Hide and Seek: The Shadow Tracer

Today I’m pleased to be able to welcome a brand new TBYL Reviewer to the team, Narelle Connell.  Narelle is a fellow book worm, and I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of the many books I’m going to send her way. Today she’s reviewing Meg Gardiner’s The Shadow Tracer (Penguin) a thriller, penned by ‘the next suspense superstar’ according to Stephen King (quite an endorsement, yes?)

Here’s what Narelle thought of this wild ride of a novel…

***

shadow tracerWhen someone wants to find you badly enough, vanishing is no longer an option.

Sarah Keller is a young single mother living in Oklahoma with her five year-old daughter, Zoe. Her day job is to hunt out people on the run and bring them to justice. So imagine how it looks when a school bus accident sends Zoe to the ER and tests reveal Sarah can’t be Zoe’s mother.

Sarah has been living a lie for years and finally the truth is coming out. Who is she? Who were Zoe’s parents? And why does Zoe’s identity bring the FBI down on Sarah’s tail in mere minutes?

The FBI is the least of her worries, though. Sarah needs to keep Zoe off the grid, but with a sinister religious cult also preparing to attack, where on earth can they hide?

Something deadly lurks in Sarah’s past and its resurrection brings terror to all it touches.

Straight away, I was hooked by the premise of The Shadow Tracer, a fast-paced and intricately crafted thriller that focuses on Sarah Keller, a woman on the run with five year Zoe in tow. Sarah has spent the last five years raising Zoe on her own, making a living as a skip tracer tracking down people who don’t want to be found. Over time, Sarah has learned to lead a quiet life that draws no unwanted attention to herself and Zoe.

But, all this is shattered when Zoe’s involvement in an accident leads to information that threatens to reveal both their true identities and sets in motion a chain of events involving the FBI and a religious cult that is hell bent on finding Zoe and destroying anyone who gets in their way.

From the beginning I was both empathetic to and intrigued by Sarah’s character, wanting to find out more about the events that led Zoe to her and sent her into hiding. Gardiner takes the reader along on a rollicking ride through Texas and New Mexico as Sarah and Zoe become fugitives. Along the way, they encounter an FBI agent with his own reasons for wanting vengeance, a nun with some unusual skill sets and a US Marshal prepared to flout the rules.

The action and plot move almost as quickly as Sarah does across the desert, making this book a page-turner I was eager to keep reading until the end. I was especially intrigued by Sarah’s efforts to leave no trace behind and the methods she uses, contrasted with the underhand efforts of those on her tail to track her and Zoe down. Although the novel’s main focus is on the action, through her relationship with and fierce protection of Zoe we see a softer side to Sarah that keeps the reader hoping she can stay one step ahead.

texas“When Beth died, Sarah had thought nothing could be worse. How wrong she’d been. 

The sun glared white in the windshield. The highway arrowed to the vanishing point on a horizon of wind-bent grass. She wiped away tears with the heel of her hand.

Disappearing was possible. Look at the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Those posters of sullen criminals showed men and women who had vanished. Some of them had been on the run for twenty years. If they could do it, so could she. 

That’s what he’d told her. Get out of here. Run. Hide. 

Five years earlier she’d done exactly that. Now she was doing it again. She blew past a road sign. WELCOME TO TEXAS, THE LONE STAR STATE. ” 

With surprising plot twists, well crafted characters and a heart-racing showdown, I thoroughly enjoyed The Shadow Tracer and definitely recommend it.

***

Find out more about Meg Gardiner’s The Shadow Tracer here…

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Healing: Currawong Creek

Today’s novel, reviewed by Tam, had her reflecting on this great rural land of ours…

***

Currawong Creek by Jennifer Scoullar (Penguin) is a beautiful story of family, healing and self-discovery set against the backdrop of the amazing Australian outback!

currawongBrisbane lawyer Clare Mitchell has a structured, orderly life. That is, until she finds herself the unlikely guardian of a small, troubled boy. In desperation, Clare takes Jack to stay at Currawong Creek, her grandfather’s horse stud in the foothills of the beautiful Bunya Mountains.

Currawong feels like home and Clare relaxes for the first time in years. Her grandad adores having them there. Jack loves the animals. And Clare finds herself falling hard for the handsome local vet.

