Colin Merrey Book & Music Reviews March April 2014
Thursday, 13 March 2014 00:00
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Welcome to the St Patrick’s Day and Easter edition of our wonderful magazine.  I have toiled long and hard to give you a lot to choose from especially for this issue so here goes.  You may also find some goodies in here to spend your Easter monetary and book tokeny gifts on.  I sincerely hope so.
  Before we get started, I feel I must thank all of those amongst you who sent good wishes on my recent BIG birthday (as reported in the last issue of the Irish Scene).  Onwards and upwards, as they say – they also say that with age comes wisdom – yes…well maybe…..perhaps!!
  Don’t forget that if you have problems finding a good new- or second hand bookseller, you can try my favourites.  These include a new bookshop (to me at any rate) that I discovered recently – STEFEN’S BOOKS in Shafto Lane in Perth City.  He has a great selection of books – chiefly in the crime and fantasy sphere of publishing – and is very knowledgeable in that regard – despite his seemingly tender years!  Go in and say hello to him next time you are in town – he has some great books in stock – he helped me to complete my John Connolly and Stuart McBride libraries last month – I can highly recommend him to you.  Others in no particular order of preference are Dymocks at Whitford City – I particularly find Tracy to be extremely helpful when trying to source the latest book recently to add to my personal collection.  They also have stores in Subiaco Belmont (all part of the same franchise holder’s “armoury”), Karrinyup and Fremantle amongst other branches both city and state-wide.  I also look to Mark at the Corona Books shop at Warwick Shopping Centre for good service – I find him, too, to be extremely helpful and obliging and with a good knowledge of books and authors.  In the realm of Second Hand book sellers, you can’t go past Pulp Fiction – who have stores (again) at Whitford City and also at Floreat Forum Shopping Centre or the Elizabeth’s Bookshop chain which has shops in Fremantle, Perth City (Hay Street) and Subiaco to name but a few branches. I also look to the Guildford Book Exchange for good service.  
  Also please remember to let the various stores know who pointed you in their direction.  The feedback is great for them and it shows me that you are actually taking the time to read what I have prepared for your enjoyment with each issue.  Then my work will not have been in vain, as it were!
  Firstly, to my book of the month – I have chosen this one, because Brian McGilloway is one of my favourite Irish authors – he hails from Derry and is a good friend of John Connolly’s – so that is more than sufficient for him to merit this position in my bi-monthly offering.
Murdoch Books Paperback $19.99
  This tale is the follow up to “Little Girl Lost”, the book that introduced us to Detective Sergeant Lucy Black.  This time she is given the task of investigating the death of a girl, Karen Hughes – and the only clues she has regarding the girl’s last movements are her mobile phone and various social media sites.  The story progresses at a cracking pace and is extremely gripping – this in my humble opinion is his best to date and I absolutely loved it.
  It is also Brian’s first book for his new publisher, Murdoch Books and we wish him and them all the very best for their new venture.  Please buy this one – I know you’ll love it.
And now to continue 
Allen and Unwin Hardback $22.99
  All of you who know me (either personally or via my reviews) will know that I am a glutton for trivia and for quiz nights and quiz TV programmes – I also love QI which if you are not aware already is an ABC TV show hosted by the affable Stephen Fry which deals in a (usually) hilarious manner with lots and lots of Quite Interesting facts (hence the shows title).  In earlier issues of this magazine, I have told you about various QI publications that I felt would interest you. Well, this is the latest such tome and follows hard on the heels of the editor’s previous book “1,227 QI Facts to Blow your Socks Off”.  Did you know for instance that it is impossible to whistle in a spacesuit?  Or that pigs suffer from anorexia?  I didn’t think so!!!!!!!!  These and their 1,337 companions will astonish, amuse, and astound you I am sure.  But it – read it – love it. I certainly did!
