Tag Archives: janet evanovich

The power of books

I have just had a post about reading memories published by the online magazine Mamamia. Whilst the title chosen for the piece refers to the huge influence certain books have on us, my intention in writing the post was more about highlighting the powerful ability of books to trigger memories from different periods in our lives.

You can read the piece here.

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Top 10 reads for summer

This list is my personal one. As much as I enjoy young adult fiction, the summer break means I don’t have to read as much of it and can enjoy a few indulgences. These are the books I am going to read, re-read or that I read last summer and now recommend to you:

1. Shall we Dance? by Maggie Alderson.

I read this last summer and it was divine. Maggie Alderson weaves the romantic world of vintage fashion into the modern world of motherhood and relationships. I loved this book so much it deliberately takes first place at the top of the list.

 

2. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

This is wrapped and waiting under the tree for me. It’s P.D James appropriating the characters of Pride and Prejudice to create a classic murder mystery, set in 1803.

 

3. The Shadow Girl by John Larkin

I had to put one young adult fiction on the list. Read my review of this wonderful book here.

 

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s time to re-read this in preparation for Baz Luhrmann’s movie in 2012. I last read Gatsby in 1986, so it’s definitely time for a re-visit.

 

5. All that I Am by Anna Funder

This is another one on my summer wish list. I have read numerous glowing reviews of Anna Funder’s first novel, which has been compared to Suite Franҫaise and The Reader.

 

6. Lola’s Secret by Monica McInerney.

Summer wouldn’t be summer without Monica McInerney. For twenty years she has moved between Australia and Ireland, working as a writer and producing best-selling novels. I secretly covet her life.

 

7. How Now, Brown Frau by Merridy Eastman

This is the third memoir by Merridy Eastman, following There’s a Bear in There and Ridiculous Expectations. This one caught my interest as it recounts Merridy’s move to Bavaria to begin a new life with her German fiancé. Having lived in Bavaria for a short time as a teenager, I knew I would connect with Merridy’s experiences. What I didn’t expect was to enjoy her humour and wit so much.

 

8. Worse Things Happen at Sea by William McInnes and Sarah Watt.

Part biography, part love story, this is a poignant collection of reminiscences. Sarah Watt, the celebrated filmmaker, died from breast cancer earlier this year. For this reason alone, the book is somewhat confronting, but it is also a powerful salute to the vitality of the human spirit and the beauty of love.

 

9. Emma by Jane Austen

I re-read an Austen every year, and this year it’s Emma’s turn.

 

10. Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich.

What can I say? Stephanie Plum, Lulu and Grandma Mazur just make me laugh.

 

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My top 10 heroes in literature

It is nigh on impossible to pick just ten heroes from the plethora of books I have read over the years. To narrow it down, I decided  to concentrate on the characters who stayed with me long after I read the final chapter; characters whom I used as a yardstick to measure the charm and integrity of others; and characters that I simply enjoyed for their unique and enduring appeal. After much deliberation, I came up with this list:
 

1. Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell)

Scarlett is rebellious and manipulative but at the same time she is so full of passion, courage and determination that it is impossible not to admire her spirit. She is unafraid to buck convention: when she is young for her own gain; as she matures out of sheer loyalty to those she loves and protects. She is one of the vainest, fiercest and possibly least insightful characters I have ever read, and I simply adore her.

2. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)

So great is his love for Elizabeth Bennett, he moves heaven and earth to save the reputation of her sister Lydia, one of Austen’s least likeable characters. Moreover, he is man enough to admit his failings and mistakes, and concede his pride. He is literature’s perfect gentleman.

3. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte)

She is a strong, intelligent woman and like so many literary protagonists, well before her time. She utters one of the most powerfully moving short sentences in literary history: “Reader, I married him”.
 

© Catherine Powers 2011

4. Neville Longbottom (Harry Potter series, J.K.Rowling)

Much like the ugly duckling, Neville blossoms into an extraordinary young man and leader in the Deathly Hallows. Throughout the previous Harry Potter books Neville is constantly bullied and harassed, yet he never loses his pleasant demeanour, nor does he waver from his hatred of Voldemort or his loyalty towards his family.

5. Fanny Price (Mansfield Park, Jane Austen)

Fanny is regarded as Austen’s least likeable heroine, but she is one of my favourites.  Fanny has to endure hardship and discrimination but never ever yields from her admirable scruples and innate goodness. Her childhood is hideous, she is treated poorly at Mansfield Park, particularly by the revolting Mrs Norris, yet she is never tempted to change who she is. Like all of Austen’s women she extremely self-assured, yet unlike Emma, she is not arrogant in her self-acceptance.

