Sunday, 28 June 2009

Seven Ancient Wonders - Matthew Reilly

Seven Ancient Wonders by Australian author Matthew Reilly is a 'Boy's Own' type romp through the locations of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the world to find the pieces of the capstone of the Great Pyramid at Giza and reassemble them in time for a solar event that can bring immense power or peace for whoever possesses them.

Three different groups are on the hunt for the pieces, two for their own gain and one heroic, brave group, led by the dashing soldier and archaeologist, Jack West Jr, for the good of mankind and to stop the 'baddies' gaining control.

They have seven days to find all the pieces; battling against time, the other two groups and booby-traps and false trails. Will they make it in time, can the little team beat the 'Goliath' of the other two powerful groups? It is rip-roaring, action-packed and good fun.

A good beach read - fish paste sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer!

Mean Spirit - Will Kingdom

Mean Spirit by Will Kingdom is a supernatural chiller. This is one to read late at night with the duvet pulled up to your ears and all the lights on! Seffi Callard is one of the world's most famous mediums, but is living in fear of her life. She has gained the attention of Gary Seward, a violent career criminal, who needs her help with the spirit world. She applies for help to her old friend, Marcus Bacton, who runs a paranormal journal,and he sends his young assistant Grayle Underhill to the rescue.

As the two women are propelled into a nightmare, they get help from Bobby Maiden, a police detective whose life was irrevocably changed by a near-death experience and Cindy, a fading comic who now hosts a Lottery programme.

The action builds to fingernail-biting climax orchestrated by Seward at creepy Overcross Castle. Will they be able to save Seffi? Will they be able to save themselves?

Have a big bag of maltesers and a mug of hot, sweet tea handy when you read this one!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Books I Read When Travelling

When I went travelling for six months in Australia and New Zealand, I had a lot of time to read. I travelled mainly on buses and some of the journeys took 24 hours to complete, and there was time spent on the beach or sitting by the pool.

Australia has wonderful 'Book Exchanges' where you can go in and buy second hand books, but they will also buy your books off you. Some of these 'Book Exchanges' were piled to the rafters, and there were books on every topic and every genre. In Perth, for example, there is the marvellous 'Elizabeth's Bookshops'.

As another occasional/irregular series I'm going to review some of the favourite books I read travelling, starting with 'One Night at the Call Centre' by Chetan Bhagat.

The book focuses on six Call Centre workers in India - Shyam, Priyanka, Vroom, Esha, Radhika, and Military Uncle. They all work the night shift, and the story covers one momentous night that changes their whole lives. The book examines their backgrounds, their relationships, how they feel about their lives and how they feel about their jobs.

Shyam and Priyanka are star-crossed lovers, who used to date. But since splitting up Priyanka is seeing someone else and her parents are pressurising her to marry him. Vroom likes all the trappings of Western culture such as Pizza, bikes and clothes but is also deeply patriotic and has an intense dislike of the US. He is very attracted to Esha, but belittles her in public when he discovers that she slept with someone to help her modelling career.

Esha's modelling career is hampered by the fact that she is not tall enough. She really wants to go out with Vroom, but worries that he will get rid of her if he finds out about her past. Radhika is unhappily married to a cheating husband, and finds out when her husband is tricked onto a radio programme by Vroom that the would rather dedicate a song and flowers to his mistress. Military Uncle is the only older character and is desperately unhappy because he has alienated his family. He tries to make amends with his son, but it all goes terribly wrong.

On that fateful night, the crew discover that their boss has taken credit for a project of Shyam and Vroom's, so they plan their revenge. They sneak out to a nightclub and as they are driving back to work, they crash the car and end up suspended over some iron rods on a construction site. As the iron rods start to give way under the weight of the car, Shyam's mobile starts ringing and it is God who is on the line....

This book, is both funny and sad, but ultimately gives hope that every difficult situation that we face can be overcome and sorted out if we just look at things from a different perspective and are open to change.

A great book for overnight trips on the Greyhound - read it in one gulp!