KNOWING MANDELA – JOHN CARLIN Allen and Unwin Hardback $24.99
  Here we have a remarkable account of a man who is as flawed as he is gifted – he is neither superman nor saint by any means – as is tackled by this exploration of his life in the period after his release from prison (covering the period 1990 to 1995).  This wonderful little book offers the reader a deeper understanding of this powerful man and what made him such a towering moral and political figure – one of the finest of our age.  I enjoyed the book and found it a most enlightening take on this iconic man – he will be sadly missed and I firmly believe long remembered – I sincerely hope you take the time to read this remarkable story – I know you will get a great deal from it if you do so.
Allen and Unwin Hardback $24.99
  The subtitle of this lovely little book is “The Art and Science of Gardening Explained and Explored” and certainly in my humble opinion that certainly was accomplished by the author here.  It is a practical hands-on guide that will help you, the gardener, better understand how plants grow, what affects their performance and how to get better results from them
  As a novice gardener, quite a bit went over my head but in using this as a reference tool, I hope to broaden my gardening knowledge base quite considerably.  A great addition to your reference library – if you are a keen gardener, then this is certainly one for you.
Random House Hardback $49.95
  With a foreword by his long time comedy partner, Ronnie Corbett, this is a wonderful collection of some of the brilliant monologues, sketches and songs by the immortal Ronnie Barker, one of the finest comedic talents ever to grace our TV screens and film and theatrical stages.  I loved every word – some of the stories I had heard before (including the brilliant “Fork Handles” sketch which will go down in my personal history as one of the funniest ever written) but there were a great number that I had not.
  All are well worth the re-telling and will make the coming Autumn and Winter evenings go a lot easier for you this year.  But and enjoy this man’s remarkable talent.
Hachette Hardback $29.99
This is a great new novel from the man who gave us the inspirational “Tuesdays with Morrie” a book and movie that I really loved and was inspired by.  This lovely little book tells how the residents in a small town on Lake Michigan in the USA start receiving telephone calls from the afterlife – this becomes world wide news and receives unprecedented attention – is this the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax?  This is a real page turner about the power of belief and it will certainly touch your souls.  
  I love Mitch’s books and find them both entertaining and enlightening. They are also truly inspirational – please but read and enjoy this one – I know you won’t regret doing so and I know you will ALL get a lot out of it.
Faber Paperback $19.99
This I really enjoyed – it tackles some of the BIG questions asked of adults by LITTLE PEOPLE and gives appropriate answers from VERY BIG PEOPLE.
For instance – Is It OK to Eat a Worm???
If a Cow didn’t fart for a whole year and then did one big fart, would it fly into space????  Yes ……  Well!!
This is a lovely little book that has been put out in aid of the NSPCC in England (National Society fro the Prevention of Cruelty to Children).  I know you’ll get a good laugh out of some of the responses to these and other such “profound” questions and know you’ll enjoy the book immensely – you will also be doing a great service to the NSPCC – so if you want to read it PLEASE buy it and try not to get it from your local library unless you really have to do so.
Simon and Schuster Paperback $29.99
On occasion, I watch the Graham Norton show on Channel 10 and was fortunate to watch the New Year special a while back where they interviewed, amongst others, Jackie Collins and her older sister, acclaimed film and TV actress Joan.  I mention this because, when Graham asked her about this new novel, she said that it was really intended for adults but would have a strong appeal for young adults too as it deals with the teenage years of Lucky Santangelo, the heroine of several of her earlier novels (think “Lady Boss”, “Lucky” and “Chances” to name but three).  Here we have a typical Jackie Collins book full of glitz, glamour, crime (and dare I say it sex) that for me was aimed, notwithstanding her comments on TV, straight at young adult readers. I found it reasonably enjoyable as a young adult tale but I do think that grown ups can find something to enjoy amongst its pages – particularly as it is the back story as I said earlier one of her principal book series characters.  See what you think – I quite liked it.
Random House Paperback $29.95
You may recall on one of our commercial TV stations (I think channel Seven but I’m not sure) a show called “Hotel Babylon” which was a fictional (but based on fact we are assured) tale of life in a hotel in the centre of London UK.  Well………. this book from the same author(s) does the very same foe a major restaurant again in London presenting us with a day in the life of that restaurant with “the saucy secrets of the world’s finest kitchens”.  This is hilarious and (if it is as true a representation as it claims) very eye-opening.  Loved it.
