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: 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.

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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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AWW Feature: Long Distance Love, Chasing Chris Campbell and Genevieve Gannon

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I’m happy to introduce you to Genevieve Gannon today who is celebrating the publication of her latest novel, Chasing Chris Campbell.

Genevieve Gannon is a Melbourne-based journalist and author. Her writing was first published in the St Monica’s Primary School newspaper, The Monical, in the form of a mince pie recipe she completely made up. She lifted her standards of journalistic integrity and wrote stories for music and fashion street press magazines while at university before moving to Canberra to do a journalism cadetship. In 2011 she joined the national news wire, Australian Associated Press, where she covered crime, politics and entertainment. Her work has appeared in most major Australian newspapers including The Age, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph. She currently lives in Melbourne where she is a court reporter. At night time she writes romantic comedies.

Genevieve’s debut novel, Husband Hunters, was published in 2014. Chasing Chris Campbell is her second novel.

Violet is saving money: living on rice and beans and denying herself chocolate eclairs all in the name of saving for a home deposit. Once they save enough, she and Michael can buy a house, settle down and live happily ever after. But when Michael does the unthinkable, Violet is forced to rethink her life choices.

A chance encounter with Chris Campbell (first love, boy-next-door, The One That Got Away) spurs her into travelling to exotic locations she never dreamed she’d explore – Hong Kong, Vietnam, Varanasi – on a quest to catch up with Chris and lead a life of adventure. Armed with hand sanitiser and the encouraging texts of her twin sister Cassandra, will Violet find true love before it’s too late? Or will the nerve-wracking experience of travelling send her back to Melbourne in search of safety and stability? Can she work out what she really wants before she is left with nothing?”

My review of Chasing Chris Campbell can be seen HERE, but first please read on to learn more about Chasing Chris Campbell.

*****

The Tyranny of Long Distance Love

by Genevieve Gannon

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? When I take a look around my group of friends, most of them have endured interstate or international love at one stage or another. With people travelling for work so frequently, or taking a year off to see the world, the number of opportunities for meeting people who don’t live where you live is great. I’ve had three long distance adult relationships and one transnational teen romance. They can be frustrating, stressful things. Even if you manage to strike some sort of balance with regular phone calls and visits, the inevitability of the situation looms over everything you do. At some point, one person will have to rip up the roots of their life and move, or the relationship will come to an end.
Distance can insert itself into relationships in ways other than those described above. In Australia, parts of the country have huge fi-fo sectors made up of fly-in, fly-out workers who spend a period of time away from their homes working in a regional area. They then fly home to spend time with their families. One partner is left behind to hold the fort while they’re gone. In the US and Canada, where young people travel far and wide to attend university, long-distance love is common. A 2013 Canadian study found that more than 40 per cent of university students were in long distance relationships.
Despite the fact it seems long-range love is all around, there’s not much written on the subject. Researching the topic, I found only one comprehensive study on the long distance love. In an interview, the psychologist behind the research said she was drawn to the subject because she was in a long distance relationship and found there was very little information or advice for couples grappling with the issues that come with conducting a romance from afar.
My first relationship, which bloomed when I was about 16, became a long distance romance when my family moved to the US for six months. At the time, it felt like an eternity. Looking back on it, six short months away from a boy I hardly knew doesn’t seem like a big deal. But my 16-year-old self keenly felt the sense of isolation, uneasiness, and uncertainty that became familiar feelings when I later found myself in relationships that straddled Melbourne and Hobart, Melbourne and Canberra and Melbourne and Sydney.
Because of this experience, I’ve always known a long distance romance was something I wanted to write about. But of course, writing about racing from the office to catch flights on a Friday evening and sending longing emails would make for a boring book. So I tried to investigate the themes in a different way with Chasing Chris Campbell.
For my naïve heroine Violet and her one-that-got-away Chris Campbell it is an interstate move that breaks up their relationship in the first place. Years later when they reunite, she decides she will travel to where he is to see if the one-time spark still burns. It’s an extreme example of something that is very common. But the core issues remain the same: the pressure and distortion distance can bring to a relationship. The fear of regret, the fear of making a the wrong choice. When I discuss what their long distance relationships meant to my friends, they speak of compromise, sacrifice and a need above all a need to communicate with the other partner.
Surprisingly, that one study I mentioned, from Queens University in Ontario, found that, if you can achieve these things, there is no reason a long distance relationship can’t work. While there were individual variations, broadly speaking, there were few differences between long-distance relationships and geographically close relationships.
The study found long distance relationships are not at an intrinsic disadvantage.
Its acknowledgement that this knowledge could help couples in long distances relationships seems to indicate those differences and challenges that do exist, are ones that can be soothed by reassurance and information. That is why my girlfriends and I used to love to talk and talk and talk about how we dealt with distance, and why I wanted to explore it in Chasing Chris Campbell.