But trouble is coming. The Pyramid Mining Company threatens to destroy the land Clare loves – and with it, her newfound happiness …

I loved this novel from start to finish. It is full of powerful, individual characters that I found myself caring for quickly. Clare thinks she has her life on exactly the track she always wanted for herself. She has a successful career, handsome boyfriend and a lovely organised apartment in the heart of Brisbane. However, all this gets incredibly complicated when she takes guardianship of Jack, a troubled four year old who one morning is abandoned, left in her office by his mother, one of Clare’s clients.

Clare is faced with a challenge she could never have seen coming.

Clare hasn’t spoken to her grandparents or visited their farm for fifteen years, but with the arrival of Jack she starts thinking back to her own childhood. Jack proves to be more of a handful than Clare anticipated, and this prompts her to take a trip to a simpler life, to reconnect with her grandfather and revisit the land that she loved most as a child, Currawong Creek.

When Clare arrives at the farm she reconnects with Harry, her grandfather. She also meets the handsome local vet, Tom. These three, plus young Jack bond quickly, forming a family and the growth and healing begin. This story shows the influence that caring people can have, but interestingly, also the natural healer that the land and animals can be.

Another aspect of this story is that of the environment, and the environmental issues that face Australian farmers. The residents of Currawong find themselves fighting against a big corporation, Pyramid Mining Company. Pyramid want access to the land to do exploratory mining for coal seam gas. The little guys against the corporates! Jennifer Scoullar tells an interesting tale of the immediate rights the mining company have to the land, the effect that the mines have on these homesteads and the struggle the farmers have to maintain what have been their homes for generations.

Having grown up on a farm myself and in a small town, I found myself thinking back to these memories vividly. Feeling as though I could almost smell the land, hear my grandparents speaking and re-living the adventures. This made me connect with this story so much more. A truly wonderful novel showing struggle, laughter, sacrifice and love and the power of the beautiful country we are living in.

***

You can find out more about Jennifer Scoullar’sCurrawong Creek here…

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Heatwave: A Bitter Taste

After reading A Bitter Taste by Annie Hauxwell (Penguin) you’d be forgiven for thinking that London is intensely bleak, even when the sun is shining…

This dark and sordid tale, is lead by, and perhaps also coloured by drug-addicted investigator Catherine Berlin…

A Bitter TasteTreachery becomes a habit. 

London is in the grip of a stifling heatwave. The city has slowed to a claustrophobic shuffle. Heroin-addicted investigator Catherine Berlin suffers while working the lowest of investigations: matrimonial.

The city’s junkies are in the grip of a drought of a different kind. Sonja Kvist a strung-out ghost from Berlin’s past, turns up on her doorstep. Sonja daughter is missing. An unpaid debt leaves Berlin no choice but to take the case of the missing ten-year-old. 

Berlin is back. And soon the hunter becomes the hunted: corrupt detectives are on Berlin’s tail chasing drugs she doesn’t have, a young girl is murdered and the matrimonial case unravels. 

And the temperature keeps rising.

Despite her pervasive cynicism and being both physically and emotionally damaged, Berlin still can’t resist the pull to do the right thing, to search for a girl lost in a dangerous city. She’s doing it for Princess, she’s doing it for Sonja, but most of all she’s doing it for atonement.

Even though this book is relentlessly gritty, A Bitter Taste is a really enjoyable read. It is fast-paced, with Berlin pushing against the clock, the weather and her physical limitations. It offers up varied story-threads, well intertwined and played out by multiple characters, all of whom are playing for a piece of a very unappetising pie…

Kennedy ruminated on the fact that Bertie had him sitting in the back of a stinking hotbox of a van in Silvertown when he should have been off-duty.

It was funny how it was always him doing this sort of thing. Bertie saved himself for the high-end stuff, like belting people. Kennedy didn’t have the stomach for it. Occasions when his own buttons were pushed were rare, but when they were it could get ugly.

He raised the telephoto lens and peered through the tinted back window at the building down the road. It was quiet, apart from a lone figure limping across the gravel towards the portico. There was no sign of a vehicle or a departing mini-cab, s she must have walked from the DLR station. Kennedy tightened focus.

