Friday, 9 December 2011

Aussie's Hot Reads - The Swallows of Kabul, Her Favoured Captain, The Legend of Victor Standish and Build a Man.

Apologies if you came by to read my Insecure Writers post, but I just couldn't cut it this week with all the demands on my time. Next time...I've enjoyed reading yours, though.

My book reviews, promised and voluntary, are backing up so I'm telling you about 4 marvellous reads today just in case you're still considering your book buys for Christmas gifts or for holiday reading for yourself. What do you know? Amazon is offering free postage to Australia for once! That sure helps!

Cheery, I know, but I just watched as a person who'd just left this world and was taken away from Brisbane Square on a stretcher, just outside my library window. A sad event, rarely seen in Brisbane, but very common in some war-torn countries. During my research for my Afghani novel, I've read some wonderful, wonderful non-fiction and fiction (often based on real events.) I've already mentioned one or two. Here is the little gem that got me started:

The Swallows of Kabul, Yasmina Khadra. (Translated from the French).

It is written with relentless poetic passion right from the first sentence:

"In the middle of nowhere, a whirlwind spins like a sorceress flinging out her skirts in a macabre dance; yet not even this hysteria serves to blow the dust off the calcified palm trees thrust against the sky like beseeching arms."

Set in Kabul under the brutal rule of the Taliban, this is an extraordinary novel. It takes readers into the lives of two couples. Mohsen comes from a family of wealthy shopkeepers whom the Taliban have destroyed; Zunaira, his beautiful wife, once a brilliant teacher, is now no longer allowed to leave her home without her mahram (male relative) or without donning the full chadari (burqa). Then there is Atiq, a prison keeper who has secretly adopted the Taliban ideology and struggles to align these beliefs with his faith. His wife Musarrat is now dying of sickness and despair. Mohsen wanders aimlessly throughout much of the book, as there isn't a lot to do under the Taliban, where Kabul is as silent as an unscreamed scream - no music, no theatre, no kite flying, no school, no laughing. During one of his wanders, Mohsen is drawn into the hysteria of an execution and to his shame he joins in the stone throwing, killing a desperate woman. This is the catalyst that propels all four people to their destinies. There are many unforgettable scenes in this book, but there is one that I'll never forget and it has to do with the executions and women in burqas. What a twist! What a dazzling novel!

Available from Amazon for $10.91

Her Favoured Captain, Francine Howarth.

Francine Howarth's 'Her Favoured Captain' is not your usual historical romp with formulaic plots involving stunningly handsome heroes and heroines. It is a delightful short read, ideal for that trip on the train, but hold the blushes. The plot is not altogether unique, but the telling is, as the author captures a speech truly historical. It has been said that Francine’s stories could be likened to Stephanie Lauren's. Her style is different and the dialogue sharp and undeniably romantic throughout the story. The innocent, loyal and brave Lady Emerald is awaiting her fate - to be married to a nobleman, as yet unknown to her in order to pay for her brother's debts. Positively medieval, right? But while awaiting her fate, the lady happens upon a mysterious buccaneer, who first steals her kisses, then her heart. A great read for lovers of period romance. I’m looking forward to reading Francine’s latest, Scandalous Whispers.

Available on Amazon Kindle for $1.55


The Legend of Victor Standish, Roland Yeomans.

In Roland's own words:

No one talks openly of the misty figures seen walking along New Orleans' iron-laced terraces, casting no shadow. Of the shapes seen rising from sewer grates. And no one willingly visits the crypt of Marie Laveau at midnight. Into this strange world arrives the street orphan, Victor Standish, from Charon's Greyhound. Charon has to keep up with the times ... the End Times. And the teen destined to be called the "Ulysses of the French Quarter" has come just in time for Hurricane Katrina, the End of All Things ... and the deadly love of the Victorian ghoul, Alice Wentworth.

Anyone who’s been fortunate enough to read one or more of blogger/author Roland Yeoman's books or extracts will know what it’s like to be dazzled by his lyrical prose. Roland crafts his characters with flair, drawing the reader instantly into a world that resonates with the senses. His characters in The Legend of Victor Standish are no exception. I was drawn into Victor’s strange world right from the start when he alighted from the bus thanks to his neglectful mother. But the teenage street kid has landed on the mean streets of New Orleans, the most haunted city in America. He befriends a woman called Old Suze, who leads him to Captain Sam McCord and a Ghoul named Alice. Hang on as you are taken on a wild ride, with Victor constantly facing certain death. He reacts with surprising skills of his own amongst a cast of characters – historical, literary and mythical. 

For fans of Victor Standish, Roland has already published a sequel, The Legend of Victor Standish, Under a Voodoo Moon.

The Legend of Victor Standish is available on Amazon Kindle for $2.99.


Build A Man by Talli Roland
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: 5th November 2011
Rating: 5/5
Books in “Serenity Holland” series: Build A Man (#1) | Construct A Couple (#2)
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US
Amazon Summary:

Slave to the rich, rude and deluded, cosmetic surgery receptionist Serenity Holland longs for the day she’s a high-flying tabloid reporter. Unfortunately, every pitch she sends out disappears like her clients’ liposuctioned fat, never to be seen again. Then she meets Jeremy Ritchie — the hang-dog man determined to be Britain’s Most Eligible Bachelor by making himself over from head to toe and everything in between — giving Serenity a story no editor could resist.
With London’s biggest tabloid on board and her very own column tracking Jeremy’s progress from dud to dude, Serenity is determined to be a success, even going undercover to gain intimate access to Jeremy’s life. But when Jeremy’s surgery goes drastically wrong and Serenity is ordered to cover all the car-crash goriness, she must decide how far she really will go for her dream job.

This is Talli Roland’s third novel published in 2011. All a riot and all best sellers. (Need promo tips? See Talli!) Her debut novel The Hating Game was great, better I think than her second novel Watching Willow Watts, but her third, Build A Man did not disappoint.

Build a Man grabbed me from the start and the character Serenity Holland was entertaining to the end as she tried hard to become more than a boring old receptionist. She’s an aspiring tabloid journalist. Quite a dilemma but she finds a way. Serenity uses her receptionist position at a cosmetic clinic to get into journalism. She goes “undercover” when  a client named Jeremy decides to have his entire body cosmetically altered. Serenity is a likeable character and didn’t just use Jeremy;  they became friendlier with each other as the story progressed.
I’ve read comments where readers were surprised that Talli changed from third-person narrative to first-person narrative for Build a Man, but the book suits this POV. It’s a novel to fly through, and I didn’t find myself paying attention to technical details – I was just enjoying the tale. Despite Serenity’s antics, I liked her, she was such fun - enthusiastic, seemingly happy and upbeat. But I didn’t know what to expect from Jeremy –  like who needs total cosmetic surgery? You’ve got to be kidding. But Jeremy was a surprising character as the reader comes to see that he just wanted to become something more than himself after being hurt previously.  He was very likeable, unlike Serenity’s uninspiring boyfriend, Peter.
Like Talli’s previous two books, Build a Man was warm and humourous, but it wasn’t all sweetness and light. The ending was as I expected which made me happy. I have a mountainous TBR list, yet I’m looking forward to the sequel,  Construct A Couple, coming out.

I hope you enjoyed my quick reviews. What have you been reading lately?

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