Review: Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid


Internationally best-selling crime writer Val McDermid has riveted millions of readers worldwide with her acutely suspenseful, psychologically complex, seamlessly plotted thrillers. In Northanger Abbey, she delivers her own, witty, updated take on Austen’s classic novel about a young woman whose visit to the stately home of a well-to-do acquaintance stirs her most macabre imaginings, with an extra frisson of suspense that only McDermid could provide.

Cat Morland is ready to grow up. A homeschooled minister’s daughter in the quaint, sheltered Piddle Valley in Dorset, she loses herself in novels and is sure there is a glamorous adventure awaiting her beyond the valley’s narrow horizon. So imagine her delight when the Allens, neighbors and friends of her parents, invite her to attend the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh as their guest. With a sunny personality, tickets every night and a few key wardrobe additions courtesy of Susie Allen, Cat quickly begins to take Edinburgh by storm and is taken into the bosom of the Thorpe family, particularly by eldest daughter Bella. And then there’s the handsome Henry Tilney, an up-and-coming lawyer whose family home is the beautiful and forbidding Northanger Abbey. Cat is entranced by Henry and his charming sister Eleanor, but she can’t help wondering if everything about them is as perfect as it seems. Or has she just been reading too many novels? A delectable, note-perfect modern update of the Jane Austen classic, Northanger Abbey tells a timeless story of innocence amid cynicism, the exquisite angst of young love, and the value of friendship.

Things I love: Jane Austen, Scotland, History, Vampires

Things this book has: Jane Austen, Scotland, History, Vampires

I’d heard about this series ages ago – before they were actually published I believe – but it took me awhile to get around to reading them which is a shame. This one is fast paced, sticks to the theme of Jane Austen (woman is thrown into new circumstances, meets attractive boy, meets a friend who she thinks is great, said friend has a brother who is out to ruin her, said friend turns out not who she says but woman gets happily ever after as well as the secret that nearly ruins her). I might have known exactly what was going to happen throughout the book, but it was absolutely riveting nonetheless and I kept going wanting to know what would happen, how things would happen. Done perfectly the book while keeping true to Jane Austen it was modern enough that it didn’t feel like it was just rewriting the original novel.

McDermid, mixed in modern day Scotland from the Book Fair to the locations with ease.

Now that wasn’t to say it was perfect in any way. There are certainly bits that annoyed me – the constant texting back and forth using netspeak? Yes they’re teenagers in 2015, but I just even in my mid 20s had to take a moment and actually sit back to try and figure out what they were talking about at times. The obsession with Twilight? Sure there is a fascination with Vampires and gothic mysteries but it might have gone a bit too overboard at times to the point I was rolling my eyes while I read certain passages of the book.

General Tilney & idiot!boy (John Trollope). I wanted to smack them. Yes, that was the point but you’d think her friends and he would actually take the chance to talk things through rather than jumping to conclusions. That bit was probably one of the more, frustrating aspects of the novel.

I think I came in expecting to enjoy the book but otherwise didn’t have high expectations, I wasn’t expecting literary greatness. As much as I enjoy McDermid’s books she isn’t Austen but in fact, a crime writing and this is aimed for young adults. So overall I think it was a fairly enjoyable read.

★ ★ ★ ★ / 5

Review: A Matter of Record: A History of Public Records Office Victoria by Professor EW Russell


A Matter of Record: a history of Public Record Office Victoria explores the history of formal government record-keeping that culminated in the establishment of a Public Records Office in the 1970s.


It’s a well-known fact to many people that I love history. So when I first heard about this book through the Public Record Office when I was there for a part of the University Study Visit my reaction was MUST READ. So, while I sat there listening to them I requested it via Inter-Library Loan as my local library didn’t have it. It took awhile for it to come, but I do not regret it at all. Not that long a read, coming in just over 150 pages (plus 50+ pages of appendixes and notes). Broken down into sections that covered periods of Melbourne’s history it details record keeping from the time Melbourne was founded in 1835 through to 2003 when the book was published.


