Review: The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

 

 

Title: The Unbroken Line {Will Harris #2}

Author: Alex Hammond

Published: Viking Penguin Au June 2015

Read an Excerpt on Book’d Out

Status: Read from June 21 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Unbroken Line is Alex Hammond’s second legal thriller featuring defence lawyer Will Harris, following on from his Ned Kelly Award nominated debut, Blood Witness.

Will is still dealing with both the personal and professional consequences of the events in Blood Witness, when he and girlfriend Eva are brutally attacked by two masked men. They have a message for Will from their anonymous employer – back off. Angry and confused, Will has no idea what the men are referring to, but now he is determined to find out, and unwittingly becomes the target of a deadly conspiracy, headed by Melbourne’s elite.

With a well crafted and complex plot, The Unbroken Line is a fast paced story of corruption, violence, conspiracy and vengeance. As Will searches for answers to the attack on he and Eva, he must also defend his new law firm partner, barrister Chris Miller, when he is arrested for negligent homicide, prevent a judge’s teenage son from being charged with manslaughter, and repay his debt to the Ivanics family, all whilst under investigation by the Legal Commissioner for ethics breaches related to his actions in Blood Witness. With some surprising twists, Hammond reveals the links between these seemingly unrelated threads developing an exciting multi-layered storyline.

Will is an appealing protagoinist, flawed but intelligent, with a strong sense of justice. Under siege professionally, Will is faring no better in his personal life. He is still struggling to recover from the debilitating physical effects of the vicious stabbing that left him near dead in Blood Witness, and Eva, traumatised and scarred by the masked men’s attack, flee’s to New York. Though The Unbroken Line could be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend readers begin with Blood Witness, which establishes his relationships with Eva, Chris and several of the other other characters that appear in both novels.

I enjoyed The Unbroken Line, it is a well crafted and gripping legal thriller. Perfect for fans of John Grisham and Michael Connelly.

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Review: Forensics by Val McDermid

 

Title: Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime

Author: Val McDermid

Published: Grove Press July 2015

Status: Read from June 18 to 20, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“The story of forensic science, of that road from crime scene to courtroom, is the stuff of thousands of crime novels.”

Val McDermid is the bestselling crime fiction author of more than thirty novels, including her popular series featuring criminal profiler Tony Hill and Detective Inspector Carol Jordan. In Forensics, Val McDermid pays homage to the science that informs her work.

Drawing on interviews with leading forensic scientists about the history, practice and future of their varied disciplines, the latest research, and her own experiences, McDermid delves into the grimly fascinating anatomy of crime.

In exploring a wide range of forensic disciplines; fire scene investigation, entomology, pathology, toxicology, fingerprinting, blood spatter, DNA, anthropology, facial reconstruction, digital forensics, and forensic psychology, McDermid illustrates the science with both historical and modern day landmark cases, from the fire that razed London in 1666, to the dozens of serial murders committed by Doctor Harold Shipman.

The factual and scientific detail presented is easily accessible, clear, concise and not overly complex. I was fascinated to learn about the advances in DNA profiling for example, and the development of the science of entomology, first documented more than 750 years ago in a Chinese handbook for coroners called The Washing Away of Wrongs.

McDermid also takes the time to dispel some popular myths given life by television shows such as CSI and Law and Order. Despite her admiration for the usefulness of forensic sciences, she is careful to explain that no forensic discipline is infallible, DNA can be contaminated, fingerprints can be misinterpreted, crime scenes can be manipulated. Solving crimes, and perhaps more importantly ensuring convictions, relies on thorough investigation along with a combination of forensic disciplines.

Informative and entertaining, Forensics is an utterly engrossing read that should interest crime fiction readers, writers and anyone with interest in the field of forensics or law.

UK/AUS Cover

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Review: Chasing Chris Campbell by Genevieve Gannon

 

Title: Chasing Chris Campbell

Author: Genevieve Gannon

Publisher: HarperCollins June 2015

Status: Read from June 15 to 17, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Chasing Chris Campbell is Genevieve Gannon’s second novel, a contemporary story of love, travel and the adventure of finding one’s self.

When Violet Mason’s partner of nearly six years buys her a motorcycle instead of an engagement ring, she decides she has been waiting for her life to start for long enough, and when an email arrives from Chris Campbell, ‘the one that got away’, inviting her to ‘come to Asia’ she impulsively books a one way ticket to Hong Kong, hoping to reconnect with her lost love. Armed with an out of date tourist guide and plenty of hand steriliser, Violet plans to surprise Chris with her arrival, only to learn he has already moved on. Determined not to give up, Violet chases Chris through India to Nepal, back to Hong Kong and then to Vietnam, it is an adventure of a lifetime, but is it true love she finds?