Arena Paperback $29.99
This is Karly’s fourth book to date and is set in the town of Macksville in New South Wales.  Poppy, our heroine, finds an old diary belonging to her beloved grandmother and on reading it determined to find out more about the long-forgotten romance outlined in its pages.  As she does so, she uncovers a startling and heart wrenching story that she never expected to experience.  Based on true events that Karly had discovered about a post WW1 returned soldier in her home town, she weaves a wonderful tale of lost love and of Poppy’s finding love in an unexpected place.
This is one that although aimed at the ladies amongst our readers I quite enjoyed.  I always enjoy a story well told and this ranks with some of the best I have read in this genre.  Again, I hope you enjoy this one. 
Simon and Schuster Paperback $24.99
This is the first of Penny’s novels that I have read and I must say it was quite a different premise – it is aimed wholeheartedly at adult readers – not just the ladies amongst us.  Briefly, it tells of Mona who is hired by Theodora to look after her ageing father as a live in maid/carer and of the inevitable power struggles that occur between them as the story progresses.  It has quite a surprising ending and I truly enjoyed this slightly off centre book.  Know you’ll love it too.
SUMMER AT THE LAKE – ERICA JAMES Hachette Paperback $29.99
Floriana is a tour guide in the English city of Oxford, a job that she loves.  She has always been a procrastinator – having taken two years NOT to tell the love of her life how she feels about him – until – she gets a card from him (Seb) announcing his upcoming wedding. In her fluster at reading the announcement, she doesn’t see the car coming!!!!!!!!  The couple who rushed to her aid persuaded her to attend the wedding at Lake Como – so she goes……..How does it turn out? You’ll have to read the book to find out.  Definitely one for the ladies amongst our readership – I know you will all love it if you give it a go.
Hachette Paperback $29.99
Kate Furnivall is very good at writing stories about the recent past – particularly in regard to the Second World War – particularly “The White Pearl” which was set in Singapore – a lovely story.  This, her latest, is set in Nassau in the Bahamas and features a young girl, Dodie, who helps a man who she finds lying stabbed in a Nassau alleyway.  From there, we enter the world of wealthy socialites and businessmen and Dodie enters an arena that could threaten her safety because of several secrets that she holds.  Now read on…………
A good story well told – I know you will enjoy this and any other of her books that you find (you may recall I told you about her book “Shadows on the Nile” recently also).
Hachette Paperback $29.99
After reading her previous book, “Blackwattle Lake”, I really looked forward to reading this, her latest.  It tells the story of Miranda who is a successful lawyer and who is about to get married.  While preparing for her wedding, she looks for something old to wear (as is the wedding tradition) and finds evidence that perhaps her grandmother who she had believed to be dead might still be alive.
So as you do she sets out on a road trip to find the truth………and maybe to find herself in the process.
A really enjoyable read and one that you are going to love as people who enjoy this genre of writing.
Little Brown Hardback $34.99
If you have been following the re-runs of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency (set in Botswana in Africa) on the ABC on Friday nights recently – or if in fact you saw the series when it was first broadcast a while back, then you will be familiar with the central characters, in particular Mma Makutsi who runs the Agency in question, then you will love this the latest in McCall Smith’s wonderful series as she struggles to cope with motherhood, cobras and a senior aunt together with Mma Ramotwse who must in her stead cope with tea making duties and detective work!  I know that the ladies are great at multi tasking but this I know has stretched her capabilities to the absolute limit!
This is a lovely, light hearted and whimsical little book that I know you will really enjoy – I found it quite enchanting.  I love his work – in particular the Scotland Street series of stories also.  Enjoy!
