This bunch of books is a mix of Christmas presents and second-hand bookshop finds, a few review copies and a lone new release.
The First Week by Margaret Merrilees – Fiction.
This one I bought new from Angus & Robertson online, after hearing about it on Book’d Out. I’m really drawn to these stories about parents and children who do wrong. “Marian couldn’t see the woman’s eyes behind her glasses, and was filled with panic. That bosom was not for comfort. Not for Marian. She, Marian, was here so that this woman, this psychologist, could expose her failure to be a proper mother. Her son’s actions shatter Marian’s life. As the days pass she is haunted by layers of grief rising like the salt of the degraded earth. Marian’s everyday heroism, her earthy humour and innate honesty, sustain her as she confronts her own tragedy and sees beyond it to other moral dilemmas of white Australian life – racism, environmental damage.”
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks – Historical Fiction.
I’m only giving half the blurb from Goodreads here, as it’s a long one! “In 1665, a young man from Martha’s Vineyard became the first Native American graduate of Harvard College. From the few facts that survive of this extraordinary life, Brooks creates a luminous tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure. The voice of Caleb’s Crossing belongs to Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny island settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneering English Puritans. Possessed of a restless spirit and a curious mind, Bethia slips the bounds of her rigid society to explore the island’s glistening beaches and observe its native inhabitants. At twelve, she meets Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a secret bond that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia’s father is Great Harbor’s minister, who feels called to convert the Wampanoag to his own strict Calvinism. He awakens the wrath of the medicine men, against whose magic he must test his faith in a high-stakes battle that may cost his life, and his very soul.”
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – Historical Fiction; Classics.
This is an Aussie classic but while I’ve seen the Peter Weir movie loads of times, I’ve never read the book. My husband got me this beautiful new hardbound edition for Christmas. “It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred. Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared. They never returned. Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.”
No-one Loves a Policeman by Guillermo Orsi – Thriller/Crime/Mystery/Detective Fiction; Fiction.
“It is December 2001 and Argentina is in political and economic meltdown. Pablo Martelli, once in an elite branch of the police force known to all as the ‘National Shame’, is a shadow of his former self, scraping by as a bathroom salesman. He cannot forget the enigmatic woman he met in a dance hall. She left him when she found out who he was working for, and he has never recovered from the blow. Late one evening, Martelli is summoned to a friend’s coastal retreat. He arrives to find his friend dead and is drawn into a bewildering sequence of events, on an odyssey that leads him through vast, empty pampas, along endless highways and into ghost towns seething with danger and brutality, to the ailing heart of his country. Before long he is forced to uncover the truth of his past life. It is a dangerous confession: after all, no-one loves a policeman. A highly original crime novel with a rich, dark humour, a host of extraordinary characters and plenty of smoking guns.”
Don’t Tempt Me by Sylvia Day – Historical Fiction/Romance.
I can’t get over how much I hate these covers, which may have something to do with my reluctance to read a Sylvia Day book. But I still want to give her books a try, which prompted me to get this when I found it for $2 at St. Vinnie’s op-shop the other day. “Sylvia Day’s Don’t Tempt Me – the classic erotic romance, part of the Georgian series – is a tale of mistaken identity, lusty liaisons and dangerous deceptions. Lynette Baillon’s twin, Lysette, died in an accident. Or so Lynette believed until, at a seductive masked ball in Paris, sexy stranger Simon Quinn mistakes her for her sister Lysette. And Simon, who planned to hand notorious assassin Lysette Rousseau over to the French, finds his plans confounded. However, on learning that her sister still lives – for now – Lynette vows to be reunited with her twin. Now she must enter an alluring but ensnaring underworld of dark and twisted desires, where Quinn rules.”
The House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams – Psychological Thriller.
Received for review from the publisher for TLC Book Tours. This came out in the UK last year, but the tour is for the first North American edition. “Actor Gwydion Morgan’s dramatic appearance at Jessica Mayhew’s psychotherapy practice coincides with a turbulent time in her own life – her husband has just revealed that he’s spent the night with a much younger woman. Gwydion, son of the famous Evan Morgan, is good looking and talented but mentally fragile, tormented by an intriguing phobia. Jessica is determined to trace the cause of his distress. So when his mother phones to say he is suicidal, Jessica decides to make a house call. The Morgans live in a grand cliff-top mansion overlooking a rocky bay with its own private jetty. It’s a remote and somewhat sinister place. On her visit, Jessica finds out that an au pair who looked after Gwydion as a child drowned in the bay in mysterious circumstances. Could it be that Gwydion witnessed her death? In her quest to help her client, Jessica finds herself becoming embroiled in the Morgans’ poisonous family dynamic. At the same time, she has to deal with the demands of her own domestic life: her struggle to keep her marriage intact, as well as her older daughter’s increasingly defiant behaviour. And then, of course, there is the growing attraction she feels towards her new client …”
Playing St. Barbara by Marian Szczepanski – Historical Fiction.
