Sunday, 23 October 2016

Book Review - Holding by Graham Norton

Duneen is a quiet, sleepy Irish village where everyone knows everyone and life just passes by. There is Sergeant PJ Collins, the overweight constable who has never had the chance to shine, Brid Riordan, who is an alcoholic and barely keeping her family together, and Evelyn Ross, the youngest of three sisters who never married after the tragic death of their parents. Along with the rest of the town, these three complex but clearly human characters are thrown into a murder-mystery as human remains are found at a new property being developed. The story is revealed piece by piece and although you may have your suspicions, there is plenty to keep you guessing until the end.

This book is written by Graham Norton. You know, Graham Norton of talk-show fame. You may or may not know that he also played a guest role in Father Ted for a few episodes and holds shares in a New Zealand wine company. This is his first attempt at fiction and a lot of people, myself included, were interested in the way that the book would pan out. I was pleasantly surprised by Holding and I would definitely recommend it to others. This is a read-in-one-sitting kind of book. It is not fast paced, but it switches between different narrators often so you want to piece each characters story together and this requires you to keep reading.

Although written by a comedian, it is not a specifically funny book. There are plenty of traces of wit but there is a heavy feel to the characters as they each battle their own secrets and regrets. I enjoy a good whodunnit and this did not disappoint. I found the characters to be understandably the way they are, due to past circumstance combined with small town living. The book is peppered with Irish slang which took a bit of getting my head around but it adds, not detracts, from the story. Overall a great piece of fiction that will leave you missing the town and the people after it ends. 

Thanks to Hachette for my review copy.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Book Review: The Midas Legacy by Andy McDermott

Once again I enter a series 12 books in. I feel like 12 books in a series is a lot to write and I understand the dilemma of character development as the characters age and having them still getting up to the thrilling, action-packed, page-turning antics that drew us in in the first place. I think Mc Dermott still makes it work but I don't know how much longer the series could keep up the dynamic.

The premise is that Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase have calmed down for a few years after plenty of near-death experiences while unearthing pieces of history, including the lost city of Atlantis. They now have a 3-year old daughter Macy but they get drawn into a new adventure seeking the Midas Cave - the place that legends tell of producing gold in unimaginable quantities.

The book is LONG, a big chunker that in no way can you read in one sitting. I think this is why it is written the way it is, there are big, exciting action bits, then it calms down so you feel you can put the book down for a break but know that there will be more the next time you pick it up. There are probably 6-7 big events that happen during the book which is almost overkill for me. I could have happily stopped after the first two if they were drawn out a bit. It felt a bit like a few books in one.

What drew me to the book is the treasure hunt aspect of the story. I love mythology and Atlantis especially, so I will probably go back and read a couple of earlier titles in the series which all seem to follow similar lines. The treasure hunt didn't disappoint.

I found the introduction of the child, and the fact that Nina and Eddie were parents, to be quite hard to relate to. It wasn't that they didn't care about her, they did enormously, but the pull of 'saving the world' took them away from her multiple times during the story. I feel like after one close call I would take my family and hide away for a while!

What I did like was Eddie. He is a British ex-soldier with a witty sense of humour and a potty mouth. His one-liners pop up in the most inappropriate places which made me laugh out loud while reading.

Overall I did enjoy this book, I would have enjoyed it more if it were shorter but the content was definitely action filled and I will be revisiting some of the earlier books. A good holiday read if you need something to fill in a couple of hours at a time.

Available now from all good book retailers.

Thanks to Hachette for my review copy

Monday, 3 October 2016

Book Review - Dr. Knox by Peter Spiegelman

Available now from all good book stores

Dr.Knox is a doctor who lives in the bowels of LA, with a small, run-down clinic which he uses to treat vagrants and the vulnerable. It is funded in part by some off-the-books cash jobs by wealthy clients in a don't ask-don't tell style. One day a scared Romanian women leaves a young boy at the clinic and runs away. Dr. Knox takes pity on them and decides to try and track her down and reunite them. This unravels a tale that gets more and more complicated and dangerous, involving Russian mobsters, blackmail, extortion and a very powerful family. 

I must admit, this book took me a while to get into. It seems a bit different to the crime thrillers I usually read but I can't put my finger on why. The book is well written and very descriptive. This works well with the imagery of LA but becomes less pleasant when reading about medical procedures. It all adds to the story but it wasn't my cup of tea. 

Dr. Knox as a character has many virtues but is also very selfish and because of that, it was quite hard to feel attached to him. He drags in those close to him and puts them in danger and he almost just shrugs this off in parts. The other main characters are much more relateable and you understand their frustrations about the situation.

As the book progressed I began to enjoy the storyline and there was enough suspense and plot twists to keep it interesting and different although I didn't feel the overwhelming need to keep reading, I was able to put it down and pick it up without my mind thinking about it too much.It would probably make a better film than it does a book.

Overall, this book was good. I would read more from Peter Spiegelman and I would recommend this book to those who enjoy a down-and-dirty crime read.

Thanks to Hachette for my review copy

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Book Review - Hop Along Boo - Time For Bed {Belle & Boo}

Hop Along Boo - Time For Bed
This book, oh it is illustrated so well! It is whimsical and creates beautiful dreamscapes for boys and girls of all ages. There are Pirates, Fairies, Cowboys and Ballet Dancers weaved into a bedtime routine as Belle gets Boo ready for bed.


The words rhyme and flow nicely in a sort of quiet, dreamy way and you almost instinctively find yourself whispering by the end. Belle and Boo appear on every page and Addison loves to spot them and talk about what they are up to. She has attached herself quite firmly to the characters and especially loves the rabbit, Boo.

The only tiny issue I have with this book is that on one (only one though) of the pages the writing is black on dark blue which is tricky to read in dim light. If it was written in white then this book would be perfect!