It was the woman he’d noticed the other day crouching against the wall, watching the place. He took a few shots just before she disappeared around the back of the building. Probably another junkie looking for a connection. Good luck, love, he thought, that’s what we’re all waiting for. He was bored half to death. Maybe he would take a closer look.

The story is dark, but not disturbingly so, and it frantically, but satisfyingly resolved at its conclusion.

I’ll admit, I found it a little funny how relative the term ‘heatwave’ can be. Each section of the novel begins with a temperature reading; 28C, 29.5C, 33C. It worked well as a device to communicate a rising heat, but I found it difficult to stop myself thinking; “33 degrees, bah, that’s nothing! She should try 43 degrees!” Nonetheless, the sense of relief brought by the final section, entitled ’12C’ was both felt and appreciated.

I was really drawn into the twists and turns of this novel, and am sufficiently intrigued by Berlin’s scarred state to want to go back to Book 1 in the Catherine Berlin Series, In Her Blood and take a look. I’m sure it’ll be more of the same grit and grunge!

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If you’d like to find out more about A Bitter Taste by Annie Hauxwell, visit the Penguin website here.

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Out Now! TBYL News: All Things Bookish August 2013

This month’s edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish… is now out, complete with give-aways, new reviews and upcoming events at That Book You Like…

honey brown and cover 2This month we’re enjoying conversations with two talented Australian authors – Kate Forsyth and Honey Brown. It’s a fantastic chance to get to know these authors a little better, and to find out more about how they write, about their titles and a little of what’s next for them! Online author chats are a new addition to TBYL and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.

Also, there’s lots of new reviews to be read on the TBYL Blog, a chance to win a copy of the intriguing novel Torn, by Karen Turner, and also great new items in the TBYL Store.

Happy reading, enjoy our August edition!

Click here to read TBYL News: All Things Bookish… August 2013

If you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, you can click here.

This’ll mean that you get our monthly news by email, on the first Monday of the month. Perfect!

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August TBYL Book Club

Today we begin our conversation for the July TBYL Book Club, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl (Random House). Personally, I’m loving it, so much so that I dreamt about it last night!

If you’d like to join in, the discussion is happening now on our Facebook page.

Also, don’t forget that our next TBYL Event is a live Facebook chat with Kate herself. I can’t wait, it’s happening on Monday 5 August, 7:30pm (EST) and you can RSVP here…

And that brings me to our book for August. I’ve been wondering what we should read for the August TBYL Book Club, and I’ve decided on something quick, suspenseful and a little bit scary!

dark horseFor August, I’m inviting you to read with us, Honey Brown’s Dark Horse (Penguin)

“It’s Christmas morning on the edge of the rugged Mortimer Ranges. Sarah Barnard saddles Tansy, her black mare. She is heading for the bush, escaping the reality of her broken marriage and her bankrupted trail-riding business.



Sarah seeks solace in the ranges. When a flash flood traps her on Devil Mountain, she heads to higher ground, taking shelter in Hangman’s Hut.

 She settles in to wait out Christmas.



A man, a lone bushwalker, arrives. Heath is charming, capable, handsome. But his story doesn’t ring true. Why is he deep in the wilderness without any gear? Where is his vehicle? What’s driving his resistance towards rescue? The closer they become the more her suspicions grow.



But to get off Devil Mountain alive, Sarah must engage in this secretive stranger’s dangerous game of intimacy”

I read this book last month and absolutely love it, it had me delightfully on edge the entire time I read it (in two sittings, I might add) and I’d love for you to share it with me.

Now, I can’t say too much more about the mystery that unfolds as Sarah and Heath wait for rescue, I’d hate to spoil the ending for you. It twists and turns with nightmarish frequency and will probably have you worried for Sarah, falling for Heath and waiting for the sky to clear so both rescue and resolution can come.

What I will say is that I’d most definitely recommend Dark Horse as a great winter read, the sound of the rain on the roof will only add to the atmosphere of the novel. Don’t be scared, it’s a fascinating read. You can read my full review here if you’d like to find out more.

I hope you’ll join us on Facebook to discuss Dark Horse. We’ll start the conversation on Monday, 26 August 2013 and carry it through to the Wednesday. If you’d like a reminder, you can RSVP to the TBYL Book Club here…

I can’t wait to hear what you think of this thriller!