Received for review from the publisher for TLC Book Tours. “The secrets, struggles, and self-redemption of a Depression-era coal miner’s wife and three daughters play out against a turbulent historical backdrop of Ku Klux Klan intimidation and the 1933 Pennsylvania Mine War. Their intertwined lives eerily mirror the 7th century legend of St. Barbara, patroness of miners, reenacted annually in the town pageant. Tested by scandal, heartbreak, and tragedy, each woman will write her own courageous ending to St. Barbara’s story.”
The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan – Fiction.
I was pretty thrilled to find this like-new, first edition hardback with deckle edges at St Vinnies op-shop the other day, and only $4! I’m slowly acquiring all of Flanagan’s books, though I’ve only read two so far. Lots of catching up to do! “A sweeping novel of world war, migration, and the search for new beginnings in a new land, The Sound of One Hand Clapping was both critically acclaimed and a best-seller in Australia. It is a virtuoso performance from an Australian who is emerging as one of our most talented new storytellers. It was 1954, in a construction camp for a hydroelectric dam in the remote Tasmanian highlands, where Bojan Buloh had brought his family to start a new life away from Slovenia, the privations of war, and refugee settlements. One night, Bojan’s wife walked off into a blizzard, never to return – leaving Bojan to drink too much to quiet his ghosts, and to care for his theer-year-old daughter Sonja alone. Thirty-five years later, Sonja returns to Tasmania and a father haunted by memories of the European war and other, more recent horrors. As the shadows of the past begin to intrude ever more forcefully into the present, Sonja’s empty life and her father’s living death are to change forever. The Sound of One Hand Clapping is about the barbarism of an old world left behind, about the harshness of a new country, and the destiny of those in a land beyond hope who seek to redeem themselves through love.”
The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots by Loretta Hill – Fiction.
I’ve been wanting to read this since it came out and I read Bree’s review at All the Books I Can Read. I had kept a vague eye out for it but hadn’t seen it anywhere, until I found it at the Salvos op-shop in my new neighbourhood. Like new, too! “A story of red dust and romance, of strength and dreams, discovered in the unlikeliest of places – the great Australian outback. Lena Todd is a city girl who thrives on cocktails and cappuccinos so when her boss announces he’s sending her to the outback to join a construction team, her world is turned upside down. Lena’s new accommodation: an aluminium box called a dongar. Her new social network: 350 men. Her daily foot attire: steel-capped boots. Unfortunately, Lena can’t refuse. Mistakes from the past are choking her confidence and she needs to do something to right those wrongs and prove herself. Going to a remote community might just be the place to do that, if only tall, dark, and obnoxious Dan didn’t seem so determined to stand in her way.”
Morgan’s Law by Karly Lane – Fiction.
This was the other book I found at the Salvo’s, I think I’ve seen this author reviewed by Shelleyrae at Book’d Out – couldn’t remember if it was a positive review but that’s no problem, the blurb interested me and that’s the important bit. “When Sarah Murphy returns to Australia she desperately needs a break from her high-powered London life. And though mystified by her grandmother’s dying wish for her ashes to be scattered under ‘the wishing tree’ on the banks of the Negallan River, she sets out to do just that. While searching for the wishing tree, Sarah stays in the small township of Negallan. It’s there that she finally has some time to relax and unwind, there that she finds herself drawn to a handsome local farmer, and there that she discovers her enquiries about her grandmother are causing disquiet within the powerful local Morgan family. Will the Morgans prevent Sarah from discovering the truth about her grandmother? And should she risk her glittering career in the UK for a simpler existence in the country, and the possibility of true love?”
The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough – Historical Fiction.