Allen and Unwin Paperback $32.99
At last – a new instalment in the Mickey Haller series (the fifth novel in this critically acclaimed collection of novels that began with “The Lincoln Lawyer”.  I love Michael Connelly’s books and I particularly enjoy court room dramas of which this is a prime example.  This time, Mickey is asked to defend Andre LaCosse, who is accused of murdering a prostitute in a hotel room – the victim was a former client of Mickey’s, whom he had thought was no longer in “the life” as it is often called.  So….Mickey’s loyalties are somewhat torn – Great story altogether with all of the usual Connelly twists, turns, red herrings, et al.  It winds to a slightly unexpected conclusion but is an extremely fast paced and enjoyable read.  Loved it – every word.
Allen and Unwin Paperback $29.99
I really enjoy Adrian’s books – he is an extremely good writer and, now resident in Melbourne, I hope to carry out an interview with him at some stage in the future.
This is the third and latest book in the Sean Duffy series and is again set in and around Carrickfergus in the early 1980’s.  You may remember that Duffy is a catholic RUC policeman and as such is frowned upon to say the least by his Protestant compatriots.  Very fast paced indeed, this tells how after he has been suspended from the RUC on a trumped up charge, he is recruited by MI5 to carry out an extremely sensitive investigation on their behalf – find an IRA bomb maker who has escaped from the Maze prison and been trained in Gadaffi in Libya for his current mission against “the hated Brits” on their own turf.
Wow indeed – loved every minute – every word – right to the inevitable conclusion.  Read it and see whether you agree with me – I am sure you will!
Murdoch Books Paperback $29.99
This is the new Quinn Colson book from Ace Atkins – Quinn is an Army Ranger who is the new sheriff of Tebbelah County in the USA.  He is called out to investigate a case of child abuse.  What he finds is a horrifying scene of neglect and a shoebox full of cash!  From there, he rockets into a fast paced search for the fugitive couple who have left the money behind that takes him into contact with a Drug cartel that controls the land around the Texas border.  There are so many twists and turns and, as is my wont, I can’t tell you any more of the story for fear of spoiling it for you.  Suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it and know you will too.
Ace’s style and format is similar to that of Lee Child and Elmore Leonard (who incidentally gives this book and its author a definite thumbs up).  If you like this genre then this one is for you – if you are new to it then this would be a good place for you to start your journey into enjoyment.
Random House Paperback $32.95
Random House Paperback $32.95
As you may be well aware, over the past few years, James Patterson has taken to co-writing many of his books.  Here we have two recently released examples of that practice – “Gone” is his latest collaboration with Michael Ledwidge and is the new book in the Detective Michael Bennet series.  This time, a crime lord has escaped from police custody and has declared war on America in general and Michael Bennett in particular.  A great story in the classic Patterson tradition.
The second is the most recent in the “Private” series of novels this time being set in Los Angeles. Private is an international private investigation agency – we have had New York, Australia, Berlin and London recently to name but a few.  Here, Jack Morgan, proprietor of Private, has to find the abductors of the biggest superstar couple in Hollywood (there are distinct if fictional parallels with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in here) and their three children.  Again more twists and turns than the proverbial pig’s tail but another good yarn well told.
Both are fast paced and easy reading books written in a tried and true manner – I loved them both and if you have loved Patterson in the past you will absolutely adore him now with these two stellar offerings.
Little Brown Hardback $39.99
This is the latest in the Kay Scarpetta stories and, although a bit long winded at times, a great follow up to the earlier novels.  As you may (or may not) know, Scarpetta is a medical examiner working in Massachusetts, USA, who is given a body to examine and identify that was found on a rugby field in a sea of mud.  There are traces of a strange compound on and around her body that fluoresce red, green and blue.  She has to solve the puzzle before the killer strikes again – and he will!!
Loved it – have read all of her books to date and this is another goodie!
Headline Paperback $29.99
Stephanie Plum is a New Jersey bounty hunter – she is Janet’s principal book series character.  She has now appeared in twenty books (hence the title of this one).  His time, she has to bring Salvatore “Uncle Sunny” Sunucchi to justice when he skips bail after being accused of murder.  There begins an hilarious madcap romp of  a story that takes in Italian mobsters, her boyfriend’s grandma who is sheltering Sunny on occasion and a disappearing/reappearing giraffe!  I just love the comic almost slapstick nature of these stories – they make a refreshing change from some of this my favourite genre which often takes itself much too seriously.
