31 May 2011

Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane | Katherine Howe

It's 1991 in Massachusetts and Connie is a Harvard graduate student studying history when her mother phones and asks for a favour. After reluctantly accepting, Connie travels to Marblehead (near Salem) to put her Grandmother's affairs in order and sell the house. The neglected house has been empty and locked up for decades and is partly concealed by the out of control garden. When exploring one of the dusty bookshelves, Connie finds an old key hidden inside a family bible. Hidden inside the key is a tiny piece of parchment with Deliverance Dane written in script. Connie is curious and begins a lengthy search to find out more about Deliverance Dane.

Meanwhile, the book alternates between 1991 and the 17th Century where the reader is thrust into the lives of Deliverance Dane and her descendants.

Connie discovers that Deliverance Dane was accused of being a witch during the time of the Salem witch trials, and thanks to a legal document referencing a recipe book, Connie starts to track down this physick book. Will it contain remedies to cure ills and sickness or will it contain magic and spells?

Connie's advisor is obsessed with the study of alchemy and is after the book for his own twisted reasons and a Steeplejack enters the scene who may be able to offer some help.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is part mystery, part historical fiction and I would have preferred more time spent in the 17th Century. This is a contemporary novel with a hint of magic and it will appeal to many readers.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

23 May 2011

Review: Mathilda Savitch | Victor Lodato

Mathilda Savitch is the name of the main character in this Young Adult novel and I was instantly gripped by her voice and emotion. Here are the opening few sentences:

"I want to be awful. I want to do awful things and why not? Dull is dull is dull is my life. Like now, it's night, not yet time for bed but too late to be outside, and the two of them reading reading reading with their eyes moving like the lights inside a copy machine".

Mathilda's older sister was killed when she was pushed in front of a train and while her parents grieve in their own ways, they've drifted apart from each other. Mathilda is sick of it and attempts to shock them back into reality by being bad. She also tries to find out as much about her sister Helene as she can, and hopefully learn something about why she was murdered. Mathilda does find a number of hidden secrets which slowly lead her closer to the truth.

I was surprised that a male author could write the thoughts and dialogue of a teenage girl so well and I thoroughly enjoyed the voice of Mathilda. The best friend relationship she has with Anna was incredibly written, and at times it left me shaking my head with wondrous disbelief (and rushing to Google the author and confirm he was male, and yes he is: www.victorlodato.com )

At times amusing, and at times poignant, this is a coming of age story as much as it is about a family coming to terms with their grief. Although it had an ambiguous ending, it would be terrific to discuss in a book club and I thoroughly recommend Mathilda Savitch to female Young Adult / Adult readers.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!

14 May 2011

Review: Of Love and Evil | Anne Rice

Of Love and Evil is the second novel in The Songs of The Seraphim series written by my favourite author Anne Rice.

In the first novel we met assassin for hire Toby O'Dare when he was given the opportunity to turn his back on evil and use his skills for good by helping the angel Malchiah.

Toby is back and this time Malchiah takes him to fifteenth-century Rome for his next assignment. Toby is answering the prayer of Vitale, a Jewish Physician who is tending a patient and friend who has clearly been poisoned, but by who? Toby must also get to the bottom of a haunting by a dybbuk while not being distracted by his surroundings.

Toby also finds out he has a 10 year old son, and wonders whether he is worthy of his love after all of the lives he took in his past as a deadly assassin.

Of Love and Evil was rich in a sense of place and I revelled in the sense of history it conveyed. It can be read as a stand-alone, although for character background it's probably best to read Angel Time first. I hope there's a third in the pipeline soon, but I can't find any news on that front just yet.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

01 May 2011

Personal Review: Caught In The Crossfire | Matina Jewell

Caught In The Crossfire was written by a close friend of mine, Matina Jewell. She has had an incredible journey to get to this point and hers is a story that must be read to be believed.

We first met at the Australian Defence Force Academy and after seeing her on ABCs Australian Story in 2010 I was moved to get in touch again, even though it had been 14 years since we'd last seen each other.

Much has happened since the airing of Australian Story, Blue Beret Part 1 and 2, and after sharing my love of books and reading with Matti she asked me to proof read her memoir. It was an honour and a dream come true for me and a process I'll always cherish. Throughout the writing and publishing of her book we've formed a fabulous friendship, and I think all Australians should read this informative and engaging Australian memoir.

If you can't see past my enthusiasm you can check out the blurb below and watch the book trailer for Caught In The Crossfire by clicking here.
Blurb: In 2006, while part of an un-armed UN peacekeeping team at the border junction of Lebanon, Israel and Syria, Australian Major Matina Jewell and her colleagues were caught in a full-scale war with tragic consequences. In the days that followed she and her team-mates reported hundreds of violations of the peace agreement as Israeli artillery, tank fire and aerial bombs, as well as rockets fired by Hezbollah fighters, exploded only metres away and shrapnel rained down around them. But the story does not end there...
Matti Jewell is the kind of soldier every country is proud to have - fearless, honourable and highly skilled. A star graduate from Duntroon by the age of only 24, she became a highly valued army commander. In the years that followed, she earned eight war medals, tracking militia leaders in the Solomons, fast-roping out of Navy helicopters and boarding smuggler ships in the Arabian Gulf, as well as serving on operations with the American Navy SEALS and Australian Special Forces.
Caught in the Crossfire is a frighteningly dramatic first-hand account of what really happens in modern warfare and the high price our soldiers pay for their country.
This memoir is published by Allen & Unwin, and is the first in Australia to incorporate QR codes throughout the book. What's a QR code? It's a square icon printed onto a page - similar to a bar code - that you can scan with your phone using a free application. As soon as you've scanned a QR code, a short video relevant to the section you're reading will begin to play. This is exciting and groundbreaking technology for publishers and readers alike and is an Australian first.

When you read the memoir and watch the accompanying video clips, you will no doubt find it amazing, shocking, inspiring and thought provoking. I'm lucky to call Matina a friend.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

Review: The Eyes of Darkness | Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz is one of my favourite contemporary authors, so it was a major let down for me to discover that The Eyes of Darkness was a disappointing read.

The story begins with the death of young Danny Evans in an accident that also took the lives of many other school aged boys while on an excursion in the mountains. A year later, his Mum Tina begins to receive messages that say 'not dead'. Meanwhile, Tina meets a new love interest Elliot and together they try and untangle the mystery to get to the truth.

The novel took a while to get going, with way too much emphasis on Tina's career, which later turned out to be irrelevant to the plot. I found Elliot's background and history way too much of a stretch, and their slow acceptance of the subtle supernatural theme quite frustrating.

The book lacked the multiple plot lines and twists and turns of many of Koontz' more recent novels, and I discovered the reason for this at the end. In the Afterword, the Koontz writes that The Eyes of Darkness was one of six novels he wrote under the pen name of Leigh Nichols in the 80s. Now that Koontz is no longer using this pen name, he began to review and improve these earlier novels and publish them under his own name.

When I purchased this book I found it in a bargain bin, and didn't realise it was a 'improved' version of an earlier novel, so I feel a little duped. Nevertheless, it was a quick read, and I was able to swiftly move onto something else.

Unfortunately I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone; unless they are a dedicated Koontz fan who is keen to read every book in his repertoire.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!