Monday, December 8, 2008

Portable Ghosts

Portable Ghosts is an engaging new story by Margaret Mahy who, once again, shows how to make a primary school novel individual, stylish and always readable. Ditta is twelve. Her nine-year-old geek sister keeps hogging Dad's computer, and there's a ghost in the library. Not only that, but Ditta's friend, Max, is slinking when he ought to be bouncing, and Old Man Baldy never, but never, stops talking. Then there's the moaning, seething floor and a mysterious book. This tasty plot concoction may draw young readers, but I hope they, as well as their elders, will relish the stylish telling of the tale.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Last Chinese Chef. Guest Reviewer, Anna Jacobs

My guest reviewer this time is novelist Anna Jacobs, who has chosen to review The Last Chinese Chef, by Nicole Mones.
Anna Jacobs is the author of 42 novels with more in the pipeline. She writes historical sagas for one UK publisher and modern family relationships novels for another. Her latest saga is ‘Tomorrow’s Promises’ about what happened to women who’d done men’s jobs during World War I after the war ended. Her latest modern novel is ‘Family Connections’ a story of families in Australia and England, who didn’t know about their relatives overseas. The first chapters can be read on her web site.


The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones

Maggie is a food writer. She hasn’t really moved on after her husband’s death - except literally, to live on a house boat. Then suddenly she learns of a paternity claim against her late husband from a Chinese woman and goes to investigate. She doesn’t believe it. They were happily married. Yes, he went to China regularly, but he wouldn’t be unfaithful.
Her editor asks her to fit in an assignment at the same time, to write about the rising Chinese chef, Sam Liang. Maggie doesn’t usually write about exotic cuisines overseas, but in the end she accepts the assignment.
Investigating the claim takes longer than she’d expected and she also works on the story. She gets on well with Sam, who is half American, but who is immersed in classical Chinese cuisine. The experience gradually transforms Maggie and she develops a deep love for the food Sam cooks. There is far more to real Chinese food than she’d realized, and it’s nothing like the Chinese food served in America.
If you like Chinese food, learning about other cultures and gentle love stories, you’ll enjoy this book. I regularly read three novels a week and this is one of the 5 standout books I’ve read in the last twelve months. My husband read it and felt the same. It was a wonderful tale and I was so sad when it ended. But the ending was just right.
What more can an author offer the reader?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Guest Review of O'Connor's Last Stand

Today's guest reviewer is author Ginger Simpson, who has chosen to send in a pre-publication review of O'Connor's Last Stand. This is my own paranormal romance thriller, set in the Australian Outback and to be published by Eternal Press. I was somewhat surprised to receive a review of one of my own books but here it is! Thanks, Ms Simpson!

O'Connor's Last Stand, By Sally Odgers.

An upcoming release from

Anna Bell takes a job from an old acquaintance, Asia Franklin, to escape someone in her past. Anna's history is secret and her name is an alias, but she seriously tries to fit in with the men at Ballahoo Station. Her real dilemma begins when she takes Pepper Tess, Asia's temperamental old mare, and rides out to check the fence lines of the Australian ranch... and to hide something important. She's warned to avoid O'Connor's Leap.

Flynn O'Connor dwells in a cave in the middle of nowhere. His memory is sketchy at best, but all that matters is he's waiting for his true love, Eliza, to meet him so they can steal away and spend their lives together. He recalls that she has a husband, but in his mind, his Eliza belongs with him and she's promised to come. He'll wait forever it that's what it takes.

While Anna camps, a noise spooks her horse and she's left stranded. In her attempt to find shelter from an oncoming sandstorm, she takes a tumble and ends up being nursed by Flynn. During their confinement, they share information, but something doesn't seem right to Anna. Flynn's recollections are archaic. She also discovers he's the one who spooked Pepper Tess. Why then isn't he burned from the branch she thrust at him? His Irish brogue captures her attention, but his warmth and caring captures her heart.