Detailing how certain people and events influenced record keeping as well as the people who were against it, it looked at both sides of the arguments. It was interesting (and horrible to me) just how much people were adverse to the founding of a Records Office, that it wasn’t until the 70s that it took place though people had suggested for decades past that Melbourne needed a central place to be in charge of their record keeping. While there had been other places in the past from the Public Library of Victoria (now the State Library) to a depository out in Laverton. To me, the worst bit was how careless people in the past were and what happened during the second world war. While people fought to save files there were so many that were destroyed during this time that it broke my heart (and made me quite angry at the same time!). In truth it wasn’t until the 1920s and later that we as a state started to realise the importance of record management


To me though the most interesting part was the opposition that stood in the way of actual record keeping and the extent that we had to go to, to get even the legislation that we have today written. Previously there were memos detailing what could and couldn’t happen to files but as the book suggests not everyone followed it.


Either way this book was incredibly interesting to read though it was infuriating at times looking back at the processes and it had the added bonus of being incredibly useful for an assignment I was doing at that particular moment.


★ ★ ★ ★ / 5

Review: Pennies for Hitler by Jackie French


It′s 1939, and for Georg, son of an English academic living in Germany, life is full of cream cakes and loving parents. It is also a time when his teacher measures the pupils′ heads to see which of them have the most ′Aryan′- shaped heads. But when a university graduation ceremony turns into a pro-Nazi demonstration, Georg is smuggled out of Germany to war-torn London and then across enemy seas to Australia where he must forget his past and who he is in order to survive.

Hatred is contagious, but Georg finds that kindness can be, too.

The companion book for HITLER′S DAUGHTER, PENNIES FOR HITLER examines the life of a child during World War 2, from a different perspective

I’ve been a fan of Jackie French my entire life. I think I was 10, maybe younger when I first read one of her novels. I’m now in my mid-twenties. I literally grew up with her and to see her still writing and her novels still being just as amazing to me now as they were to me when I was younger is brilliant. Sometimes as you grew older those favourite author’s you had then just don’t live up to your now older expectations. Jackie French certainly isn’t one of those.


While published many years after Hitler’s Daughter, Pennies for Hitler ties in nicely with it. The writing, while aimed for young adults is captivating and yes it moves quickly but you have to keep in mind that the book – just over 300 pages – covers pre-war through to the end of the war (in the epilogue). Despite that, Jackie French hit the most important parts and you could understand what Georg(e) was going through during his time in Germany then England and Australia during the war as he pretended to be someone he wasn’t. Perhaps in a predictable way, his foster family reacted to the news of who he was but for a YA book that is to be expected, you can’t have it too dark or it would no longer be a YA novel.


The letters throughout the book gave insight into the characters both Georg(e) and the others writing them which not only broke the story up (though it was great) it allowed the author to give us information that was important and interesting without dragging the story on further


Once again Jackie French as proved herself to be a wonderful and amazing author. I would have liked a more solid ending to the novel than what was provided by the author.


★ ★ ★ ★ / 5

Review: From Potter’s Field by Patricia Cornwell


In From Potter’s Field, #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Cornwell enters the chilling world of Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta—and a bold, brilliant killer from her past. Upon examining a dead woman found in snowbound Central Park, Scarpetta immediately recognizes the grisly work of Temple Brooks Gault. She soon realizes that Gault’s murders are but a violent chain leading up to one ultimate kill—Scarpetta herself.