This is a much-derided retelling of LM Montgomery’s absolutely awesome The Blue Castle, which I’d heard about from my friend Maria and my mum; I stumbled across it at St Vinnie’s op-shop and snapped it up for 50 cents. Mostly I’m very curious, and I can’t quite believe it’s as poor an imitation as they say (though maybe the simple fact that it’s an imitation is what really upsets people – and I could well be in that camp. The Blue Castle is SPECIAL!). “Sometimes fairy toles can come true – even for plain, shy spinsters like Missy Wright. Neither as pretty as cousin Alicia nor as domineering as mother Drusilla, she seems doomed to a quiet life of near poverty at Missalonghi, her family’s pitifully small homestead in Australia’s Blue Mountains. But it’s a brand new century – the twentieth – a time for new thoughts and bold new actions. And Missy Wright is about to set every self-righteous tongue in the town of Byron wagging. Because she has just set her sights on a mysterious, mistrusted and unsuspecting stranger … who just might be Prince-Charming in disguise.”
Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff – YA Fantasy.
I’ve been meaning to get this since it came out not long ago, seeing as I really enjoyed the first book (though some reviewers ripped it to shreds and one person even used a quote from my review in their rant, which leaves a sour taste in my mouth). I happened across it, like new, at St Vinnie’s for only a few dollars – yippee! Don’t you love op-shops? “A SHATTERED EMPIRE Shogun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion by endorsing a new Shogun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead. A DARK LEGACY Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kage rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. A GATHERING STORM Kage assassins lurk within the Shogun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat. The ghosts of a blood-stained past.”
The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles – YA Romance.
This one just looked like light fun, but it was written by a teenager and published after doing extremely well online. “This is a cool, sexy YA romance novel from seventeen-year-old Wattpad sensation Beth Reekles. Meet Rochelle Evans: pretty, popular – and never been kissed. Meet Noah Flynn: badass, volatile – and a total player. When Elle decides to run a kissing booth at the school’s Spring Carnival, she locks lips with Noah and her life is turned upside down. Her head says to keep away, but her heart wants to draw closer – this romance seems far from fairy tale and headed for heartbreak. But will Elle get her happily ever after?”
Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee – Children’s Fantasy.
E-book from Netgalley. “A luminous retelling of the Snow Queen, this is the story of unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard who doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help. As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world. A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.”
Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration by Nigella Lawson – Cookbook.
I got this from Christmas from my husband, but I did pick it out myself. This is, oh, either the third or fourth Nigella cookbook I’ve got, I can’t quite remember just now. I was watching episodes of this one on telly in December and – and this would be the point of the TV show – many of the things she was cooking were things I wanted to try, hence the book.
Good Food Fast edited by Pamela Clark – Cookbook.
“Suitable for food-lovers who don’t want their busy lives to stand in the way of healthy eating, this title shows that just a tiny amount of time in the kitchen can ensure you eat healthily without compromising on flavour. It features recipes for soups, curries, tarts, stir-fries, salads and grills.”
Wombat Stew by Marcia Vaughan – Picture Book.
An Australian children’s classic that I remember loving as a kid, I saw it in Fullers Bookshop and just had to grab a copy for Hugh for Christmas. The story is about a dingo who catches a wombat and wants to cook him in his billy, and all the other animals, in an attempt to stop him and free the wombat, trick him into adding disgusting ingredients to his stew first.
I’m Green and I’m Grumpy! by Alison Lester – Picture Book.
Another goodie from years ago, still in print. I love Lester’s picture books, and this one has half-page door flaps that you open to see who’s behind the door (the kids take turns to change into their costumes behind the door, accompanied by a rhyme). Another Christmas present for Hugh.
The Three Little Pigs by Alan Benjamin – Picture Books; Fairy Tales.
I found this for a dollar at St Vinnies op-shop the other day; I just had to get it because it’s the one my nanna read to me when I was three or four – I remember it quite well. She had a series of four little fairy-tale books, though I don’t think they were Little Golden Books. Not sure. There are so many versions, but this is the version I grew up on.
Silly Billy by Anthony Browne – Picture Book.
Browne is a long-established author of picture books; I remember how popular Piggy Book was when I was little (I loved it and so did everyone in my class!); he has distinctive illustrations and there are hidden things in the pictures. This is one I picked up at Oxfam for Hugh for Christmas; it’s about Billy who can’t stop worrying, until his grandmother gives him some worry dolls to tell his worries to.
Puppy Love by Dick King-Smith – Picture Book.
Hugh got this book as a Christmas present from his daycare; we haven’t actually read it yet (well he may have read it with his dad but I don’t think so), I’m not sure why, so I don’t know what it’s about yet! I think it’s a reprint or new edition of an older book, like the others.