Calypso: The Harry Starke Novels, Book 8

Monday, 20 February 2017

Written by: Blair Howard
Narrated by: Tom Lennon
Length: 6 hrs and 45 mins 
Series: Harry Starke, Book 8
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:11-04-16
Publisher: Blair Howard
Publishers Summary
"There are four basic reasons why someone commits murder. The first and most powerful is love. The second - equally powerful - is hate. Almost equally compelling is revenge. The fourth is profit. Money. When one family member kills another, one or more of them is almost always the motive, and the murders on Calypso Key were no exception." - Harry Starke

Review
Every book in this series has something new and fresh to offer the fans of the Harry Starke series and this one is no exception. Harry has gathered all those close to him, family, friends and employees and swept them off to a beautiful exotic location to witness his marriage to the beautiful Amanda. Of course, where Harry is concerned, trouble is always just around the corner ….

A murder, right there on the island and he has no choice but to give in to the plea for his help from the victims father. “But” bewails Harry “I’m on my honeymoon”. August, his father, explains to Harry that they both owe this man a huge debt of gratitude, when Harry learns the reason for this debt, he has no option but to help.
Suspects soon arise, and in what is a “locked room” mystery, albeit on an island, Harry must discover which one is the murderer - all without the benefits of specifically trained investigators and on the spot forensic amenities.
Come along and enjoy the ride, another great Harry Starke investigation from author Blair Howard.
Narrator
….and another great narration from Tom Lennon who never fails to deliver the goods.  The voice, the delivery and the outstanding interpretation of the characters all combine to provide a wonderful, high quality listening experience

Audiobook review copy provided by the publisher

The Crossroads: Pamela Cook. 4 stars

Sunday, 19 February 2017

ISBN: 9780733636851
ISBN-10: 0733636853
Genre: Contemporary, Rural Fiction,
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 29th November 2016
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Outline:
This story is about three women with life troubles; Rosie, owner of the Crossroads, a decrepit heritage listed outback hotel, is guarding a secret which she has never revealed to a single soul. A widow, she is bearing the stress of her financial worries alone. Rosie also has a dream, to travel overseas to build on her culinary skills.

Stephanie is Rosies' daughter, married to Bryce, they live on their station where they ought to be growing beef but the prolonged drought is bringing them to their knees. Bryce is depressed and withdrawn, Stephanie strives to shield their little son from the effects of his fathers depression.

Faith is a Sydney girl, she has recently lost both a job and a boyfriend. Her parents are on a cruise, they ask Faith to find some documents they need. She finds far more than she bargained for.
This discovery leads her to Birralong and the Crossroads Hotel ….

Review:
Rural romance/rural fiction is certainly not my usual genre but, despite that, I did enjoy this book. There is a reason why it is so very popular, for me there is a comfort in the formula - things go bad, things improve and then there is usually a pleasant ending to look forward to. Having said that, this story is not quite as predictable as I expected, there’s a bit of a surprise in there for us readers!

I like that this is a heartwarming story, well written and easy to read. The author did her research well, basing Birralong on the township of Hughendon in Far North Queensland, a town but three hours or so from the gorgeous Julia Creek where I lived and worked for a few months.
To those like me who do not normally read this genre I would recommend this book as a refreshing change from the sometimes disturbing world of crime fiction.
Review copy provided by Hachette Australia

Last Of The Giants: The True Story of Guns N' Roses 5 Stars

Thursday, 16 February 2017


ISBN: 9781409167228
ISBN-10: 1409167224 
Audience: General 
Format: Paperback 
Language: English 
Number Of Pages: 480
Published: 29th November 2016
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co 
Source: Hachette Australia
Publishers Summary
A major, definitive biography of Guns N' Roses by the man who was very much a part of what remains the most iconic rock story of the last three decades.
Many millions of words have already been written about Guns N' Roses, the old line-up, the new line-up. But none of them have ever really gotten to the truth. Which is this: Guns N' Roses has always been a band out of time, the Last of the Giants. They are what every rock band since the Rolling Stones has tried and nearly always failed to be: dangerous. At a time when smiling, MTV-friendly, safe-sex, just-say-no Bon Jovi was the biggest band in the world, here was a band that seemed to have leapt straight out of the coke-smothered pages of the original, golden-age, late-sixties rock scene.
Review 
The publishers summary is right about one thing, at that time music was “smiley”, it was also lukewarm and somewhat boring. Until, that is, Guns N’ Roses came along and changed everything. Well, they sure weren’t boring, musically or otherwise!
This book purports to be the true story of Guns N’ Roses, the author, Mick Wall spent years with them when gathering material for his magazine interviews so you have to believe that he knew them quite well.