Tuesday, 16 June 2009

I Just Can't Get into This One!!

The first in an irregular series - books that I just can't get into! I bought this book because it had rave reviews and it seemed really interesting. It is the story of two different men who have lost the loves of their lives, one a soldier in the Great War who has to overcome the Siberian Wilderness to try to return to the girl he loves, and one who wakes up in a hospital in South America to find that his gorlfriend is dead.

I'm sure that most people who have read this book loved it - so can someone please write a review in the comments, so that I can try again to get into reading it!

My most memorable 'can't get into it' to date has to be Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Ecco. A vertiable classic that was recommended to me by all my friends, who told me that the subject matter was right up my street and how much they had all enjoyed it. To date I have never been able to get past page 66!

Divided Loyalties - Patricia Scanlan

Divided Loyalties tells the story of Shauna, Carrie and Bobby, three siblings who have grown up in Ireland with a loving, gentle mother and a controlling, tyrannical father. The story starts with a disastrous family Christmas, and ends with another family gathering. But will the intervening years have changed the family dynamic for the better?

Shauna is married to Greg and has one daughter Chloe; she is desperate to have another child, but Greg has different ideas. All he wants to do is get on materially in life and relocates the family to the Emirates where they live a glitzy life in a fancy apartment high above the Corniche. Will Shauna have to let go of her dreams of having another child and how far will Greg go to ensure that it does not happen?

Bobby is the only son, and has a very difficult relationship with his father, who cannot accept the fact that he is gay. His father blames him for the death of his wife, so Bobby moves from Ireland to build a new life for himself in London. Will Bobby ever find love, will his father ever grow to accept him as he is and can they heal their fractured relationship for the sake of the whole family?

Gentle Carrie feels put upon and resents the fact that her brother and sister leave the care of their ageing father to her. She is married with two children of her own, but is the one who has to deal with all her father's demands and wants. Will she find the strength to stand up to her father, and insist that her siblings take on their share of the burden?

Throw in a scheming, money-grabbing sister-in-law, beautiful settings on the coast of Ireland and the Gulf and this one is definitely worth a prawn mayonnaise on white and a packet of ready salted!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Lottery - Patricia Wood

Lottery - the fortunes and misfortunes of Perry L Crandall, is an enchanting book about a young man with a low IQ who wins a fortune on the lotttery.

Although not blessed with brains, Perry was blessed with a grandmother who taught him how to cope with life, how to write everything down, and how to play the lottery. After she dies, his grasping family take her house, which is rightfully Perry's, leaving Perry to rely on his work colleagues and friends. Luckily, Perry has a knack for making good friends and moves in over the boating supplies shop where he works.

His family, however, come crawling back into his life when he wins a large amount of money on the lottery. Follow Perry's adventures as he comes to terms with his new riches, fends off his greedy family, and builds new relationships with the people who care about him.

Lottery is often funny, sometimes sad, and ultimately a parable on how greed and love of money do not buy you happiness and contentment. Makes sure that you have a box of tissues, a large bowl of nachos with extra sour cream and a large glass of white wine!

Kings in Grass Castles - Mary Durack

When I was travelling in Australia and New Zealand, I had lots of time to read - some of the journeys between towns on the Greyhound Bus in Australia took 20 hours or more! When I was staying in Kununnura, I visited the Durack Homestead which had been the home of one of Australia's remarkable pioneering families. The original homestead was flooded by the creation of Lake Argyle when they dammed the Orde River, so it has been recreated on higher ground using some of the original materials.
Kings in Grass Castles tells the story of Patrick Durack leaving Ireland with his family in 1853 for Australia and their struggles to establish themselves and to build a great cattle empire across outback Australia.
Follow them from their landing point in Sydney and early days in New South Wales, through to opening up remote parts of Queensland to cattle ranching and then driving cattle overland to establish huge cattle stations in the Kimberley. The hardships that they faced are almost umimaginable now, but the sights they must have seen and the experiences that they had are now out of our reach.
Kings in Grass Castles has lots of family and historical detail, so I found it slow, but fascinating reading. Leaving on a jet plane for Oz? This is the perfect book for that 24 hours - order a gin and tonic and recline your seat!