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Happy reading!

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Saturday Catch-up Part 2

Today I bring you Part 2 of the big catch-up. These five titles have been sitting on my reading pile for a little while now and although I hope to still read them properly, I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about them in the meantime.

First up, some top class action writing…

ghost reconTom Clancy’s Ghost Recon – Choke Point by Peter Telep (Penguin) is an original novel based on the bestselling game of the same name. It promises all the fast-paced action that has made the game so popular…

Special Forces operators are renowned for their highly specialized training and courage behind enemy lines. But there’s a group that’s even more stealthy and deadly. It’s composed of the most feared operators on the face of the earth – the soldiers of Ghost Recon.

When a CIA agent operating in Colombia is kidnapped, the Ghosts battle their way through rebels to rescue the man. But during the operation, they discover evidence of a new terrorist group that’s being backed by South American drug cartels and rebel groups.

The Ghosts follow a trail that leads them around the world in a struggle to uncover the group’s true purpose, one that could mean billions to the South Americans, aid terrorists seeking to wreak havoc on US soil, and cause economic chaos all over the world.

But as the team chases down their quarry, they soon realize that their true foes have yet to reveal themselves . . .

Perhaps this book might be a good way to encourage that reluctant male reader in your life to put down the controller and pick up a book? You can find out more here.

Next is another title from Tom Clancy, written in conjunction Mark Greaney. Threat Vector (Penguin) is a hard-hitting, hardcover novel that’ll keep any Clancy fan thoroughly entertained…

threat vectorJack Ryan has only just moved back into  the Oval Office when he is faced with a new international threat. An aborted  coup in the People’s Republic of China has left President Wei Zhen Lin  with no choice but to agree with the expansionist policies of General Su Ke  Quiang. They have declared the South China Sea a protectorate and are planning  an invasion of Taiwan. 

The  Ryan administration is determined to thwart these Chinese ambitions, but the  stakes are dangerously high as hundreds of Chinese anti-ship missiles thwart the  US Navy’s plans to protect the island. Meanwhile, Chinese cyber warfare experts  have launched a devastating attack on American infrastructure. It’s a new combat  arena, but it’s every bit as deadly as any that has gone before.  

Jack Ryan, Jr. and his colleagues at the Campus may be  just the wild card that his father needs to stack the deck. There’s just one  problem: someone knows about the off-the-books intelligence agency and may be  ready to blow their cover sky high.

And if hardcover books aren’t your thing, it’s being released in paperback in September this year. Find out more here.

If you’re after something a little more lady-like, how about The Forbidden Queen, by Anne O’Brien (Harlequin). I read the first couple of chapters of this book, but got called away (more’s the pity, I was really enjoying it) and even in that short read, I could tell that this story promised to be an absolutely luxurious period-piece full of romance, betrayal and royal intrigue…

forbidden queen1415: The jewel in the French crown, Katherine de Valois, is waiting under lock and key for King Henry V. While he’s been slaughtering her kinsmen in Agincourt, Katherine has been praying for marriage to save her from her misery. But the brutal King is one of war. It is her crown he wants not her innocent love.

For Katherine, a pawn in a ruthless political game, England is a lion’s den of greed, avarice and mistrust. And when the magnificent King leaves her widowed at twenty-one she is a prize ripe for the taking. Her heart is on her sleeve, her young son the future monarch, and her hand in marriage worth a kingdom.

This is a deadly game; one the Dowager Queen must learn fast. The players — Duke of Gloucester, Edmund Beaufort and Owen Tudor — are circling. Who will have her? Who will stop her? Who will ruin her?

This title, and many more stories from Anne O’Brien are available here.

Next is something a little more modern. I’ve had Too Hot To Handle by Victoria Dahl (Harlequin) on the Reading Pile for a few months, and although it’d be fun to go along for this romantic ride, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet…

too hot to handleMerry Kade has always been the good girl. The best friend. The one who patiently waits for the guy to notice her. Well, no more. Merry has just scored her dream job, and it’s time for her life to change. As the new curator of a museum in Wyoming, she’ll supervise some — okay, a lot of — restoration work. Luckily she’s found the perfect contractor for the job, and even better, he lives right next door.

