Review: Dogs of India by Polly McGee

 

Title: Dogs of India

Author: Polly McGee

Published: The Author People November 2015

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Status: Read from November 26 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy

Dogs, monkeys, corruption and sexual politics: Dogs of India draws on the complex, chaotic and colourful tradition of Indian storytelling in a spicy literary blend of Animal Farm vs. Holy Cow via Bollywood.
Revenge. A dish best served cold. Or if you’re Sydney native Lola Wedd, with a broken heart and a life in chaos, a dish served up by heading to India to marry a total stranger as part of an international visa scam.
Lola naïvely thought she would ‘find herself’ in India. Instead she is enmeshed in a drama worthy of Bollywood, starring an abandoned Pariah dog, a dead civil servant, a vengeful actor, a suicidal housewife, a boutique hotel owner, a blushing chauffeur, an absent groom, an ambitious girl journalist and a megalomaniac monkey.
As Lola begins to understand the consequences of her choices, she ignites a series of events that lead to a Diwali Festival more explosive than anyone in New Delhi could have imagined.”

My Thoughts:

Review to come

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Review: Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew

 

Title: Recipes for Love and Murder {Tannie Maria #1}

Author: Sally Andrew

Published: Canongate Books September 2015

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Status: Read from November 27 to 30, 2015   – I own a copy

Meet Tannie Maria: A woman who likes to cook a lot and write a little. Tannie Maria writes recipes for a column in her local paper, the Klein Karoo Gazette.
One Sunday morning, as Maria savours the breeze through the kitchen window whilst making apricot jam, she hears the screech and bump that announces the arrival of her good friend and editor Harriet. What Maria doesn’t realise is that Harriet is about to deliver the first ingredient in two new recipes (recipes for love and murder) and a whole basketful of challenges.
A delicious blend of intrigue, milk tart and friendship, join Tannie Maria in her first investigation. Consider your appetite whetted for a whole new series of mysteries . . .”

My Thoughts:

“Recipe for Murder
1 stocky man who abuses his wife
1 small tender wife
1 medium-sized tough woman in love with the wife
1 double-barrelled shotgun
1 small Karoo town marinated in secrets
3 bottles of Klipdrift brandy
3 little ducks
1 bottle of pomegranate juice
1 handful of chilli peppers
1 mild gardener
1 fire poker
1 red-hot New Yorker
7 Seventh-day Adventists (prepared for The End of the World)
1 hard-boiled investigative journalist
1 soft amateur detective
2 cool policemen
1 lamb
1 handful of red herrings and suspects mixed together
Pinch of greed
Throw all the ingredients into a big pot and simmer slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon for a few years. Add the ducks, chillies and brandy towards the end and turn up the heat”

Full review to come

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Review: An Empty Coast by Tony Park

 

Title: An Empty Coast

Author: Tony Park

Published: Pan Macmillan Australia December 2015

Status: Read from November 09 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy

Sonja Kurtz – former soldier, supposedly retired mercenary – is in Vietnam carrying out a personal revenge mission when her daughter sends a call for help.
Emma is on a dig at the edge of Namibia’s Etosha National Park studying archaeology and she’s discovered a body that dates back to the country’s liberation war of the 1980s.
The remains, identified as Hudson Brand, are a key piece of a puzzle that will reveal the location of a modern-day buried treasure. A find people will kill for.
Sonja returns to the country of her birth to find Emma, but she’s missing.
Former CIA agent Hudson Brand is very much alive and is also drawn back to Namibia to finally solve a decades-old mystery whose clues are entombed in an empty corner of the desert.

My Thoughts:

Review to come

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Blog Tour Review: The Enchanted Island by Ellie O’Neill

 

Title: The Enchanted Island

Author: Ellie O’Neill

Published: Simon & Schuster November

Status: Read from November 03 to 04, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Enchanted Island is Ellie O’Neill’s captivating second novel about self discovery, modern day malaise, and magic.

When apprentice solictor Maeve O’Brien is sent to Hy Brasil, a tiny island off the coast of Ireland, to finalise a deal for a client, she’s determined to prove herself. Sure, she has made some mistakes, betraying her best friend and burying herself in debt among them, but she’s confident that this assignment will help her turn things around. All Maeve needs is a signature from Sean Fitzpatrick, so that the client’s plans to build a bridge between the mainland and the island can go ahead, but the landowner proves to be elusive, and most of the locals uniformly unhelpful.

Stuck on Hy Brasil, determined to complete her mission, Maeve is initially panicked at the thought of being on her own, but without the distractions of retail therapy and her busy city social life, she begins to reevaluate what she is looking for in life. O’Brien pokes fun at our modern day obsession with packaged beauty, social media and consumerism. I really liked the way in which Maeve changes through the novel, letting go of her shallow obsessions, and becoming a more confident, authentic person.