In 2006 he wrote a biography of W. Axl Rose entitled  W.A.R. which he has since denounced and taken out of circulation. On his website Mick Wall gives his reasons for this action*.
There is an interesting discussion going on about the book on the forum of the  My GNR website
Since that time life happened to Mick Wall, and Last of the Giants he says “has been done with nothing but love in my heart”.

The book promises much in the way of truth and insight but it is a biography, so, as is the way with biographies many stories are third hand. However, it is a really enjoyable read though sad and troubling in parts. After reading some of the stories I had to wonder at how they actually survived!

The book is well laid out and easy to read with a very detailed index and an excellent notes and sources section.
This is a book for all Guns N’ Roses fans, those who were around at the beginning and those who weren’t even born then.
Review copy provided by Hachette Australia

Shadow over the Fens: by Joy Ellis

Friday, 10 February 2017

Shadow over the Fens: DI Nikki Galena Series, Book 2
Author Joy Ellis
Narrated by Henrietta Meire
Publication date Dec 27, 2016
Running time 7 hrs 22 min
Publisher: Tantor Audio
4 Stars

Publishers Summary
Detective Nikki Galena’s friend and neighbour meets a tragic end but there’s more to his death than meets the eye . . .

And someone terrible from DS Joseph Easter’s past is back . . .
A man is found executed on a piece of wasteland in Greenborough town. The cold-blooded murder triggers terrible memories for DS Joseph Easter.
Just when things seemed to be going well for DS Easter, he realises that the nightmare is coming back, threatening his career, his sanity, and maybe his life.
In a breath-taking conclusion even Nikki begins to doubt DS Easter as he faces a race against time to save someone very close to him.
Review
This second book follows straight on from the first, Nikki Galena and Joe Easter now are working together in the Fens area.
When Nikki’s neighbour, Martin Durham, calls by her cottage one day he offers to slap a coat of paint on her garden gate. Next thing she knows is that Martin, acting like a crazed man, careers up the steps of the church tower and jumps off to his death. Nikki does not accept that he took his own life despite it being the obvious conclusion, she decides to dig around to see what she can uncover …

The sight of a murder victim shocks Joe Easter almost beyond words, he fears his old nemesis has returned to persecute him. Meanwhile, he has met a woman who just might be the one for him …

There is a lot going on in this twisty tale, eventually the strands merge to reveal a very smart and well written plot. Plenty of action and suspense keep the reader well engaged throughout, plus there is an exciting end!

The single most impressive thing about this story for me is how well the author has developed the character of Nikki Galena. In the first book Nikki was the ubiquitous arrogant and flawed cop who always knows best, the one who always somehow avoids getting kicked off the job.
Thankfully, in this second book her character is far more realistic. She remains tough, edgy and strong but is far more believable.
I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys police procedurals with a good, twisty plot.
Narration
Narrated by Henrietta Meire who gives us an excellent performance. I thought she captured Nikki’s accent and character particularly well, brisk and to the point with a bit of attitude.
All the characters are well differentiated which is pretty important when listening to a story.
Her voice is pleasing to the ear and has good rhythm and cadence.
Excellent recording quality.
Review copy provided by Tantor Audio

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

ISBN: 9781408708989
ISBN-10: 1408708981
Audience: Children ages: 8+ years old
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 18th November 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Source: Hachette Australia
Description
When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt's fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone . . .

Inspired by the original Hogwart's textbook by Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. A feat of imagination and featuring a cast of remarkable characters and magical creatures, this is epic adventure-packed storytelling at its very best.

Review
Well, sort of a review, in truth I was not expecting an actual screenplay. Yes, yes, I know that it is written right there on the cover, but somehow I was expecting something more, some annotations maybe.
As it is, it is exactly what it says: a screenplay of the film, word for word.

There is, of course, already the 2001 book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (a Hogwarts Library text book written by Newt Scamander with a little help from J.K. Rowling) and, of course, the film.
To me, this screenplay seems a little superfluous, but then, it is aimed at children of eight years old and upwards.
I'm not sure how interested they would be in actually reading this screenplay, just owning it might be enough for the avid collector.