From Potter’s Field is the 6th Kay Scarpetta novel, one that I original read years ago but picked up again recently when the library was throwing out the audio book. I took the opportunity to grab it among the other audio books that were available at the time. Kay Scarpetta, Cheif Medical Officer for Virginia, is back along with her niece Lucy and Benton Wesley her FBI co-worker and person she is having an affair with. So’s Temple Gault who is described as one of the worst serial killers ever. Problem? He’s bad, he has killed a lot of people but compared to some of the serial killers that we’ve actually experienced over the history of Earth what he does doesn’t actually seem that bad. Though, he does stalk and threaten all those who Scarpetta holds dear to herself. I’m not saying he isn’t bad, far from it, Gault is sadistic and isn’t all there as we learn through the book as we discover the identity of his latest victim and what happened during his childhood. He’s sadistic, he loves causing people pain but he isn’t violentcompared to some of the others. Still, Scarpetta is determined to catch him once and for all and is flying all over America in a space of the two weeks that the book takes place in. She goes to Washington a number of times, New York at least twice and a few other places. Except the place where she really should and wants to be, Miami with her mother and niece celebrating Christmas. I thought this was rather over the top, a lot she could do over the phone and half the trips seemed that she would turn up, discuss something or find something out and then turn around and head somewhere else. Not sure why she did all of them but I guess that’s why I didn’t writhe the books? The book is fast paced, not that well written and somewhat predictable in places but still fun if you like that sort of book.

★ ★/5

Review: Murder at Hatfield House & Murder at Westminister Abbey by Amanda Carmack

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Read: 21 – 25 June so apologies for how vague these reviews are. Playing catch up. I was also rather doped up on pain medication having had my wisdom teeth out.

I picked up these two books to read from work based on their titles alone. I don’t regret it. Of course I rarely regret reading anything with Elizabeth I in it so… They weren’t the most literature based books but they were enjoyable.

They were quick reads, fast paced but full of action and excitement. The main characters were a Musican (both fictional) in Elizabeth’s household who gets caught up in the murder mysteries and has to solve them. Surprisingly with these stories the end wasn’t actually predictable (at least too me) for which I was thankful for.

Elizabeth unlike some of the novels appeared to be accurate personality wise (not that we really know but what we know of her it is a reasonable conclusion to make) and Kate (the musician) was an interesting character who had her flaws which was good. The descriptions were interesting but not too drawn out which was nice. All in all it they were good and enjoyable books.

Review: Library Wars volumes 1-4 by Kiiro Yumi

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Not long into the future, Japan’s government passes a Media Betterment Act which allows them to confiscate books that they deem unsuitable. The Library Freedom act allows libraries to halt the confiscation of books and allow the public to read whatever they want.


Iku Kasahara, the main character has dreamed of joining the Library Forces ever since her ‘prince’ stops a raid and allows her to keep the book. It isn’t easy for her at first but she slowly starts to show promise though she often runs head long into situations she is absolutely determined to do her absolute best to allow the public access to their books.


The first volume was slow and somewhat boring but as it was setting the scene for the future volumes it wasn’t all too bad. As the volumes progress and we see more and more into Iku’s personality and history as well as the other characters it starts to become more interesting. At times, especially towards the beginning it seems that Kasahara is rather perfect and even when she does bad she doesn’t get in trouble. It has the typical teacher that cares but pushes her hard, the perfect boy who likes her but is frustrated with her nonetheless.


Still, I’m interested to see where it goes and if Kasahara stops making herserlf seem like a fool as often as she does so far in the series.

Review: Death by Choice by Vicki Hutchinson


I don’t even know why I picked up this book to begin with but I’m glad I did. It was confronting and brutally honest. It tore at my heart strings and even knowing what was coming I couldn’t help but tear up. All I wanted to do was take Vicki in my arms and hug her, to make her pain go away. She is such a strong and amazing woman to have gone through all that she has is absolutely amazing. She really is an inspiration. Vicki wrote the book as a way for her to deal with the deaths of her brother and father that happened within three months of each other. She had spent three decades working as a mental health nurse to then be confronted by her brother who was suffering from suicidal thoughts and couldn’t do anything about it. For the first time she went from the side of the nurse to seeing what it was like for the families of the people who suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts, whether they ended up committing suicide like her brother or not. All the while she was dealing with a teenage daughter, two boys that she took in to help raise who suffered from