Without giving away too much of the story, I simply have to rave about Sally Odgers', O'Connor's Last Stand. I had the opportunity to read it before its release, and I must say somewhere there has to be a television producer looking for great material for a movie. This is it. I found myself gasping at the ending chapter hooks, and holding my breath during a sandstorm so real that I feared I might inhale the dust. Mix some paranormal with mystery and romance, and you have a magical concoction. Sally Odgers is an amazing story teller.

Reviewed by,
Ginger Simpson, Author

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Point Blanc, by Anthony Horowitz

"Point Blanc", by Anthony Horowitz, is the second in his series about Alex Rider, the teenaged spy. There is enough back story to put a new reader in the picture without info-dumping, but "Point Blanc" does contain a few spoilers for "Stormbreaker", the first book.

Alex Rider is a fourteen-year-old orphan, brought up by his uncle Ian. Alex believed Ian was a banker, but after his death he discovered he was a spy. Ian's runners put Alex in his uncle's place, and now use him for missions in which a teenager will be more useful than an adult.

In this story, Alex is sent to "Point Blanc", an isolated mountain finishing school for sons of the rich and powerful. All the pupils are the same age as Alex, and all have been sent to the school by parents who can neither control nor understand their children. Recently, the fathers of two of the pupils have died in mysterious circumstances. Alex is given a cover story and sent to the school to discover any connection between the deaths.

At the school only one boy, James, is friendly. The others, who eerily share the same mannerisms and unlikely dedication to study, pay little attention to James or to Alex. The staff, consisting of South African scientist Dr Grief, his assistant direction, Mrs Stellenbosch, and rather a lot of armed guards, is also disconcerting.

What Alex discovers, how he discovers it, and what he does about it leads the reader on a non-stop breathless ride. The action is mostly unbelievable to an adult, but Anthony Horowitz is an experienced writer who adds persuasive detail. The characters are strongly drawn, good, bad, grotesque and ambivilent. Some of the plot points and twists are obvious to an adult reader, but that mostly boils down to familiarity with the genre. Spy stories have certain givens, and Horowitz uses them with skill.

The first two "chapters" before the story-proper begins, are almost like short stories, but work well to set up the mystery and Alex's character.

I "read" the audio version while roaming the hills and river with my dogs, and enjoyed it very much.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Wind Song by Rita Karnopp. Guest Reviewer - Robin Smith.

Here is the first of my guest reviewers. Robin Smith has sent in the following review of Wind Song. I have not yet read the book myself, but I have heard good reports of it.

Title: Wind Song
Category: Indian Historical
Reviewer: Robin Smith
Reviewer's email:
Author: Rita Karnopp
Publisher: Eternal Press
Release date: January 2008

Author's homepage:
Format: EBOOK


An Indian seeress meets with an enemy... or is he? Will she convince her chief not to sign the treaty being presented to him? Will city-slicker Marsh learn the ways of the west?

Leota is on the sacred mountain fasting as she waits for a vision for her people. Sometimes she wishes that she didn't have such a revered gift. She receives a vision and needs to tell her chief not to sign the treaty being presented to him. Will he listen? Or will he accept the lies of the white man Stevens?

Marsh is a city slicker who happens to be a lawyer. He arrives too late to see his brother and sister-in-law alive. He is met by an angry teenaged Tanner, whose cocky attitude may cause problems, not to mention that he's gung-ho for revenge against the mountain men who killed his family. Marsh has a lot to learn from Tanner in the ways of the wilderness. Will Tanner learn anything from Marsh?

Meanwhile, Leota has run into a problem with enemy Crows which has landed her on the side of a cliff. The Crows are arguing over what to do about her while she has a series of visions. Most would have died from the fall but she survives. Down below, unknown to the Crow, are Tanner and Marsh, who insists that the unidentified woman be saved. Tanner's father would have done the same, so the boy agrees. Will Leota make it safely off the cliff? Will Tanner and Marsh be the heroes of the day? No spoilers here folks.