And while many of the locals, especially the elderly are distinctly unfriendly, Maeve makes some new friends including two stoner app developers, a charming gay couple and the handsome local schoolteacher, Killian. It’s not until she finally corners Sean Fitzpatrick though that she learns the secrets of Hy Brasil.

reluctantlycharmedAs in Reluctantly Charmed, O’Neill draws on the folklore of Ireland to add a touch of mysticism to this contemporary novel. Hy Brasil is an island of great, almost unspoiled, beauty, rumoured to offer you your heart’s desire, but there is an underlying atmosphere of menace that makes Maeve uneasy. The locals are secretive, bone chilling cries rent the night air, and a dark sort of energy seems to lurk unseen.

With an appealing mix of humour, intrigue and romance, this is an entertaining read. Well written, The Enchanted Island is an enchanting novel.

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Review: Miss Dreamsville and the Lost Heiress of Collier County by Amy Hill Hearth

 

Title: Miss Dreamsville and The Lost Heiress of Collier County

Author: Amy Hill Hearth

Published: Atria Books September 2015

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Status: Read from September 08 to 09, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Miss Dreamsville and The Lost Heiress of Collier County is a sequel to Amy Hill Hearth’s debut novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society.

Picking up a year after the events of the first book, Dora Witherspoon is called back to Collier County by an urgent telegram from Delores Simpson who asks for Dora’s help in stopping her ex husband from building a development over the ‘glades. Dora isn’t entirely sure how Delores expects her to do so but with the support of her friends, she is determined to at least try.

I enjoyed reuniting with the members of the Collier County Women’s Literary Society, Jackie ‘Miss Dreamsville’ Hart, Plain Jane, murderess Mrs Bailey White, Robbie-Lee and his alligator hunter mother, Delores nee Bunny-Anne McIntyre, and Priscilla, along with her precious new baby, Dream. Dora has been absent for a year, searching for information about her late mother’s family in Mississippi but she is welcomed back with open arms, and the group is all too happy to join Dora’s cause to save Delores’s home.

With it’s charming southern accent and lighthearted wit, you might be fooled into thinking this novel is nothing more than light entertainment, but it includes an important message about environmental protection, and again touches on the intolerance, racism and sexism that typified the far south in the early sixties.

The plot is entertaining as Jackie stirs up trouble in the local newspaper, provoking the ghost of Seminole Joe and the ire of the town’s investors. Dora is also struggling with the secrets she learned in Jackson about her family, unaware that she will find the surprising answers to her remaining questions in Collier County.

Funny, charming and yet thoughtful, Miss Dreamsville and The Lost Heiress of Collier County could be read as a stand alone but I would recommend that Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society be read first.

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Florida, North America

 

Review: The Waiting Room by Leah Kaminsky

 

Title: The Waiting Room

Author: Leah Kaminsky

Published: Vintage: Random House Au September 2015

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Status: Read on September 01, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Waiting Room is the debut fiction novel from Leah Kaminsky, a physician and best selling non fiction author.

Dina is a family doctor living in contemporary Israel with her husband and young son. Haifa is a world away from the Melbourne suburbs where Dina grew up, the only daughter of holocaust survivors. Eight months pregnant with her second child, Dina is exhausted and increasingly anxious. Her marriage is strained, she is tired of her patients needs, and she is terrified by an escalated terrorist threat in the city.

As Dina struggles to simply get through a single day, overwhelmed by traffic, a broken heel, demanding patients, and a promise to procure apples for her son, her behaviour becomes increasingly irrational. She finds no comfort in the casual assurances of her husband, nor the ghostly opinion of her long dead mother, who berates, cajoles and nags her daughter for her failings.

The sentiment of The Waiting Room is haunting and moving, relieved only by a rare glimpse of dark humour. The prose and dialogue is sharp and articulate. The pace builds until Dina’s day reaches an explosive conclusion.

The Waiting Room is a short but powerful novel about survival, terror, love and death.

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Israel

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Review: Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

 

Title: Little Black Lies

Author: Sharon Bolton

Published: Transworld UK July 2015

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Status: Read from July 07 to 09, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Little Black Lies is a taut, twisty thriller from Sharon Bolton. It begins when a child goes missing, the third in three years from the sparsely populated Falkland Islands.

The narrative is divided into thirds, unfolding from the perspectives of three unique and complex characters. For Catrin the disappearance is an inconvenience. She has a schedule to keep, plans for the woman she blames for the tragic death of her young sons as an anniversary approaches. Callum, an ex-soldier with PTSD, has a theory about the abducted children that the local police are choosing to ignore. Rachel, who spends most of her days in bed, is largely oblivious until her youngest son goes missing.

The well crafted plot, which I don’t wish to elaborate on, reveals the links between these characters, whose lives have been tainted by grief and tragedy, and their connection to the missing children over a period of five days. Though the pace is measured, the story is propelled by cinching tension and breath taking twists.

The setting is atmospheric, the isolated island itself has great presence in the novel from its rugged coastline to its rocky terrain, and its history, as the site of the bloody if short lived war for sovereignty between Britain and Argentina in the early 1980’s, also plays into the story.