The Durack Homestead

Life Sentences - Laura Lippman

How well do we really know anyone? How much of our past is a scramble of events and people that we remember, things that we have been told, connections that we refuse to make and memories that get pushed deep down beyond the fringes of awareness.

Writer Cassandra Fallows is unaware of the can of worms that she is going to open when she decides to follow up her first book about her earlier life with a book about her ex-classmate Calliope Jenkins, who was accused of murdering her infant son.

Cassandra returns to her home town of Baltimore and starts asking questions and doing research, trying to find out what really happened to Calliope's baby, only to find that what she had always believed about her past is not always what had actually happened.

As she tries to reconnect with three former classmates, track down the elusive Calliope, and forge a new relationship with her divorced parents, dark secrets come tumbling out and the her picture of her world will never be the same again.

A fascinating look at childhood memories and alliances, distorted memories and how things are never really as they seem. Find a comfortable sofa, make the tea, break out the chocolate and keep on reading!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Wedding Season - Katie Fforde

A frothy romance, perfect for the summer! Follow the adventures of Sarah, a wedding planner who doesn't believe in love, Elsa, a shy but gifted dress designer who has never really had a boyfriend and Bron, a hairdresser whose relationship has run out of steam, as they come together to save a wedding and end up joining forces and pooling their talents.

As they land the celebrity wedding of the year and also have to help Sarah's sister put together a shoestring wedding on the same day, they each also have to face challenges in their love lives in order to find true love and happiness.

The Wedding Season has the mandatory happy ending, so cut your cucumber sandwiches, pour yourself a glass of bubbly and put your feet up for this light-hearted page turner.

Fractured - Karin Slaughter

A classy thriller from Karin Slaughter set in the torrid heat of late summer in Atlanta. Special Agent Will Trent walks into a crime scene where a teenage girl lies dead on the landing in a pool of blood, a young man who is believed to be the perpetrator has been killed in the hall and a misjudgement by the local police leads to the life of another young girl being put in grave danger.

Agent Trent has secrets of his own to hide, so is dismayed to be partnered for the the first time with detective Faith Mitchell. She in turn, has her own reasons to resent and mistrust Agent Trent, and as time starts to run out for the missing teenager, they have to try and find a way to work together to bring her home.

With many twists and turns, graphic portraits of violence and human cruelty, the plot delves into the darkest parts of the human psyche, and it is sometimes difficult to tell who is a victim and who is a perpetrator.

Not one to read if you've got got rare roast beef sandwiches for lunch and if you read it late at night - leave the light on!

The Laughter of Dead Kings - Elizabeth Peters

I have been reading Elizabeth Peter's novels now for many years, and have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. 'The Laughter of Dead Kings' is the latest in the 'Vicky Bliss Murder Mystery' series. It reprises the characters of Vicky Bliss a tall, blonde American Professor of Art History, her erstwhile lover 'Sir John Smythe,' a former antiquities and art thief now going straight, and Schmidt, Vicky's madcap boss at the Museum of Art in Munich.

The plot centres around the theft of the mummy of one of Ancient Egypt's famous pharaohs from under the noses of the authorities in the Valley of the Kings. A desperate visit from an old friend, who is also an Inspector of Antiquities in Upper Egypt, begging for their help leads to Vicky, John and Schmidt pursuing leads from London, to Rome, to Berlin and finally to Egypt and the Valley of the Kings itself.

Throw in a handsome, charismatic Head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, an agent called Suzi who pretends to be in love with Schmidt, and a thoroughly unexpected villain and you have an effervescent mixture of murder mystery and comedy, with a strong dash of romance thrown in!

A very easy read, so pack it for the pool or drag it out of your overstuffed handbag for a lunchtime read in the park!