/NA novel is a brave one but it works because Blake doesn't over focus on the dangers which Sage and Derek face to survive.

This is the first YA/NA book by R.E. Blake. I am not in the YA/NA age group (more in the SA group, where S = Senior or Senile) but I think if I can relate to this book then others in the target groups will do so as well.

In the tradition of most trilogies, at the end Blake leaves us in a position where we want to know what happens next. I hope that others will want to read on to find out the answers to several questions that are left unanswered, one of them being "Can true love overcome adversity and a mountain of obstacles keeping them apart?" 

I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

05 September 2014

Clive Cussler & Russell Blake: Eye of Heaven

The Cussler formula hasn't changed
I haven't read many Clive Cussler books recently. A few years ago in the early Dirk Pitt days he was one of my favourite action authors but I moved on when my reading tastes expanded. I was tempted to read this book firstly to see how the Cussler publishing empire has changed over the years but also to check out his new co-authorship with Russell Blake, one of my favourite authors of no-holds-barred action-packed thrillers. My verdict is that Cussler's comfort food for his many fans is still fresh, spinning tales that have kept them fed for so many years and that Blake's co-authorship appears seamless.

The Fargo series focuses on Sam and Remi Fargo, a golden couple with apparently huge resources who are professional treasure hunters. The beginning of the book has them exploring a 17th Century wreck off the Spanish coast which contains some amazing statues. The Fargos make a long term dangerous enemy of  Janus Benedict, an immensely rich and unscrupulous Englishman when they thwart his plans to make off with the sunken treasures.

The Fargos join an expedition to map glacial shrinkage on Baffin Island and in the process find a Viking longship with its crew perfectly preserved by being frozen in the ice. While a find of an authentic Viking longboat in flawless condition is momentous the discovery of pre-Columbian artifacts that may have come from middle America is even more momentous. This sets the Fargos on a search for evidence that the Vikings may have reached America. Such a search gets the attention of the baddies (led by Benedict of course) who follows every move.

The plot was more realistic than many recent thrillers I have read and the history behind the plot was fascinating and entertaining. I don't know much about co-authorship, other than it allows authors to keep publishing books when they would otherwise have retired (Cussler is now 83). This book has the Cussler touch from the well researched historic plot and the Blake touch with his prolific writing skills. I am sure that Cussler's many fans will lap up this latest joint venture in the Fargo series.

Russell Blake is to be commended with his first venture into co-authorship because once again he has shown that he can write well in so many different environments. His name deserves a much larger font on the eye-catching cover. I did miss some of his signature adrenaline-pumping action so my have to attend a Requiem for the Assassin soon to refuel.