Vicki wrote the book as a way for her to deal with the deaths of her brother and father that happened within three months of each other. She had spent three decades working as a mental health nurse to then be confronted by her brother who was suffering from suicidal thoughts and couldn’t do anything about it. For the first time she went from the side of the nurse to seeing what it was like for the families of the people who suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts, whether they ended up committing suicide like her brother or not. All the while she was dealing with a teenage daughter, two boys that she took in to help raise who suffered from aspergers and destructive behaviour and the breakdown of her relationship and her own struggles with depression.

The book, as it was written as her way to deal with what happened and with the hopes of helping others in the same situation was rather short (161 pages) as were the chapters. While in many ways it seemed to skim over details it gave you enough to keep you captivated and intrigued, wanting to know what happened next. Even knowing what would happen I found myself praying that it wouldn’t, that everything would come out alright. Overall it is certainly a book I’m glad to have picked up even if it has left me in a rather fragile state.

Review: F2M by Hazel Edwards & Ryan Kennedy


I picked up this book at the beginning of April to read as she’ was attending a festival I’m helped run and doing a talk on this book and I’m glad I did. It’s a simple and easy read but completely fascinating. Skye, the main character is an 18 year old who was born as a female but has always known that there was something different about her, that she was in fact a male stuck inside a females body.

Based on the true story of Ryan Kennedy, a family friend of Hazel Edwards, F2M explores what it is like to be a transgendered person in today’s society. Skye, takes the steps to become the man she wants to be in researching and befriending other transgendered people online before eventually meeting them in person. She’s hesitant in telling her family about it but along the way she discovers that her Grandmother’s sibling was also transgendered, someone she has always felt drawn too.

While F2M does progress rather quickly and seems rushed iin some places it is thought provoking and very much an eye opener for those people who aren’t fully aware of what it is like to be transgendered, if you aren’t, then you really don’t have any ideas what it would be like to be born in the wrong body.

Review: The Mysterious at Styles by Agatha Christie


I’ve always been a fan of mysteries and enjoyed the few episodes of Agatha Christie mysteries that I’d seen in the past. Having the opportunity to pick up the very first Poirot mystery was a brilliant opportunity that I didn’t hesitate in taking advantage of and something I wasn’t disappointed about at all. Poirot was fun, was excitable and made me laugh. I constantly wanted to the story to speed up so I could know exactly what he was thinking. It wasn’t just that which was interesting, it was well everything about the story that pulled me in.

It is very easy, listening to this book to see why Christie is still such a renowned and popular writer nearly a century later. The twists and turns were well executed and I at least didn’t see the end coming for which I’m grateful for. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the series too before starting in on the Miss Marple ones.

Review: Borgen: Outside the Castle by Tommy Bredsted, Joan Rang Christensen, Rum Malmros


Borgen: Outside of the Castle is based upon the Danish Ministry and one of their works, the Permanent Secretary of Environment and his battle to get a Environmental friendly GMO approved. At the same time he is fighting Momentum, an American company who is trying to get their own approved though it causes unimaginable side effects.

Borgen: Outside of the Castle, is originally a 5 part radio play that is incredibly topical. Unfortunately, no matter how topical and interesting the plot could have been the story just lacked something to keep my attention. The main characters were the Permanent Secretary and his grandson who is a GA activist trying to help his grandfather as well as his fellow GA’s. The PS, is obsessed with getting it approved as well as with his work in general but due to this his life takes an unexpected turn leaving him in a lurch. His daughter, holds a grudge against him for how much time he spends working while she was a child. It feels like at least half the book if not more had the family arguing with one another and while I understand it was supposed to create friction it just seemed pointless half the time. The plot twist was fairly obvious too which was a let down.

Over all it was an okay, novel but it had so much potential to be better than it actually was.