Told in the first person, Violet, a sensible scientist with a mild phobia of germs, is completely out of her element as she travels through Asia. I thought Violet generally was a well developed and believable character. Though there are moments when she feels lost and lonely, with encouragement from her twin sister Cassandra, Violet slowly opens herself up to adventure. She makes friends with fellow travelers like the rather delicious Harry Potter (no, not that Harry Potter)and eventually learns a thing or two about herself. While I would never chase a guy half way around the world based on a few vaguely worded emails, I admired the fact that Violet took the chance and I vicariously enjoyed her adventures.

The author’s descriptions of the various places Violet visits are well written. I particularly enjoyed the journey through India, from Goa, to Delhi, to Varanasi.

Though there are flashes of humour, I have to admit I was expecting more given the novel is promoted as a romantic comedy. I found the writing tended to be a little stiff at times and the tone more often no-nonsense than lighthearted. The pace is good though and I appreciated the epilogue, which provided a satisfying ending.

For more information about Genevieve Gannon and  Chasing Chris Carson please CLICK HERE to read Genevieve’s guest post ‘Long Distance Love’.

 

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Review: After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh

9781492609193-PR

 

 

Title: After We Fall

Author: Emma Kavanagh

Published: Sourcebooks Landmark June 2015

Status: Read on June 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

From the sky above South Wales a plane falls, on a snowy river bank below, a woman’s body lies.

Unfolding from the perspectives of four characters, After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh (first published as Falling) is a multi-layered story of low key psychological suspense.

Flight attendant Cecelia, who that morning had resolved to leave her husband and son, is one of only a handful of survivors of the crash, wondering why she lived when so many didn’t.

Freya is the 24 year old daughter of the plane’s pilot, determined to protect her family from the horrifying suggestion that her father deliberately caused the crash.

Frustrated with his wife, police detective Tom throws himself into the investigation of the murder of PCSO Libby Hanover.

Jim, a retired police superintendent, is the dead woman’s devastated father.

As the protagonists each grapple with their private tragedies, the plot follows the investigation into the doomed plane alongside the investigation of Libby Hanover’s murder, slowly uncovering shocking connections between the two incidents.

Informed by her extensive career experience in psychology, Kavanagh creates four complex, though not always likeable, characters struggling with difficult pasts and complicated relationships, whom drive the narrative of this novel. All become entangled in the mystery that surrounds both the downed plane and the murdered woman, in both direct and indirect ways, as the author skillfully weaves the multiple threads together.

After We Fall is an impressive debut novel, an atmospheric and tense tale.

 

CLICK HERE for an exclusive excerpt and guest post from the author posted earlier today

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Review: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

 

Title: My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry

Author: Fredrik Backman

Published: Atria Books June 2015

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Status: Read from June 14 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

For all it made me feel, I declared Fredrik Backman’s debut novel, A Man Called Ove my favourite book of 2014 and My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry is now my favourite of 2015.

Elsa is an improbably precocious but utterly adorable seven year old girl who loves her grandmother, Harry Potter and Wikipedia, in that order. Bullied at school, Granny is Elsa’s best and only friend, her guide to the Land-of-Almost-Awake, a dreamscape of fairy tales, magic and adventure that comforts them both when life is difficult, and her very own superhero.

She shouldn’t take any notice of what those muppets think, says Granny. Because all the best people are different – look at superheroes.”

Just before Granny dies she presses an envelope into Elsa’s hand, and asks her granddaughter to deliver a letter.

“Give the letter to him who’s waiting. He won’t want to accept it, but tell him it’s from me. Tell him your granny sends her regards and says she’s sorry”

And so begins Elsa’s adventure, part quest, part treasure hunt, part superhero mission, Granny’s letter leads Elsa first to the door of a wurse, and then The Monster (also known as Wolfheart), another letter leads her to the Sea-Witch and yet another much later to the Princess of Miploris. With each letter, offering apologies and regrets, Elsa unravels the truth about the fairy tales that form the foundation of the Land-of-Almost-Awake, and the secrets of her grandmother’s exceptional life.

“Elsa doesn’t know if this means that Granny took all her stories from the real world and placed them in Miamas, or if the stories from Miamas became so real that the creatures came across to the real world. But the Land-of-Almost-Awake and her house are obviously merging.”