We received the softcover version (also available in hardcover) and it has great quality paper and is standing up well to the nightly readings.

Highly recommended from our household. 

Thanks to Hachette for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Something I have noticed...

Currently I am sitting and procrastinating the afternoon away while an assignment sits half written on my desktop. My poor little blog is looking a bit neglected lately and although I have all the best intentions, time seems to slip away so fast! I will get back to it eventually, I have a few book reviews coming up and I need to do a much needed update on beautiful Addison, as well as where we are at with our house renos.

But the reason I am writing this is because I have noticed something really awesome.

Some backstory...

Addison loves books. She loves being read to and especially loves snuggling up next to you on the couch before bed for the multiple books.

We have been very fortunate to have been given a decent sized collection of books for young readers from friends and family, and I have picked a few up cheaply from op-shops. So many that for the first two years of Addison's life we didn't need to get out library books because she was happy cycling through the ones we had. Now that the board books and touch and feel books aren't quite meeting her needs, we hit up the library once a week. She plays, I choose a few books. She has figured out the concept of library books, that they come home with us for a week or two then get returned.

However I have noticed that she is remembering these books months down the track and references them - "My hippo book with hide and seek - it's from the library". Or "I want to read my pink Spot book - the library one" I find this so fascinating!

But what I am meaning to get to is the fact that even though Addison can't read the words on the page yet, she can pick out almost every book accurately from the bookshelf just based on the colour of its spine or the pictures on the front. No wonder marketing is so effective in young children!

I am just loving the way her memory is starting to work. She is pretty much 2 and a half now and she remembers loads of stuff that I wouldn't have thought she would.

Just some musings from today.

Happy spring!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Book Review - Amazing Daddy by Rachel Bright

Amazing Daddy by Rachel Bright
Published by Hachette New Zealand

Amazing Daddy is a heartwarming children's book which just begs to be added to the bedtime story rotation, especially around Father's Day!

Amazing Daddy is the story of all the wonderful things that Little Panda's Daddy does - making huge stacks of pancakes when he is on breakfast duty, building things in the shed, playing rough and tumble and falling asleep while reading bedtime stories. 

Addison enjoyed this book and she really liked the panda illustrations. It is still a bit advanced for her but she picks up the main concepts and will copy along when we ask her to do 'Daddy's morning grumpy face' and then his 'happy smile'. She also really loves a page near the end which has hundreds of small pictures of Little Panda and Daddy Panda doing all sorts of activities together. She points out the ones she knows - swings, see-saw, in the car, jumping in puddles, making sandcastles. As a parent this page is great because it gives loads of inspiration for activities to do when you get stuck!

My favourite part of the book goes:
 'When he has to go to work, I miss him not at home. So, just in case he's missing me...I call him on the phone!'
This is accompanied by an illustration of Daddy answering said call in the middle of a business meeting with an awkward look on his face. On the table are stacks of paper labelled 'important business stuff' and 'not playtime.'
Amazing Daddy is a cute book that builds up the Daddy in your Little Person's life. It is funny and relatable and even if not all of the assumptions are true in your household, it is a fun read.

Thanks to Hachette for my review copy of this book.

Book Review: Dark Forces by Stephen Leather

Dark Forces by Stephen Leather
Published by Hachette New Zealand

A foreign war is about to come to Britain and not even an army can stop it

Dark Forces is a thriller novel that will keep you guessing until the very last pages. Following the narrative of two completely different characters, it focuses on a topic very close to home - terrorist attacks by the Islamic State. 

Dan 'Spider' Shepherd is an undercover agent for MI5 working to bring down a South London gang. He has a photographic memory that makes him useful for other side missions, including gathering intel on jihadist Muslims who are being smuggled into the UK from Syria. These two missions intersect when the authorities become aware of a terrorist plot about to be carried out.

Mohammed al-Hussain is a highly skilled sniper who is extremely loyal to the Islamic State. He is smuggled into the UK to use his skills in this attack and he is willing to do anything for his cause.

This is the thirteenth novel in the Spider Shepherd series and having not read any of the previous twelve books, I was curious to see how this one would stand as a first-read. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the backstory (and there has been a lot of it) was handled. I felt well introduced to Dan Shepherd and any lingering questions I had about his character were answered throughout the book. I also feel intrigued to go back and read the others, as although key plot points were revealed for some of them, the books would still be interesting to read if they are anything like this one.

I enjoyed reading about Shepherds home life. As he is undercover in this book it takes a backseat but Shepherd is a solo Dad to a teenage boy, and it is interesting to see how his job (or what his son knows about it anyway) affects the choices being made by his son Liam.  

I found the book quite slow going. The cover made big promises of a huge terrorist war but most of the book focuses on Shepherd's undercover operation, as well as al-Hussain's trip from Syria. However in the last 50 or so pages, the action ramps up, all the pieces fall together and the plans are finally revealed. You are kept in the dark about pretty much every detail of the attack so it is exciting to read how it unfolds. Once you get through the bulk of the book, make sure you set aside some time to finish it without being interrupted - it's worth it.

Trigger warnings - as with most thrillers there is some very descriptive violence. There is a torture scene and mention of rape, although this is not as descriptive. It also brings the realities of a modern war to mind. This was actually quite terrifying for me as I felt very removed from this concept. 

I spent a lot of my teenage years (and recently if I'm being honest) reading Young Adult spy novels like the CHERUB and HENDERSON'S BOYS series by Robert Muchamore and the ALEX RIDER series by Anthony Horowitz. This book feels like a natural progression into adult fiction of the same genre. If you enjoy the spy thriller genre, you will enjoy this book.

Thanks to Hachette for providing me with a copy of this book for review.