Shane Harcourt can’t believe that someone wants to turn a beat-up ghost town into a museum attraction. After all, the last thing he needs is the site of his dream ranch turning into a tourist trap. He’ll work on the project, if only to hasten its failure…until the beautiful, quirky woman in charge starts to change his mind.

For the first time ever, Merry has a gorgeous stud hot on her heels. But can she trust this strong, silent man — even if he is a force of nature in bed? When Shane’s ulterior motives come out, he’ll need to prove to Merry that a love like theirs may be too hot to handle…but it’s impossible to resist!

A perfect will-she-won’t-she story, I’ll just have to keep wondering whether Merry will give into that hot stud ‘on her heels’! You can find out more about Victoria’s latest title here.

Finally, I’ve one more Harlequin Teen title that I’d like to mention. I’m still hoping to read and review this book properly, as it only came out in June, but in case I don’t get to I’ll mention it now. The book is Dare You To, by Katie McGarry and it promises to be steamy, secretive and pretty dramatic…

dare you toIf anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail. And who knows where they’d send seventeen-year-old Beth. So she protects her mum at all costs — until the day her uncle swoops in, and Beth finds herself starting over at a school where no one understands her. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her…but does

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular jock with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him! But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction.

Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image is risking everything for the girl he loves. And the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all…

I’m sure that you’d agree that there’s no shortage of romance in the air with these four titles. I hope that something here tickles your fancy, but if not, never fear, I’ll have a catch-up full of adult fiction next Saturday.

I reviewed Katie’s Pushing the Limits last year (you can read the review here) and really enjoyed it, it was a great mystery and really multifaceted. I’m looking forward to taking a look at her most recent novel, but in the meantime you can find out more about it here.

Five new titles, five books closer to caught up! Anything tickle your fancy?

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Mountain Chills: Dark Horse

As Murphy’s Law would have it, I was a bit under the weather this long weekend just gone. I offered my thanks to the kids for sharing their bugs, and got cozy on the couch. It’s winter after all, and under a blanket in the lounge room isn’t the worst place to be. Plus, there’s always a definite upside to being a bit laid-up… plenty of reading time!

The first book I enjoyed thrilled me silly. The moody, misty thriller Dark Horse, by Honey Brown (Penguin) had me sitting on the edge of my comfy couch.

dark horseFrom the first sentence, Dark Horse had me knocked off my feet…

“The blow put Sarah on the ground. That she was suddenly horizontal registered in her mind, then the pain came rushing through, washing over every other detail. A sigh escaped her lips and she lay motionless, struck dumb by the brute force of the hit. She tasted blood…”

I was hooked, and was immediately endeared to Sarah, a character who was clearly floundering at rock bottom…

“It’s Christmas morning on the edge of the rugged Mortimer Ranges. Sarah Barnard saddles Tansy, her black mare. She is heading for the bush, escaping the reality of her broken marriage and her bankrupted trail-riding business.



Sarah seeks solace in the ranges. When a flash flood traps her on Devil Mountain, she heads to higher ground, taking shelter in Hangman’s Hut.

 She settles in to wait out Christmas.



A man, a lone bushwalker, arrives. Heath is charming, capable, handsome. But his story doesn’t ring true. Why is he deep in the wilderness without any gear? Where is his vehicle? What’s driving his resistance towards rescue? The closer they become the more her suspicions grow.



But to get off Devil Mountain alive, Sarah must engage in this secretive stranger’s dangerous game of intimacy”

I felt sorry for her as she copped an earful from her father when she reneged on Christmas lunch, and I didn’t blame her when she packed her bag, saddled her horse, and set off for the bush. I knew that her plan would lead her into danger, but I could understand her decision completely, taking off into the mountains that day seemed to make perfect sense. At the time.

As Sarah and her horse Tansy proceeded into the mountains which surrounded her valley home, I was immersed in a scene of trails, gums and obstacles. For me, the picture painted to set this scene was a highlight of this well-constructed novel. As you’d expect from a thriller, Honey Brown creates a beautiful and oppressive moodiness with her descriptions of the mountains. It’s summer, but unseasonably wet, creating an unpredictability in the environment and in the story itself.