Fans of poetry should enjoy the references throughout the novel to ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Bolton skilfully utilises the imagery the verses evoke.

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

Little Black Lies is a tense, dark and disturbing story about revenge and redemption, that leads to a stunning conclusion. I could hardly put it down.

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Review: This House is Not For Sale by EC Osondu

 

 

Title: This House is For Sale

Author: E.C. Osondu

Published: Granta : Allen & Unwin June 2015

Status: Read from June 20 to 21, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

This slim volume from E.C. Osondu is less a novel and more a collection of short stories, similar to the author’s first work, Voice of America.

Set in Nigeria, centered around the ‘Family House’, the home owned by the unnamed narrator’s grandpa, each chapter tells a story linked to one of the many characters that reside there, from a thieving servant, to dissolute ‘uncles’, to orphaned children, and desperate widows.

The stories are mostly grim with themes such as adultery, murder, poverty, exploitation and rape, though there are flashes of dark humour. Some have a near myth-like edge but essentially reflect contemporary life in rural Nigeria. The stories are also said to reflect Nigeria’s political state, rife with corruption, injustice and poverty.

I have to admit that while I found it somewhat interesting, I didn’t particularly enjoy This House is Not For Sale.

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Review: The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein

 

Title: The Sunlit Night

Author: Rebecca Dinerstein

Published: Bloomsbury June 2015

Status: Read from June 13 to 14, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Sunlit Night is the story of Frances and Yasha whose paths cross far from home ‘at the top of the world’. Frances is completing an art internship while Yasha is in Lofoten to fulfill his father’s dying wish. It is a story of family, grief, growing up and belonging.

I found Yasha to be a more likeable character than Frances, perhaps because his woes were less superficial than hers. His story was more interesting and developed than hers, and I didn’t feel I learnt much about Frances at all. Unfortunately I wasn’t convinced by Yasha and Frances’s romantic connection either, though they had reason to form a friendship, I didn’t think there was any chemistry between them.

What I did really like was the novel’s unique setting. The Sunlit Night is set in Lofoten, an archipelago of six tiny islands in the Norwegian Sea, ninety-five miles north of the Arctic Circle. During the later spring and summer months, in which most of this tale takes place, the sun never dips below the horizon.

“These hours were characterized by a wildness of colors, the combined power of a sunset and sunrise. It was easy to watch the horizon for hours straight, the sun in perpetual motion, the sky turning orange and cranberry until at three it returned to blue, and I felt ready for bed.”

I enjoyed Dinerstein’s descriptions of the archipelago, though mere words barely do the beauty of this place justice (*google for photos*).

“The world was perpetually visible, so I looked at it. Conditioned by hours in the Yellow Room, I saw the landscape in colorblock. The midnight sun came in shades of pink. The fjords rushed up onto white-sanded beaches, and the sand made the water Bermuda-green. The house were always red. They appeared in clusters, villages, wherever the land lay flat. Mountains rose steeply behind each village-menaces and guardians. Each red house was a lighthouse, marking the boundary between one terrain and another, preventing crashes, somehow providing solace.”

The Sunlit Night is not without its charms, there is humour, genuine emotion, and some lovely prose, but the plot is weak and the pace uneven. My attention wavered during the last third or so of the book, much of which didn’t seem to quite make sense and felt rushed.

In the end, I would rate it as an okay read however others may be more appreciative.

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Review: The World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan

 

Title: The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe

Author: Ann Morgan

Published: Liveright Publishing May 2015

Status: Read from May 19 to 20, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

In 2012 Ann Morgan, a freelance writer, editor and blogger, set herself the goal of reading one book from every country in the world, sharing her reviews through her blog, AYearofReadingtheWorld.com.

The World Between Two Covers is in small part the story of her reading adventures, but is more fully an academic examination of the challenges she faced in sourcing world literature.

Her first task was to determine exactly what defines a country, apparently there is some dispute, though she eventually settled on a list of 196. Morgan was then faced a number of challenges in selecting representative texts from each country including availability (only around 4% of books published in English are translated from other languages), censorship, technology and cultural identity. The World Between Two Covers examines these issues both within a global context, and within the framework of Morgan’s personal challenge.

“The truth is, we as individuals will never be wise enough or cultured enough or fast enough or long-lived enough to read the world as deeply and thoroughly as it deserves – and we never have been. We can only fail. So we have a choice: we can stick with what we know, or we can embrace the impossibility of reading world literature properly and jump right in – ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.”

I found The World Between Two Covers to be an interesting read, highlighting the issues at play in reading world literature, especially because I’m in my second year of participating in a similar, though far less ambitious challenge {Around the World in 12 Books}, requiring I read 12 books over the course of the year, each set in a different country, across six continents. This book has inspired me to dig a little deeper than I have previously in selecting books for the challenge.

 

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