Ms. Karnopp's work is new to this reviewer. I enjoy meeting new talent as well as new to me seasoned veterans of the writing world. WIND SONG is a damn good book. I will happily recommend this book to readers everywhere. This book is teeming with rich characters and places, along with factual tidbits here and there. The author has a rare gift that draws the readers into the book so they feel and act with Leota.

Thumbs up salute to you, Ms. Karnopp! You'll be a repeat offender in my reading repertoire.

Thank you, Robin! I appreciate this contribution to Read and Reviewed.

Calling Guest Reviewers!

Hello everyone! I have decided to open Read and Reviewed to reviews by other readers and writers. Here's what to do if you would like to review a book for this blog.
Simply write a comprehensive review of a book you have recently read and enjoyed. The book need not be a new release, and should not be one you have written (though reviewing a friend's book is fine). The review need not be 100% positive, and should not be a simple retelling of the plot. I am not looking for gush-reviews or for hatchet-jobs, but for honest opinion, backed up by specifics.
Please include the full title of the book, and the author's name. If it's not a mainstream title, a jpeg of the cover would be useful.
The book can be for any audience, but this is a public blog, and may be read by minors. Please keep that in mind.
Send the review as a Word attachment to me at .
It will be printed under your name as "Guest Reviewer", and I'll let you know when it's up.
Thanks in advance!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Laugh again, Kinta!

"Laugh again, Kinta!" is a charming children's picture book, written and illustrated by Heather Joy Leane.

The simple story follows a lost and bewildered Kinta, a young kookaburra, after his forest home is ravaged by fire. Kinta is saved by wildlife carers, and finally relocated to the wild. How he regains his sense of self, and settles to a bright future makes a heartwarming story. The pictures, which include a built-in game, are a perfect fit for the words. On the final page is information about kookaburras.

"Laugh again, Kinta!" is published by Sunbeam Books, at

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely is the story of Aislinn, who at 17 is still at school and still under the house rules of Grams, her grandmother. Aislinn was born with the Sight, and what she sees of the faerie world is never reassuring. The grotesque fey, or faeries, as they are called, are disturbing, and Aislinn has to keep a firm rein on herself. Grams also has the Sight, and she has impressed on Aislinn that "if you run, they'll chase you".

Aislinn's best friend is a young man named Seth, much tattooed and pierced, whose parents have gone away on a charitable venture. Seth lives alone in a converted train, and the iron carriages are one place where Aislinn feels safe. As the story opens, the pressure is increasing, as Aislinn sees more and more fey. One is a beautiful boy named Keenan, another, a girl whom Aislinn calls "Dead girl".

Aislinn's struggle with Grams' rules, her confused feelings for Seth and the tension of pretending she doesn't see the fey makes an intriguing opening for this novel. Soon, we are introduced to Keenan, who is the Summer King, to Donia, the Winter Girl, and the ghastly Beira, Keenan's mother, the Winter Queen. For nine centuries Beira has held Keenan's full power in check, and the stalemate will continue until he finds and claims his queen. The rules of the game are complex, and the consequences frightening. For the girls Keenan courts there is no way back to normal life.

The game for high stakes plays out as a romance, but unlike many such books this is not another version of Tam Lin. The ending is tightly plotted and satisfactory, and the characters well-drawn.

Three things I found disconcerting. One was the American setting. The author's style is quite British, and every time a reference reminded me that this is not set in England or Ireland it jolted me a bit. I wonder if the edition I read had been Anglicised.

Another thing was that one of the stakes was for the survival of the world; if Beira wins the game, the Earth will sink into endless winter. In these days of global warming it is odd (to say the least) to contemplate the threat of a contemporary ice age!

Finally, the use of "fey" and "faerie" as nouns bothered me, as I think of them as strictly adjectival. I would use "fay" and "fairy".
Despite the quibbles, I enjoyed this very much. 4/5.

If you have read this book, please leave a comment.

Book Reviews with a Difference!

If you've ever wondered what authors read... now's your chance to find out! Old and new, borrowed and owned... here are the books I read in 2008. Suggestions are welcome. If I read it, I'll review it.
Let the reading begin.