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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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Guest Post and Excerpt: After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh

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I’m delighted to welcome Emma Kavanagh to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of After We Fall. Emma Kavanagh was born and raised in South Wales. After graduating with a PhD in psychology from Cardiff University, she spent many years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff, and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe. She started her business as a psychology consultant, specializing in human performance in extreme situations. She lives in South Wales with her husband and two young sons.

After We Fall is Emma’s third novel, following the publication of Falling and Hidden.

“A plane falls out of the sky. A woman is murdered. Four people all have something to hide…

For fans of Tana French and Alice LaPlante comes After We Fall, a debut psychological thriller by former police psychologist Emma Kavanagh that explores four lives shattered in the tense aftermath of a plane crash.
Shortly after takeoff, flight 2940 plummets to the snow-covered ground, breaking into two parts, the only survivors a handful of passengers and a flight attendant.Cecilia has packed up and left her family. Now she has survived a tragedy and sees no way out.
Tom has woken up to discover that his wife was on the plane and must break the news to their only son.
Jim is a retired police offer and worried father. His beloved daughter has disappeared, and he knows something is wrong.
Freya is struggling to cope with the loss of her father. But as she delves into his past, she may not like what she finds.
Four people, who have never met but are indelibly linked by these disasters, will be forced to reveal the closely guarded secrets that unlock the answers to their questions. But once the truth is exposed, it may cause even more destruction.

Told from various points of view, chapter by chapter, readers follow the investigation into the doomed plane alongside the investigation of a murder. Kavanagh deftly weaves together the stories of those who lost someone or something of themselves in one tragic incident, exploring how swiftly everything we know can come crashing down.”

Read my review of After We Fall HERE

*****

Crime From The Inside Out – Characters In Crime

When I read, what interests me are the characters on the page. I want to see them come alive before me, watch them move through their world as whole, coherent individuals. When I write, I want the same thing. Whilst I write crime, it is rarely the crimes themselves that interest me, but rather the people involved in them.

Often what we concentrate on is the headlines – tragic air disaster; maniac kills eight; psychotic killer slays ten. That’s not surprising because our ability to digest information is finite and, particularly in a story in which there is a great deal of trauma, our capacity to process can be diminished. So we take what we read at its face value. The man was a monster. He was insane.

But behind that insanity, underneath the nightmare of what they have done, is a real person, someone who talked with friends, was held by parents, someone whose existence extends beyond the atrocity. People make decisions. Often people make shockingly bad decisions. But uniformly they have made decisions for a reason. They chose the courses they chose because in some way it made sense to them. What fascinates me is in digging beneath the skin and understanding what it was about these people that made them choose to kill.