This is a great little novel – I love Janet’s books and have read almost all of them to date.  I just know you’ll enjoy this one.
Hachette Paperback $19.99
This is the second of Boyd’s books that I have read on your behalf lately (the first being “The Tsunami Conspiracy” that I told you about a couple of issues back) and it is a real goodie.  His books are nearly always of the conspiracy theory type – this one is no exception.  If you put into the mix Darwin’s theory of evolution, a mass murder attempt on the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Loch Ness Monster, you have an intriguing, fast paced novel that takes us from the shores of Loch Ness to the absolute splendour of Versailles in France.  Love conspiracy theory stories – loved this one too.
Headline Paperback $14.99
Debra Webb has over a comparatively short period written nearly 100 books including the “Faces of Evil” series of which this is the fifth instalment.  Here, “The Five” comprises a group of five university undergraduates who became involved in a suspicious death just before their university careers were due to begin.  Now, twelve years on, someone sets out to exact a terrifying revenge on the five – this is made evident when Deputy Police Chief Jess Harris is called to the scene of the murder of one of the five.  She must catch him before the other four are murdered as well.  It is a cracking tale told at a cracking pace – many twists and turns of plot and many red herrings too. Loved it – very well written and very easy reading.  Hope you like it.
Orion Paperback $32.99
I love the John Rebus character that Ian Rankin first introduced us too many years ago.  Much as it is hard to read James Bond books without seeing him as Sean Connery (as you often do) so I can’t read the Rebus books without seeing him as his TV persona of Ken Stott – brilliant interpretation of such a seedy detective – such a wonderful interpretation.
This time, Rebus (who was sacked from the force in the last book), is newly back on the force, albeit having been demoted.  Now, Rebus’ old team from some thirty years ago is being re-investigated in regard to a 30 year old cold case.  ”He said – She said” situations abound and Rebus knows not who is now his friend and who his enemy – particularly as he is under investigation by Inspector Malcolm Fox from Internal Affairs.  Again, very fast paced and hard to put down – I read it virtually in one sitting over the Christmas break.  Loved it – hard to predict ending – I like that!
Hachette Paperback $29.99
  James Phelan is quite a prolific writer having written various series in the past primarily for young adults together with four books for adult readers - but this is the first in a new series aimed at the adult reader to feature Jed Walker who is an ex-CIA operative.  Here, a terrorist group codenamed Zodiac has designated 12 targets around the world for elimination.  It is Walker’s job to trace the men behind the elusive Zodiac cadre before they can achieve their elimination objective.  Loved it – I love spy stories with their twists and turns – this is a real goodie – hope you like it.  Please let me know, of course if you happen to read something I have recommended to you – I don’t mind whether or not you like it – it helps to give me some feedback on the kinds of stories you like. ....But we digress!
Random House Paperback $32.99
Chris Muir is one of that rare breed – an erudite writer with an innate ability to keep his reading audience captivated with a good story that is genuinely unputdownable.  This is a gripping and action-packed thriller that is set in the lawless wilds of Africa’s Congo – a hotbed of unrest. If ever there was one.
Our hero is Jack Norton, an ex-Navy SEAL who arrives in Africa with the best of intentions.  But he is sucked in to being a rather jaded mercenary by the inherent corruption of the Congo.  The complex story involves blood diamonds, the child soldiers of the Congo, the doctors of Medecin Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Frontiers) all the while trying to save both a small army of orphaned African children and his own skin in the process.
Phew!!!  Thoroughly enjoyed this one – lots of totally unexpected side roads and friends who suddenly become enemies who are really friends……..or are they???
Read and love this one – it will keep you on the edge of your collective seats.
BROKEN DOLLS – JAMES CAROL Faber Paperback $19.99
James is a new author to me – this is his first novel and it features ex FBI profiler Jefferson Winter – and this promises to be a really good series (I understand that James has several more books in the writing/planning stages for this splendid series).