In My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Backman weaves a creative tapestry of the ordinary together with the extraordinary. Characters that are real, flawed yet magnificent, or as Granny puts it,

“no one is entirely a sh*t and almost no one is entirely not a sh*t”.

It tells a story that is both wise and insightful, absurd and wondrous as it explores the themes of grief, love, difference, connection, regrets and forgiveness.

Funny, moving, heartfelt and inspiring, it made me laugh and cry.
Not five stars but ten… at least!

 

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Weekend Cooking: The Best Homemade Kid’s Snacks on the Planet

wkendcooking

I’ve decided to make the Weekend Cooking meme, hosted by Beth Fish Reads a semi-regular post at Book’d Out.

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Title: The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet: More than 200 Healthy Homemade Snacks You and Your Kids Will Love

Author: Laura Fuentes

Published: Fair Winds Press: Murdoch Books June 2015

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

My Thoughts:

The Best Homemade Snacks on the Planet contains more than 200 recipes designed to tempt toddlers, children and perhaps even teenagers to snack on wholesome homemade treats.

baked-items-best-snacksMy copy of The Best Homemade Snacks on the Planet is a large format softcover. The recipes are generally presented two to a page. Though there are full page colour photographs every few pages, not all recipe results are pictured. Both metric and imperial measurements are provided, as are yield amounts.

In the first chapter you will find time-saving tips, storage solutions, information about allergies, ingredient substitutions, and Laura Fuentes ‘Snacking Rules’.

The Recipes are sorted into seven chapters titled Fruit and Veggie Snacks, No-Bake Bites and Dips, Baked Bites, Reimagined Classics, Mini Meals, Super Smoothies and Drinks and lastly, Frozen Delights and Special Treats.

Simple to prepare and serve, using largely fresh and easy to source ingredients, recipes include Crunchy Berry Salad; Chocolate Avocado Pudding; Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Dough Bites; Cheese Crackers; Ninja Turtle Nuggets and Elvis Shakes.

I’ve bookmarked several snacks to try, and plan to my involve my children in making them, starting with this simple

Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Pudding

1 banana, sliced
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup plain yoghurt

Combine the peanut butter and yoghurt in a blender til smooth. Add the banana slices and blend just until smooth. Refrigerate or serve immediately. Serves 4

The final pages of the cookbook includes a Feedback Chart, allowing you or your child/ren to rate and make notes for each recipe.mini-meals-best-snacks

The Best Homemade Snacks on the Planet offers a practical collection of snack recipes with plenty of appeal for a child’s fussy palette. While this would be the perfect gift for any busy mother, the recipes could also appeal to adults who enjoy healthy snacks and treats.

Visit the author’s website for additional recipes, instructional videos and more.

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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: Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

 

 

Title: Palace of Tears

Author: Julian Leatherdale

Published: Allen & Unwin June 2015

Status: Read from June 10 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Set in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales Palace of Tears is a generational saga of family, passion, secrets and vengeance from debut author Julian Leatherdale.

The shifting third person narrative unfolds from the perspective of several characters, Angie and her mother Freya; Adam’s wives, Adelina and Laura; Laura’s daughter, Monika; and in the present day, Lisa, Monika’s daughter. Only briefly do we hear from Adam Fox, the owner of the Palace and the man who connects these three generations of women.

Lisa’s interest in the past is triggered when, during a visit with her ailing mother, Monika laments the mysterious fate of Angie, the ‘girl who broke Adam Fox’s heart’. The name is unfamiliar to Lisa and curious she decides to investigate, contacting Palace historian Luke Davis. Over the course of the novel, Leatherdale unravels a family history marred by untimely death, adultery, betrayal, heartbreak and revenge. What became of Angie remains a mystery til the very end with a surprising twist.

Leatherdale firmly grounds his fictional characters in time and place. Adam Fox’s Palace is modeled on the Hydro Majestic Hotel, opened in 1904 in the tiny township of Medlow Bath in the upper Blue Mountains and he ably describes the opulence of the hotel and the magnificence of the setting. The author also references several relevant historical events of the first half of the twentieth century from the wartime internment camps, to the deadly influenza outbreak that swept New South Wales, to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Antipodean tour, enriching the story with intriguing detail.

The tale is well structured, despite shifting between multiple perspectives and time periods. The story is well paced, with plenty of twists and turns in the plot to maintain interest. Descriptions, particularly of the setting are vivid, and

Melding history and fiction, Palace of Tears is an entertaining novel and an impressive debut from Julian Leatherdale.