****

9781492609193-PR

An Excerpt: Chapter 8

Freya: Thursday, March 15, 10:19 p.m.
They had left the television on. Hadn’t been able to bring themselves to turn it off, not while helicopters circled above leaping flames, orange sprinkled with flashes of blue. Freya watched it, couldn’t seem to pull her eyes away from it. Without thinking, she sipped the tea, so sweet that her teeth stung, sinuses humming. It scalded her lips.
They were waiting. After all, what was there left to do but wait? Freya had called the airline, once, twice, her fingernails dredging into the phone as it chirped, engaged, again and again. Her mother was at the table, slumped into the chair like all the bones had simply vanished from her body, her head resting on her hands, a puddle of tears gathering on the tabletop beneath the shadow of her hair. Richard beside her, so close it seemed that he would crawl into her lap if only she would allow him. He hadn’t spoken. Not since the television flared to life, the screen lighting up with fire and snow. He just stared.
“It’s stopped snowing.” Freya’s grandmother was drying dishes, rubbing a tea towel around and around the outside of a mixing bowl that had once reached the stage of dry and was now on its way back to wet. Her brow furrowed, as if in concentration, eyes red-rimmed. “Well, for now. They say we’ll be like this for days yet. So much for spring. My flowers have had it.”
It could not have been more than moments after the world had changed that her grandparents arrived. She remembered that it was before her mother sank into the chair, a puppet whose strings had been cut. Before Richard began to cry. They had been hanging there, in that world between the past and the future, when the front door had swung open. And their breath had caught, and even though none of them said it, they were all thinking the same thing. That they were wrong and he was home.
Then her grandparents, sweeping in like a breath of Siberian air, the argument that they had been having about something she couldn’t possibly remember still fresh on their lips. Halting in the doorway, as if the fear hit them head on, buffeting them so that they had forgotten the latest affront to their patience, the snow and the long car ride. Their eyes looking toward the television. Faces changing with the knowing.
Freya’s grandfather sat beside her, hands folded. Ignoring his own mug of overstewed tea.
“You know they still haven’t gritted our road. I’m going to write a letter. Ridiculous. Someone’ll have to die…” Her grandmother stopped, stumbling on the word so that it came out as little more than a squeak. A deep breath. “…before they get around to it. Then they’ll be gritting it in the middle of August.” She pulled out a chair, tea towel clutched tight between her fingers. Her lips were trembling.
“Betty.” Her grandfather’s voice was thick, dense with years of smoking cigarettes. He’d given up, years ago now, but still when Freya thought of him, it was that smell that she thought of.
“What?”
“This tea tastes like battery acid.”
Freya’s grandmother rolled her eyes, lips pursing like she wanted to say something but, just this once, had decided to refrain. Freya bit her own lip, pushing down a flush of anger. Wanted to tell them to shut up. Wanted to shout: Look at the television. Don’t you understand what’s happening here? But she drank her tea instead, watching her mother across the rim of her cup. She seemed to be slumping lower, sinking into the hard wooden chair. She hadn’t said anything, not a word since the television had flashed to life, changing their world.
“Mum? Why don’t you go on up to bed?” Freya leaned across the table, fingers stroking the soft skin on her mother’s arm. “Just for a little while. We’ll wake you when…we’ll wake you when we have some news.”
It seemed like her mother didn’t hear her at first, that her words couldn’t penetrate this hell into which she had descended. Then eventually she looked up. Freya started. Her mother had aged fifteen years. There were lines that Freya had never seen before; her gaze was dead, skin as white as the snow that lay thick on the ground beyond the windows. Her lips moved, a child testing her first words. Then she seemed to give up, speech more than she could possibly handle. Her eyes lowered and she shook her head.
“You know, you can’t be sure he was on that flight,” Freya’s grandmother offered. “I mean, they change the crews around all the time. You know what these airlines are like. He’s off one minute, he’s working the next. Always getting called away. He’ll have been on a different flight, I’m sure of it.” Looking down, studying the red checkered cloth. “I’m sure of it.” This last a whisper.
Freya looked down, studying her fingernails, chipped saffron paint coloring the edges, and tried her best not to think about yesterday, about her father standing in the snow, the tension that pulsed across his shoulders. The look when he saw her, desperation edging into fear.
“I’m telling you”—Freya’s grandmother had twisted the tea towel into a tight spiral—“he’ll be fine.”
“I’ll try the airline again.” Her grandfather’s chair scraped against the floor, nails down a chalkboard. “Someone must know.”
They watched him leave, closing the door softly behind him.
“It’s awful.” Her grandmother was watching the television, shaking her head. “Just awful. Those poor people.” As if she hadn’t realized that “those poor people” was them; as if it was just one more news cycle of murder and flooding and genocide. Tragic, but not really real.
Richard moved his hands so that they covered his ears. His hair had flopped forward over his eyes. The lights of the television danced on the loose curls, and his fingers dug in, tugging, again and again.
And in what seemed like seconds, the kitchen door was opening again, slowly this time, and Freya’s grandfather was there. Only he wasn’t looking at any of them and his steady fingers were trembling. Freya knew it without him saying it, could see it in his eyes, in the downturn of his lips. She reached out, taking tight hold of her baby brother’s hand.
“Grandpa?” Richard was looking at him, and it was like he was pleading. Say it isn’t so.
Then her grandfather reached out, took hold of her mother’s shoulder. And she was looking up at him, eyes pleading, large tears leaking from the corners of her eyes.
Freya’s grandfather shook his head. “I’m so sorry.” His voice cracked. “I’m so, so sorry.”
It seemed that time stopped in the kitchen. That they hung there, the world no longer spinning.
Then a sound, her mother, a low moan creeping from her, the sound of an animal caught in a trap. Her grandmother gasping, the news punching her in the stomach. Her grandfather had moved, had wrapped his arms around her mother’s shoulders as she shook. Richard, rearing back, pushing the chair away so that it tumbled, hitting the tiled floor with a clatter, shoving his way past his grandfather. And Freya frozen. Because this wasn’t real. None of this could possibly be real.

*****

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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

Read an Excerpt

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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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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The Its Monday! What Are You Reading meme is hosted at Book Journey. In Sheila’s  absence I’m linking this post via Twitter at #IMWAYR, and the Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Life…

Where has the past week gone? It seems to have flown by! The week ahead is going to be a bit of a challenge, my oldest daughter and husband are both sick with colds and are convinced they are dying, and this Thursday my oldest son will have his first round of knee to toe plasters applied. I’m also trying to quit smoking (again).