It is a beautiful book, its dark blue and shiny gold cover is quite impressive, and would look lovely on the bookshelf alongside your J.K. Rowling collection.
Copy provided by Hachette Australia

Turbo Twenty Three: Janet Evanovich: 5 stars

Author: Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum
ISBN: 9781472201690
ISBN-10: 1472201698
Genre: humour, crime fiction
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Pub. Date: 15th November 2016
Source: Hachette Australia
Series: Stephanie Plum
Summary (excerpt)
Larry Virgil skipped out on his latest court date after he was arrested for hijacking an eighteen-wheeler full of premium bourbon. Fortunately for bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, Larry is just stupid enough to attempt almost the exact same crime again. Only this time he flees the scene, leaving behind a freezer truck loaded up with Bogart ice cream and a dead body—frozen solid and covered in chocolate and chopped pecans.
Review
If you have read everything in this series thus far then, like me, you are a huge fan of Stephanie Plum and her crazy family and weird friends.

You will also know that not a lot changes, I love that! I love that I can depend on Lula to keep tossing out those hilarious one liners. I love that Grandma Mazur continues to act outrageously whilst poking her nose into everyones business. I love that Rex still lives happily in his soup can, and, of course, I love that Stephanie can never quite resolve her love life.

Did you know though that there is a subversive movement out there?
Oh yes, there is a group of renegade readers who want the characters to change, evolve, move on. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

They want Grandma to age, indeed, some even suggest that she should indulge in her favourite pastime of attending “viewings” with herself in the starring role!!
They even question Rex’s continued existence! Why can’t they just leave him to his happy wheel and soup can, what has he ever done to them?

As for Stephanie, they actually want her to finally choose between Ranger and Morelli! What sort of story would it be without that nail biting saga?
What changes I wonder would they  impose upon dear Lula? Swap her four sizes too small Spandex for a nice little bank clerk outfit? Wash out her mouth?
Ignore them I say! Ignore them all. I want my Stephanie Plum stories to continue in the same way as always, I want to open each new book in the certain knowledge that I shall be magnificently and happily entertained.
Afterthought 
Ah yes, my review of Turbo Twenty Three, well, I’m pretty sure, faithful reader, that all your expectations will be totally fulfilled, just as mine were.
Review copy provided by Hachette Australia

The Pho Cookbook: Andrea Nguyen

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Pho Cookbook
Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam's Favorite Soup and Noodles
Author: Andrea Nguyen
ISBN 9781607749585
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Pub Date 07 Feb 2017 
3 Stars
Description
Vietnam's most beloved culinary export—pho—is now within the reach of any home cook.
 Andrea Nguyen first tasted pho in Saigon as a child, sitting at a street stall with her parents. That experience sparked a lifelong love of the iconic noodle soup, and here she dives deep into pho's lively past, visiting its birthplace and then teaching how to successfully make it. Options range from quick weeknight cheats to 5-hour weekend feasts with broth and condiments from scratch, as well as other pho rice noodle favorites. Over fifty versatile recipes, including snacks, salads, companion dishes, and vegetarian and gluten-free options, welcome everyone to the pho table. With a thoughtful guide on ingredients and techniques, plus evocative location photography and deep historical knowledge, The Pho Cookbook enables anyone to cook this comforting classic. 
Review
Despite its apparent popularity, before reading this book I hadn’t heard of pho, basically, it is broth with noodles. Who would have thought that so much could be written about broth?  To say that author Andrea Nguyen is an enthusiast is a bit of an understatement, she writes with an undisguised passion about all things pho.

There is a handy description of common ingredients, most of which are found at the supermarket. A section on seasonings, and I must say I was surprised at the range and type of seasonings used including the controversial MSG.

The recipes are categorised by various meats and vegetarian, and also by length of preparation time. Nice to know that a chicken pho can be made quite quickly as the author doesn’t frown upon the use of commercially made stock, indeed, she recommends favourite brands.
Some of the recipes are far too long and complex for me, but might provide an interesting challenge for some, particularly the beef pho with “Flintstone” style bones, but they must be handsome bones, not ugly and gnarled!
I really did appreciate the Noodle section, excellent information on so many types of noodle, very useful.

This really is a niche book, it is for the passionate, those who want to know everything. For me, it was a little too detailed, too much information, but that’s only because I don’t have a raging desire to know all there is to know about pho. Some people do and this is the book for them.
The food illustrations are lovely and there are some nice street scenes, however, I didn't really get the arty style photos of peeling paintwork.

Great book for those who are true enthusiasts.
Review Copy via NetGalley and Ten Speed Press
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