I love the mountains, the mist, fog and hush that falls over the hills when it’s wet, but the storm that hits Sarah and Tansy is a whole different beast…

“Night fell in a moment. It was only midday. Sarah pulled the hood of her coat over her cap. She tightened the drawstrings around her face. The clouds didn’t open so much as lower to the ground and pound the earth with water. Chicken Little was right: the sky had fallen. Sarah and Tansy continued up the track, water streaming down their bodies. Sarah was wet through to her skin. A veil of water ran off the peak of her cap. Her raincoat couldn’t be expected to hold up against this kind of onslaught.”

Drenched, tired  and hungry, Sarah makes it to Hangman’s Hut, sanctuary from the elements, and seemingly from civilisation. That is, until Heath arrives. With him, he brings mystery, fear, contradictions and desire. His mystery creates an unease for Sarah, but also an attraction. She hides her gun from him, she questions him and doubts him, but at the same time they settle effortlessly into a strange kind of domesticity – she manages the food, he builds the fire, they choose sides of a shared bed, and confide in each other, albeit selectively.

The attraction is electric and perfectly balanced with the suspense of the story. It ensures that the reader is left wondering, guessing right up until the very end…

“Sarah liked the reaction his body made as she raked her fingers down his legs. And she liked, too, the things he said, the way he seemed determined to make the moment special. The romance was sweet and reassuring. The sounds he made down in his chest were sexy. They got her breathing keenly too. They made her bolder.”

Their relationship is decadent and lusty, but also quite true. Still, given the many unanswered questions about Heath, it makes it hard to imagine the relationship ending well.

Now, I can’t say too much more about the mystery that unfolds as Sarah and Heath wait for rescue, I’d hate to spoil the ending for you. It twists and turns with nightmarish frequency and will probably have you worried for Sarah, falling for Heath and waiting for the sky to clear so both rescue and resolution can come.

What I will say is that I’d most definitely recommend Dark Horse as a great winter read, the sound of the rain on the roof will only add to the atmosphere of the novel. Don’t be scared, it’s a fascinating read.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Dark Horse, by Honey Brown shop now at the TBYL Store…

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A NY Scrapbook: A Bite of the Big Apple

I was feeling a bit bushed last weekend. I knew that I had things that I needed to get done, but just couldn’t seem to get myself moving. Every time I thought of doing something, it seemed a little too hard. As a result, I spent more than my fair share of time sitting on the couch, watching TV and nattering away to the kids.

Bite of the big appleI know it’s not a bad thing to have a little downtime on the weekends, but I do feel a little remiss if I don’t get any reading done, so I allowed myself a middle ground. I took a nice leisurely look at Monica Trapaga and Lil Tulloch’s A Bite of the Big Apple (Penguin).

As many of you know by now, I’m a massive fan of all things New York, so this reading task was no chore. The fascinating images, recipes and descriptions of NY neighbourhoods made it no effort at all to spend a good hour strolling through Monica and Lil’s compilation…

It’s Ella and Louis. It’s Seinfeld and Woody Allen. It’s the bright lights of Broadway, it’s hot dogs at 2 a.m., it’s bagels and doughnuts and pastrami on rye. It’s also Mexican, Jamaican, Filipino, Puerto Rican and Chinese food, all thrown together in a cultural cacophony quite unlike anywhere else in the world. All of these influences come together when Monica Trápaga, one of Australia’s most-loved entertainers, escapes to New York – and realises she has come home. 

A Bite of the Big Apple is a bit like a hipster’s scrapbook, its collages are childlike but edgy, at times even a little bit gritty. Monica spends her time in the less-than-glamorous neighbourhood of Bedford Stuyversant, melting into the close-knit, slightly volatile community.

Bit of the big apple 2The taxi makes a left into Hancock Avenue and I feel as if we’ve just turned in to Sesame Street. In the pit of my stomach I’m feeling nervous but excited – I wouldn’t be surprised if Oscar the Grouch stuck his head out of a trash can and waved an old sardine in my direction. I pay the cab driver and he is out of there faster than Speedy Gonzales as I hug my luggage and look for the house number.

She and her daughter Lil travel on trains, taking full advantage of the NY subway in order to explore the culinary corners of the Big Apple – Ms Dahlias in Nostrand Avenue, Union Square and its organic markets, Russ and Daughters. What they find in delis and markets across the city is the inspiration for their fresher than fresh food, soulful, rustic combinations of produce and spice. Their Mojitos will knock your socks off and their Potato and Leek Soup will warm your heart.

