28 November, 2014

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

From Goodreads: Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

Thoughts: Why has it taken me so long to discover Neil Gaiman? Why did no one grab me by the shoulders, shake me and shout YOU NEED TO READ THIS!! Gaiman has definitely become one of my go to authors. I listened to this, read by Neil Gaiman himself. I love when an author does a talking book, you get to hear it the way they intended.
Gaiman's writing is just beautiful. His storytelling draws you in, takes you back to childhood where you were sure monsters were real, but so were heroes; friendships were forever, even if you ended up living miles apart and adulthood was something a long way away. Each of the characters is real and tangible. Even those characters which aren't central to the story such as the mother are clearly seen and observed without intruding.
This book has the ability to cross age groups - complex enough to engage adults, with a story enthralling enough to capture kids. I plan to listen to this again as we take the long drive south for Christmas - something a little bit different to break up the monotony of the trip. 
Soon, very soon I plan to do a list of books that would make good Christmas presents. This one will make the list. Read it - I know very few people who will regret it.

27 November, 2014

Book Review: Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase

From Goodreads: Forgive me, Dorothea, for I cannot forgive you. What you do, to this child, to this child's mother, it is wrong...
Roberta likes to collect the letters and postcards she finds in second-hand books. When her father gives her some of her grandmother's belongings, she finds a baffling letter from the grandfather she never knew - dated after he supposedly died in the war.
Dorothy is unhappily married to Albert, who is away at war. When an aeroplane crashes in the field behind her house she meets Squadron Leader Jan Pietrykowski, and as their bond deepens she dares to hope she might find happiness. But fate has other plans for them both, and soon she is hiding a secret so momentous that its shockwaves will touch her granddaughter many years later...

Thoughts: I'm sure I came across this book on another blog, but I can't remember which one! It sounded interesting enough to request at the library and then wait ages for it to come in. 
While nothing to set the world on fire, Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase was a good read. The story moved along at a reasonable pace, the premise was believable. Walters doesn't clutter her story with unnecessary characters. All the characters in this book play an important part in supporting and moving the story along. Walters also jumps from modern day back to WW2 without the clunkiness this transition can sometimes be handled with. 
I'd recommend this book for those who are looking for a well written easy read. 

26 November, 2014

Book Review: Australian Prime Ministers

From Goodreads: Larrikins or patricians, socialists or silvertails - in the century following Federation, Australia's prime ministers were as diverse as the nation they served. Some came from backgrounds of rural or urban poverty and were largely self-educated, looking to the ballot box as a tool of social justice; some were drawn to politics as their destiny; still others regarded high office as no more than their due. One or two demonstrated that, as well as being the art of the possible, politics can also be the art of the unlikely.
In this lively and authoritative book, 21 historians, biographers and political analysts discuss and profile the men who have attained Australia's highest public office and the forces that shaped them. In doing so, Australian Prime Ministers obliquely considers the nature of Australian democratic and political power.

Thoughts: With the recent death of Gough Whitlam I found myself wanting to know more about the people who had lead Australia over the past 100+ years. My information above  (the cover and the blurb from Goodreads) is a bit of a mish-mash. I read the most recent edition, which is the cover I used. As it was not available on Goodreads, I took it from Booktopia. The blurb comes from Goodreads, but doesn't include Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott who are included in the most recent edition.
 This was a really fascinating read. Most chapters were no longer than 30 pages, making it easy to read a chapter a day which was my aim. I can now say my knowledge of my country's leaders is a lot stronger and I have a much better idea of how our parliament and the parties within it have developed. As always with history, hind sight is a wonderful tools. A few years distance can see a Prime Minister judged very differently to they way they were perceived in office. One thing they all have in common though is that under their leadership, both good and bad decisions were made. As to what you yourself see as a good or bad decision may depend largely on your own personal politics.

Book Review: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

From Goodreads: When Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy took their first steps into the world behind the magic wardrobe, little do they realise what adventures are about to unfold. And as the story of Narnia begins to unfold, so to does a classic tale that has enchanted readers of all ages for over half a century.