Winter arrives in London to seek out what kind of psychopath is on the loose lobotomising young women during an exceptionally cold snap during that City’s cold winter weather.  After many false starts and wrong turnings he finds himself on the trail of the killer – or does he????  But Jefferson Winter is not your average private eye – his father is one of America’s most renowned serial killers – is Jefferson like his father?  Maybe – maybe not – you’ll have to read it for yourselves – and I strongly recommend that you do – notwithstanding this is James’ first book, it has already been optioned by an independent TV production company headed by no less than Stephen Fry.  I predict great things for James Carol – a great writer if ever I read one!
Allen and Unwin Paperback $29.99
At Last!  A new Cliff Hardy novel from Australia’s Peter Corris – I really love his work and I was really looking forward to this one when I knew it was being released.  I wasn’t disappointed.  This time Cliff, who is not getting any younger, is hired to solve a murder after being hired to act as bodyguard to a charismatic political campaigner who has ruffled more than a few feathers in his time.  Now – how does his political future tie in with the murder Hardy is investigating?  That is the question to which you’ll have to read the book for yourselves to find out!  Another great Aussie read – you’ll love it I’m sure.
Random House Paperback $32.95
You may remember Andy McNab – the ex-British SAS soldier – and hero of several conflicts including the Gulf War – turned gritty action and adventure packed storyteller.  This is the latest in a long line of novels – some are based on his life (i.e. “Bravo Two Zero”) and some purely fictional BUT based on credible scenarios.  Our hero this time is Nick Stone – who Andy has featured in a very successful series of novels – who when his girlfriend and new born son are threatened finds himself having to confront a man from his past who has a serious personal score to settle with Nick.  From Moscow to Mexico, this is a tantalisingly fast paced story that has (as I really like and am often wont to say in these reviews) many unexpected plot twists until it reaches its, to me at least, almost unexpected conclusion. Loved it – buy it and read for yourselves what I liked about this great tale.
Hachette Hardback $39.99
And finally for this issue a real stunner of a book – of all crime genres, I really get off on courtroom drama and here Grisham really hits the nail on the head for me. It is the sequel to his very first novel, published all this years ago titled “A Time To Kill” and it has been really worth the wait.  Our hero, Jake Brigance, has never met Seth Hubbard – and is surprised to learn that he has been appointed by Hubbard to administer his will – which is absolute dynamite – the majority of his not inconsiderable fortune has been left to his housekeeper and Jake must defend the will at all costs and also defend the housekeeper who is accused of forging this new will.
Phew!!!  VERY fast paced and many many surprises in store for Hubbard’s family and likewise for you, the reader.  If like me you enjoy courtroom drama in general and John Grisham in particular then this book is an absolute must for you.
Well that’s it for books this issue.  Remember, if I haven’t heard of an author before or if it is a new author, I hope you will take my recommendations into consideration when selecting your reading matter and give them a good go.  I will say no more at this juncture and wish you happy reading, and see you all in the next issue.  I hope you enjoy my recommendations as much as I have enjoyed reading them on both your and my own behalf.

This issue we have a new CD from Daniel O’Donnell who will be in Perth at the Riverside Theatre at the Perth Convention Centre on 20th March (see elsewhere in this issue for details and also you can read about my chat with Daniel late last Month).  Entitled “A Picture of You” it has a lot of songs that you will all no doubt be familiar with (although Daniel has not recorded them himself before).  The title track is a particular favourite of mine (being written for one of my teenage and current musical idols Joe Brown by Peter Oakman, his bass player in the early 1960’s incarnation of Joe’s backing band The Bruvvers) and Daniel does an excellent arrangement of this great little song.  Also amongst my favourite tracks are Daniel’s interpretations of the timeless “Moon River”. Love Letters in the Sand” and Gene Pitney’s “If I didn’t have a dime”
I guess Daniel will be doing several of the songs from this album in his Perth show in March. – hope to see you there.