Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger ★★★★ ½

           My ten and twelve year old boys are, sadly, at an age where they don’t want me to read to them anymore.  In fact, thanks to iPads, X-boxes and cable TV, they don’t even want to read themselves anymore.
            However, they both expressed interest in me reading them “Raven Girl”.  In the end, my hubby sat in and for several nights our family eagerly anticipated the next reading.  Reading this book with them was a wonderful experience.  First they wanted to read it; then they didn’t want me to stop. They loved the story and wanted it read again.  A miracle.

           “Once there was a Postman who fell in love with a Raven.” 

           The opening line in this modern-day, dark, fairy tale begins a marvelous tale of a postman who “thought he had seen just about everything Her Majesty’s Postal Service could offer in the way of danger and difficulty, hilarity and boredom”.  When he rescues a baby raven, which has fallen from her nest, they fall in love and eventually have a baby raven girl who has human form but speaks in raven.  Like any child, the raven girl is not happy with herself and seeks to be transformed.
            Niffenegger has collaborated with Royal Ballet Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor to produce a ballet based on this book. It premiered at the Royal Opera House in London in May 2013.

                Audrey Niffenegger was on my list of beloved authors before this book.  Her first novel, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” was an international best-seller and her second book, a ghost story entitled “Her Fearful Symmetry”, is in my Top reads.

           Niffenegger puts words together from which spin magic.   She is also a talented artist. In “Raven Girl”, she not only wrote a charming tale, she also illustrated it beautifully using the 17th century technique of aquatint, which uses metal, acid, wax and rosin to achieve delicate tone and detailed images.
          Anyone, any age reading this will fall in love with the tale of the “Raven Girl”.  It is a book of exceptional beauty and one to treasure.

My review copy of RAVEN GIRL thanks to the hardworking people at RANDOM HOUSE Australia.
Release Dates: Australia and New Zealand: May 2013

Useful Links

For purchasing details and more information:   click here


Audrey Niffenegger is an exceptionally creative writer and visual artist who has achieved enormous success in both worlds. Her debut novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, has sold more than seven million copies worldwide and has been translated into forty languages. A Richard & Judy book club choice in the UK, it has been a huge bestseller all round the world. In the Daily Telegraph's readers' poll of the 'Top 50 Books of All Time' it appeared at no. 11. Niffenegger is also the author of two 'novels-in-pictures', The Three Incestuous Sisters(2005) and The Adventuress (2006), both published by Cape. Her graphic novel The Night Bookmobile was serialized in the Guardian and published on the Cape Graphic list.
A Chicago native, Niffenegger received her MFA in Printmaking and Drawing from Northwestern University. Her art has been widely exhibited in the United States and is in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress and Harvard University's Houghton Library.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Devil in the Hole by Charles Salzberg ★★★★

Into the mind of a murderer

Reviewed by Tracy Harris

          James Kirkland is not your typical nosy neighbor. So, when he notices all of the lights blazing in his neighbors house, he’s curious but not curious enough to knock on the door and inquire after their health.  He is inquisitive enough to notice that the lights are slowly burning themselves out. 
         A phone call to the police results in the discovery of the gruesome murders of an entire family including the dog, minus one member. John Hartman, husband, son and father of three is missing and all evidence points to him as the prime suspect.

          We are given an unusual insight, discovering the story through the eyes of a cast of characters who have their own individual opinion on the man who is John Hartman. From the senior investigator who has become obsessed with apprehending Hartman, to his former mistress, to past work colleagues and even his postman.  Even Hartman's side of the story is revealed through his viewpoint; a man who has committed the unthinkable crime and managed to elude authorities but not himself.

          Based on a true story, the John List murders, reading the first page to Devil in the Hole is like having just one potato chip. You simply must have more.

        Read this book if you want to treat yourself to a novel that is different, a novel not told from the traditional single viewpoint, but through multiple character’s viewpoints. I felt this allowed an opportunity to discover each individual's opinion of Hartman, through their own distinct and unique interactions.  This way we have an opportunity to attempt to understand how such a horrendous crime impacts everyone.

Thank you to author Charles Salzberg who contacted us directly and supplied a copy of his novel. 