6. Jean Pagett (A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute)

As a teenage girl I was mesmerised by Jean in A Town Like Alice. She spent three years as a POW being marched around Malaysia, surviving the brutalities of war. Later when she finds out Joe Harman is still alive, she travels half way around the world to a very foreign country to find him. She endures the harshness of outback Australia with dignity and humour, and shows entrepreneurial skill in an era when women garnered little co-operation or respect in doing so. She is one tough lady.

7. Rhett Butler (Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell)

Much as I don’t want to list two characters from the same book (even if it is a Pulitzer Prize winner), it would be dishonest of me not to include Rhett as one of my favourite heroes. Despite his best attempts to appear otherwise, Rhett is a decent, caring and sympathetic man. Extremely intelligent, impeccably dressed, warm and sensual he may be literature’s first metrosexual.

8. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)

The most honourable man and father in literature, progressive, tolerant and well before his time, Atticus is a true literary hero.

9. Felix (Once, Morris Gleitzman , and the sequels Then and Now)

Felix is possibly the most candid, clever, funny and likeable boy I’ve read in recent years. In a novel that tackles one of the most tragic times in modern history, the Holocaust, Gleitzman manages to create a character who is utterly charming. Felix is a beautiful hero as his spirit never changes despite the trauma he endures.

10. Grandma Mazur (Stephanie Plum books, Janet Evanovich)

Indulge me. The Stephanie Plum books could hardly be called literature, but Grandma Mazur has to be on this list because she makes me laugh out loud and I want to be just like her when I grow up.

With special mentions to: Madame (Emma) Bovary, Elizabeth Bennett, Emma Woodhouse, Anna Karenina, Holly Golightly and the Cat in the Hat.

Who is your favourite literary character?

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The Siren’s Sting

 

The Siren’s Sting by Miranda Darling

Published by Allen & Unwin, 2011

 

For some time I’ve wondered about Miranda Darling. Just who is she? I somehow missed Darling’s initial success, having not read her first thriller The Troika Dolls, but have begun to wonder about this ‘new’ author whose name kept cropping up in book lists everywhere. Then the kind people at Allen & Unwin sent me a copy of Darling’s latest novel The Siren’s Sting and so I was introduced to the fast-paced world of risk assessor Stevie Duveen.

The Siren’s Sting begins with Stevie playing minder to a temperamental opera star on a luxury yacht off the coast of Somalia. The yacht is attacked by pirates and Stevie is injured as she helps thwart the attack. Whilst recuperating from these injuries at her grandmother’s villa in Sardina, Stevie is given another job from David Rice, her boss at Hazard, to assess a threat on the son of Clemence and Vaughan Krok. And so begins a frantic thriller, with intricate plot twists and turns, and multiple glamorous settings ranging from the Mediterranean to Venice, from Azerbaijan to Malaga in Spain.

This is certainly not a thriller for the faint-hearted. Darling weaves a clever web of intrigue, spun by a cast of glamorous players: arms-dealers, aristocrats and the super-wealthy. With its illustrious setting and dazzling characters The Siren’s Sting reminds me of a James Bond novel, with one major difference: for me, Stevie Duveen lacks the charisma of 007. This may be as a result of the oft-referred to loss and trauma which she suffered prior to The Siren’s Sting.

Not having read the first Stevie Duneen novel, I may not be fully qualified to question Darling’s portrayal of her protagonist in this work. Part of me just yearned for Stevie to have more chutzpah like Lisa Scottoline’s Bennie Rosato or have more of the clutzy but lovable personality of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. To be fair, Stevie’s enigmatic demeanour is a minor shortcoming, as the vast array of rich and eclectic characters overall will satisfy the hardest to please reader. I may just have to get to know Stevie better. This appears to be inevitable as the ending of The Siren’s Sting is clearly left open for a third book in the Stevie Duveen franchise.

I’ll be back for more. The Siren’s Sting is a fresh, intelligent and unique thriller. Darling clearly understands international security and intrigue, and this translates to an innovative and exciting story. Replete with exotic locations and larger than life characters, The Siren’s Sting is the perfect book to take on holidays and read beside the pool.

Definitely one for the Christmas stocking.

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