“Nothing was achieved without risk and cost. The allure of the mountains had taught Adam that lesson…. The mountains offered up vistas of inspiration, horizons of wonder where the mind dared to leap and the imagination to soar. It enriched the spirit, breathed hope back in to the wounded heart. Yet there was always that reminder of the fall: vertigo’s strange seduction that dragged you down the bright waterfall into the shadow of the valley below. Mortality, failure, despair – all these must be acknowledged. Adam realised, over time, that his beloved mountains expressed the inner drama of his own soul.”

CLICK HERE to read How the Hydro Majestic inspired the Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

 

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Review: The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

 

Title: The Third Wife

Author: Lisa Jewell

Published: Atria Books June 2015

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Status: Read from June 10 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Adrian Wolfe is devastated when his wife, Maya, is hit by a bus and killed. A year later, a mysterious woman and the discovery of a cache of nasty emails sent to Maya, addressed ‘Dear Bitch’, are discovered and Adrian begins to wonder if Maya’s death was simply a drunken accident or by deliberate design.

Moving between the past and the present, giving voice to Adrian, Maya and various other family members, The Third Wife examines the complicated dynamics of family, relationships, and love.

The story pivots around architect Adrian Wolfe and his family – ex-wife number one, Susan, and their near adult children Luke and Cat; ex-wife number 2, Caroline, and their three young children, Otis, Pearl and Beau; and his third wife, the recently deceased Maya.
Adrian is an immature man without any understanding of how his choices have affected his his ex-wives and his children until matters are brought to a head after Maya’s death. Prompted by his third wife’s secrets, revealed to a stranger, he realises that he had simply ignored anything in conflict with his own preferred view of things, from Maya’s unhappiness, to his sons’ anger.

“He’d expected everyone to be happy, just because he was. Who the hell did he think he was?”

Though initially we are led to believe that the members of Adrian’s ex-family’s appear to be largely unaffected by his serial desertions, they even spend vacations together. However it slowly becomes clear that beneath the veneer, resentments have festered and his idealised life is beginning to fall apart around him.

“Where had he been? Where on earth had he been?….Everyone so angry and unhappy. And where had he been? Sitting cross-legged in the middle of this toxic tornado of human emotions humming la la la with his hands over his ears?”

Though the ending is a little facile, with interesting and well drawn characters, keen insight into the complexities of relationships, and a touch of intrigue, The Third Wife is a good read.

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Review: The Darkling Child by Terry Brooks

 

Title: The Darkling Child {The Defenders of Shannara Trilogy #2}

Author: Terry Brooks

Published: Hachette June 2015

Status: Read from June 08 to 10, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

High Fantasy is not a genre I read often but I have fond memories of Terry Brooks’ original Shannara trilogy, read when I was a teen, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming television series adaption.

Though it can be read as a standalone, The Darkling Child is the second novel in The Defenders of Shannara trilogy that takes place several years after the previous book, The High Druid’s Blade. It is also the 29th book in the Shannara saga, which Brooks intends to wrap up in just four more books.

The Defenders of Shannara features Paxon Leah, the Druid’s Blade, and his nemesis, the Sorcerer Arcannen. In the Darkling Child, Arcannen who has been in hiding since Paxon foiled his grand plans for dominion over the Four Lands, is seeking revenge after his refuge is razed to the ground by an elite command of Federation soldiers. Fortuitously Arcannen stumbles across Reyn, a young man with the rare power of the Wishsong. Reyn neither understands nor can control his ability, and when Arcannen offers to mentor him, he accepts.
Meanwhile the Druid Council is alerted to the use of Wishsong and Paxon along with Druid Avelina are dispatched to find the magic user. Unfortunately they are too late to prevent Reyn from falling under Arcannen’s influence but they are determined to thwart whatever nefarious plan Arcannen is using Reyn for.

Even with only vague memories of the Original Shannara series, The Darkling Child feels familiar. Brooks’s world is easy to understand, the magic system makes sense, and there is enough backstory provided to create context where needed.

The plot involves fantasy’s most enduring trope, a quest to prevent evil triumphing over good. Arcannen is a suitably ruthless, if uncomplicated villain and Paxon a valiant, if flawed, hero. There is plenty of action in the confrontations between the sorcerer and his enemies, a small measure of intrigue stemming from the question of Lariana’s true motives, and a dose of emotion with death, guilt and romance.

I found The Darkling Child to be a quick and entertaining read but I’m not struck with the urge to continue with the trilogy. Fans may be more appreciative.

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