      Charles Salzberg is a New York-based novelist, journalist and acclaimed writing instructor.
          A celebrated and popular creative writing teacher, he has been a Visiting Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and has taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College, Hunter College, the Writer's Voice, and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member. He is a consulting editor at the webzine Ducts.org and co-host, with Jonathan Kravetz, of the reading series, Trumpet Fiction, at KGB in New York City.
          Visit Charles' website here.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

SHIFT by Hugh Howey ★ ★ ★★★



The beautiful blue covered book that is SHIFT, prequel to Hugh Howey’s mega-hit WOOL, sat on my bedside table for a week; not because I didn’t want to read it but I was simply delaying gratification.  I knew once I started it, I would devour the 576 pages in a few days and then I would be forced to leave the world of Howey’s Silo and would have to wait months until the final book in the trilogy was released. 
It’s hard to find eloquent words to describe my love for the genius of Hugh Howey.  Reading his work reminds me of how I felt almost forty years ago when I first read Stephen King’s CARRIE.  For me, no author has ever measured against Master King’s writing. There are many great writers who have penned wonderful books but Howey and King have one thing in common. They are storytellers before they are writers.
Even more exciting is that Howey is one of the new breed of Indie Hybrid authors, self-publishing his e-books and licensing the paper-book distribution rights to  major publishers. So, he can write and deliver great reads quickly; no more waiting for the publishing world’s limit of one release a year.

SHIFT takes us back to the beginning before Wool; before the world was laid waste and toxic by something that happened sixty years ago, forcing the few thousand remaining human beings to live in two hundred storey silos.  The silos are layered with not only physical levels but political and social stratas and are governed under strict rule.  None of the Silo inhabitants remember what happened before. 
Whilst reading Wool, (which I recommend reading before Shift) there were what you could presume were plot-holes (as it turns out they were purposely there). These are resolved in Shift as we travel from the destruction of Earth to the monotonous existence of the inhabitants of Silo One who are cryogenically frozen and awakened for their shifts of varying lengths.
This new world and its progression through several hundred years is told through the stories of various characters: the engineer who unwittingly designed the silos, a shift worker who remembers fragments of another life, a courier who becomes embroiled in an uprising, a child trapped for years in a computer safe room.
It is science fiction work but it crosses genres ingeniously and the reason for Howey’s huge success is the human stories he tells. Through his wonderful and rich characters Howey challenges us to contemplate hope and humanity.   Just like King’s millions of loyal fans who read every book he releases, there will be few initiates to the Howey style who will not continue to follow him wherever he chooses to write. And that’s the kind of passion a good story-teller evokes.  

My review copy of Shift thanks to the hardworking people at RANDOM HOUSE Australia.
For more information please visit http://www.randomhouse.com.au
Release Dates: Australia and New Zealand: May 2013
To purchase:   click here


Hugh Howey is the author of Wool, a bestselling novel that has appeared in the top 5 of science fiction on Amazon. He is also the author of the award-winning Molly Fyde Saga. He lives in Boone, N.C. with his wife Amber and their dog Bella.

Monday, July 1, 2013

THE MIDWIFE'S TALE by Sam Thomas ★★★★

In the early 1600s, a woman’s role was easily categorised as that of being a wife and mother. Nothing more, nothing less.  Except in the case of twice widowed Lady Bridget Hodgson, who serves her community in the role of midwife, tending to ladies and maids and everyone in between.
York in 1644 is not a pleasant place, even for an educated and wealthy woman such as Bridget. A civil war is splitting the country in two, and Parliament’s forces are at the city’s walls.  In the midst of this uncertainty, one of Bridget’s friends is accused of murdering her husband, an act of petty treason. Esther Cooper begs Bridget to help prove her innocence and save her life.
Appalled at the way Esther’s trial is handled and at the attitude of the Lord Mayor, Bridget finds herself drawn towards proving Esther’s innocence, and her life, ably assisted by her new maid, Martha Hawkins. For a lady’s maid, Martha has an unusual skill set and understanding of the seedier side of life which comes in surprisingly useful in a city under siege, where unsavoury characters lurk around corners and danger comes in all shapes and sizes.
Samuel Thomas has captured his female protagonist with a realistic hand, keeping her wit and wisdom fresh and believable. His enthusiasm for Reformation history keeps the story flowing without becoming bogged down in dreary details. Samuel based his character Bridget on a midwife by the same name who practiced in York and whose Will can found online at the Borthwick Institute for Historical Research website.
However the most unique aspect of this book is its historical accuracy as far as midwifery. We are taken on a journey into a world that exists no longer, but was an integral and essential part of life in the 1600s. As a midwife, Bridget is not only responsible for bringing new life into her world, but for interrogating single mothers and ensuring the fathers’ of their children take responsibility for their actions.
A mystery with a unique setting, The Midwife’s Tale is certainly a novel worth exploring, if you like facts along with your fiction.