This is a visually stunning book, and a fabulous story. Monica successfully captures and shares the feeling of New York, the sights and smells of both the high-end of town and the crumbling corners. Once again, I find myself longing to return, to explore New York more fully. But for now, I’ll flick through books like A Bite of the Big Apple and make plans for the future.

If you’d like to find out more about A Bite of the Big Apple you can visit here…

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Pink Popular Penguins out now!

Today my book collection got a little bit pinker, with the release of the Pink Popular Penguins!

I was happier than a pig in mud, with the chance to buy more of my favourite Popular Penguins all the while raising funds for a cause very close to my heart…

Pink Popular PenguinsOn March 19, 2013 Penguin Books Australia will launch a new series, Pink Popular Penguins, to help the McGrath Foundation expand their Breast Care Nurse network and increase breast awareness throughout Australia. The orange Popular Penguins design adopts pink covers and includes a range of classics. Penguin Books will donate $1 from the sale of every Pink Popular Penguin to the McGrath Foundation.

The McGrath Foundation does amazing work to increase the number of Breast Care Nurses in Australia. I would have been absolutely lost without the amazing help of the Breast Care Nurses at Monash, and I strongly encourage you to get behind this worthy endeavour!

And of course, then there’s the gorgeous pink books just waiting to be added to the bookshelf. There are 12 titles in all:

Alphabet Sisters by Monica McInerney

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

A Spy in the House of Love by Anais Nin.

My pink popular penguinsI’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on A Room of One’s OwnAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Madame Bovary already and I can’t wait to get hold of the rest. I’ve enjoyed revisiting these classics, tumbling down the rabbit hole; reassessing my need for my own space; and of course being wrapped up in a provincial romance with Emma Bovary.

You can find out more about the Pink Popular Penguins here…

All titles are available in the TBYL Store now, and as a special offer, you can also pick up the full set of twelve books for just $100 (normally $120) – why mess about, you know you want them all?!  You can shop online here…

I’d love to know – which books would you choose first?

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Protection: The Treasure Box

I recently received a copy of The Treasure Box, the latest picture book from Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood (Penguin).

As soon as I unwrapped the book, I was spellbound. Drawn in by Freya’s gorgeous illustrations, by the boy sitting quietly, an untold treasure sitting on his knees, I sighed and promised myself I’d saviour every page of this beautiful book.

The Treasure Box 1

The Treasure Box has been described as ‘haunting and beautiful’, and while it is sad (it’s probably most suitable for 7+ years and you might like to coach the kids through it a bit), it is a incredibly moving lesson about the strength of the human spirit and the importance of a person’s story, it’s importance to who they were, who they are now and who they will be…

When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.

As war rages, Peter and his father flee their home, taking with them a treasure box that holds something more precious than jewels. They journey through mud and rain and long cold nights, and soon their survival becomes more important than any possession they carry.

But as years go by, Peter never forgets the treasure box, and one day he returns to find it.

The story, and more particularly, the ‘book as treasure’ theme, will sit well with book lovers. The solace and consolation that Peter’s precious treasure brings is touching, to say the least…

Charred paper, frail as butterflies, flutter in the wind. People caught the words and cupped them in their hands.

Only one book survived. A book that Peter’s father had taken home to study. A book he loved more than any other.

When the enemy ordered everyone out of their houses, Peter’s father brought out a small iron box. ‘This will keep our treasure safe,’ he said.

Freya’s skilful illustration is essential to the story being told. The subtle three-dimensional nature of the collaged pictures ‘includes’ the reader, drawing them into the page and bringing to life the scene in a very special way.

The Treasure Box 2

The story begins in muted tones, greys and browns and dusty blues, and brightens as the story progresses. By the close, as Peter’s treasure is rediscovered and shared, the illustrations become brighter, reds and blues and yellows communicate a new hope, brought to be in part by the protection of Peter’s book.

In short, this is a moving, inspiring book. Read it with your kids, they might need help understanding some of the sadder themes, and do so understanding that this is an important story of what it is to triumph and protect.

The Treasure Box is available in the TBYL Store now for $24.99 (plus p&h)

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Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

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