What I Read Last Week

The Darkling Child by Terry Brooks

The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner

Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein

The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet by Laura Fuentes

New Posts

(click the titles to read my reviews)

Review: The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner ★★★★

Review: The Darkling Child by Terry Brooks ★★

Review: The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell ★★

Guest Feature: How the Hydro Majestic inspired the Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

Review:  Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale ★★★★

Review:  The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein ★★

Weekend Cooking: The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet by Laura Fuentes

What I Am Reading Today


From the author of the internationally bestselling ‘A Man Called Ove’, a charming, warmhearted novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother’s fairy tales. Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other. ‘My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry’ is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman’s internationally bestselling debut novel, ‘A Man Called Ove’. It is a story about life and death and an ode to one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.

 What I Plan To Read This Week

(click the covers to view at Goodreads)

A moody, intense debut psychological thriller by a former police psychologist, this debut novel explores four lives that fall apart in the tense aftermath of a plane crash. Unraveling what holds these four together is a tense, taut tale about good people who make bad decisions that ultimately threaten to destroy them. Debut author Emma Kavanagh deftly weaves together the stories of those who lost someone or something of themselves in one tragic incident, exploring how swiftly everything we know can come crashing down.

The hilarious and charming second novel from the author of Husband Hunters. For fans of The Rosie Project, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and all good rom-coms. Violet is saving money: living on rice and beans and denying herself chocolate eclairs all in the name of saving for a home deposit. Once they save enough, she and Michael can buy a house, settle down and live happily ever after. But when Michael does the unthinkable, Violet is forced to rethink her life choices. A chance encounter with Chris Campbell (first love, boy-next-door, The One That Got Away) spurs her into travelling to exotic locations she never dreamed she’d explore – Hong Kong, Vietnam, Varanasi – on a quest to catch up with Chris and lead a life of adventure. Armed with hand sanitiser and the encouraging texts of her twin sister Cassandra, will Violet find true love before it’s too late? Or will the nerve-wracking experience of travelling send her back to Melbourne in search of safety and stability? Can she work out what she really wants before she is left with nothing?

Val McDermid is one of the finest crime writers we have, whose novels have captivated millions of readers worldwide with their riveting narratives of characters who solve complex crimes and confront unimaginable evil. In the course of researching her bestselling novels McDermid has become familiar with every branch of forensics, and now she uncovers the history of this science, real-world murders and the people who must solve them. The dead talk—to the right listener. They can tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died, and, of course, who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces. Forensics draws on interviews with some of these top-level professionals, ground-breaking research, and McDermid’s own original interviews and firsthand experience on scene with top forensic scientists. Along the way, McDermid discovers how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine one’s time of death; how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer; and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist were able to uncover the victims of a genocide. It’s a journey that will take McDermid to war zones, fire scenes, and autopsy suites, and bring her into contact with both extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earliest beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.

Thirty-six years ago, a nameless black man wandered into Jericho, Mississippi, with nothing but the clothes on his back and a pair of paratrooper boots. Less than two days later, he was accused of rape and murder, hunted down by a self-appointed posse, and lynched. Now evidence has surfaced of his innocence, and county sheriff Quinn Colson sets out not only to identify the stranger’s remains, but to charge those responsible for the lynching. As he starts to uncover old lies and dirty secrets, though, he runs up against fierce opposition from those with the most to lose—and they can play dirty themselves. Soon Colson will find himself accused of terrible crimes, and the worst part is, the accusations just might stick. As the two investigations come to a head, it is anybody’s guess who will prevail—or even come out of it alive.

This House is Not for Sale is a story about a house in an African neighbourhood, the Family House, owned and ruled over by the patriarchal, business-minded Grandpa – by turns benevolent and cruel – and home to his wives, children, grandchildren, and the many in his service. It tells the stories of the people who live there, of the curse placed on the house by one of its former occupants, of the evil and brutality that transpires there, and finally of its downfall.  By the acclaimed author of Voice of America, This House is Not for Sale is a brilliantly inventive debut novel which draws on the rich oral traditions of Nigeria and is full of wisdom and dark humour. From everyday violence and magic, to the voices of gossiping neighbours, here is an utterly engrossing story of an African community, its culture and traditions, and the power of storytelling.

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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.

Available to purchase from

Murdoch Books Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

Amazon US I BookDepository

and all good bookstores.

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.

The Sunlit Night is available to purchase from

Bloomsbury Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

Amazon US I BookDepository

and all good bookstores.

Seasoned Traveller 2015

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