Thoughts:  For me, one of the marks of a good book is one that can survive time. I don't think there will ever be a time when The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe goes out of circulation - at least not in my lifetime. I downloaded this as an audio book after we finished The Series of Unfortunate Events series and I'm thrilled to say the kids seem to have loved it as much as I did. It's one of those books that you get a whole different view of as a adult. As a child I never saw the religious connotations of the book and even now with a few weeks between finishing it and writing this review, all of the things I went "oh" at have vanished from my memory. All that is left is the knowledge that I enjoyed revisiting this book immensely and I don't think any childhood would be truly complete without it.


27 October, 2014

Little Black Marks - Now on Facebook!

I'm making a concerted effort to post more. I know I go through long periods of nothing and then a barrage of stuff. I'm also wanting to widen what I post about, not just reviews. So what better way to help myself than social media!

I'm a FB junkie - I spend way too much time on there, but now at least I feel it has a slightly better purpose. I'd love you to pop on over and check out my Facebook page and like it if you are so inclined.


Click here to go to my Facebook page!

26 October, 2014

Book Review: The Invaders

From Goodreads: Hal and the Heron brotherband are on the trail of Zavac and his precious cargo. Will they be able to find the pirates when the weather clears? And when they do, how can they possibly beat the mighty Raven and its crew of vicious cut-throats and killers?
A chance discovery will lead them to their prey, but the pirates have a well-fortified position. The Herons must drive out the invaders - and to succeed, Hal will need to devise a foolproof plan. In the icy waters of the Stormwhite, the smallest mistake could prove fatal.

Thoughts: I'm a long time fan of John Flanagan. Loved his Ranger's Apprentice series and raved about the first in the Brotherband series - The Outcasts - a couple of years ago. His books are full of adventure, fast paced and exciting. They show young boys in a positive light. I'm a bit behind in the Brotherband chronicles. So far there are five books in the series and if it's anything like Ranger's Apprentice chances are it will just keep getting better and better. 
Flanagan pulls very few punches in his books. The world he writes about is tough and hard to survive. People die, people kill - including the good guys. Things are not necessarily solved with diplomacy but frequently with swords and arrows. The adventure aspect of these books would appeal to boys. I've often thought Flanagan a  perfect author for reluctant male readers. Brotherband is definitely aimed more at the young adult audience than Ranger's Apprentice if for no other reason than the deaths I've already mentioned. The characters in Brotherband are a little older and have less hand holding than Will does in Ranger's. It's a good follow on series where the author has managed to maintain the magic.

Book Review: The Briny Cafe

From Goodreads: Brimming with warmth and wit, a delicious tale of friendship and love, and the search for a place to call home
Ettie Brookbank is the heart and soul of Cook's Basin, a sleepy offshore community comprising a cluster of dazzling blue bays. But for all the idyllic surroundings, Ettie can't help wondering where her dreams have disappeared to until fate offers her a lifeline, in the shape of a lopsided little cafe on the water's edge.
When Bertie, its cantankerous septuagenarian owner, offers her "the Briny" for a fantastic price, it's an opportunity too good to miss. But it's a mammoth task, and she'll need a partner. Enter Kate Jackson, the enigmatic new resident of the haunted house on Oyster Bay. Kate is also clearly at a crossroads running from a life in the city that has left her lonely and lost.
Could a ramshackle cafe and its endearingly eccentric customers deliver the new start both women so desperately crave?

Thoughts: Susan Duncan's memoir Salvation Creek spoke to me. Just like her, I live somewhere accessible only by boat and it truly is a different way of life. The community and the way of life are something I don't think I could ever give up - I truly struggle to see me ever living on the mainland again.
The Briny Café draws on Duncan's offshore living experience to build the fictional community of Cook's Basin. Just like Salvation Creek, community and food are at the heart of this book. The story travels along at a good pace, following Ettie's journey as she takes on the run down Briny Café while helping newcomer Kate find her feet within the offshore community. Filled with likeable characters, The Briny Café is not going  to provide you with a challenging read, but with a setting that you will want to come back to in order to see what you're new friends are up to.