Milkshake by Matt Hammond

Published by Taylor Street Publishing (October 9, 2011)

ISBN: 1466423706

milkshakePut that in your car and smoke it!

On the day David Turner is supposed to emigrate to New Zealand, he witnesses a savage murder and becomes caught up in ruthless global conspiracy.

A thirty year-old technological discovery threatens his own future and jeopardises the lives of millions of others as David discovers that starting a new life is about to become a deadly game of cat and mouse… and, somewhat surprisingly, cows.

Modifying milk so that ethanol can be processed from it could be the solution to an impending global oil crisis, but drinking it will kill you.

Can the truth be uncovered before an entire country is sacrificed to satisfy the world’s demand for bio-fuel?

The idea behind this story sounds wonderful, and easy to grasp, but the start of this story was quite heavy going.  I struggled to follow with David, wondering what exactly would happen.  It sounded more like a travelogue with lots of description of the NZ scenery.

About half way through, a new character, Brent, an SIS agent is introduced, and suddenly the story gets very interesting.  I couldn’t wait to read the next part and wonder just how all the pieces were going to come together.

Involving international espionage and policitical power, one has to wonder if this story is a Conspiracy Theory that could very possibly take place, or currently even be in the process of taking place.

If you can struggle through the first part, the final part of the story is worth the wait, very fast paced and interesting and it took me two days to finish a story that I started 6 months ago.

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If a Book is Well Written, I Always Find it too Short.

Why is it, than when I read a book, I get to the endJane Austen Quote with more questions than answers.  I don’t generally go for sequels, or carry over books (with exception to T. G. Ayers and Melissa Pearl), but I often wonder – what happens after the ending?

Pride and Prejudice is one such book.  I love that book and read it several times, but I often wonder, just how Mr and Mrs D’Arcy got on after they went to Pemberly.  How many children did Jane and Mr Bingley have?  What happened to Kitty and how does Lydia cope with a life with Mr Wickham?  Why are there more questions at the end of the book than answers?  I love Happily ever afters, but often there were fairly unsettled periods, and I wonder whether the characters could get over the initial floods of lust and actually make the relationship work?

Or, if I really enjoy a book, and I mean REALLY enjoy a book, I just won’t finish it, because I don’t want it to end.  I have two books like that, The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman (about Richard III and the princes in the tower) and The Immortals by Michael Korda (about Marilyn Monroe and Robert and John Kennedy).  Both of these books are fantastic, and I love them, but just can’t bring myself to read them right through because I know it ends, but I don’t want that ending – I want the happily ever after!

In short, yes I agree, some stories are just too short, and they are generally the ones I really enjoy.  How about you?  Do you find good books are too short?  Do you have books you don’t finish because you don’t want them to end?

2013 – A New Year

Hi there,

Well, things have been busy for all of the reviewers, and only two of us remain.  I will be doing the majority of the reviews, with Leigh Hunt putting in her two cents worth when she can.

I hope to have interviews of some of the authors up this year.  I have interviewed Colin Falconer and Tee Ayer so far, but hope to persuade some other writers to share their passion for their stories with us.

I am hoping to post up book reviews once a week – on a Wednesday, and providing karensome light relief over the weekend.  Interviews will appear on Mondays.

I hope that you will like the line up that we have.  If you have a book you would like me to review, feel free to leave me a comment, or message me on kjmnsn(at)gmail(dot)com.

Many thanks for your patience
Karen  :o)

Marrying Ameera – Rosanne Hawke

Angus & Robertson, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

ISBN 978-0-7322-9144-0

Freedom or honour, for better or worse.  What would you choose?

Seventeen-year-old Ameera Hassan has just finished school and her friendship with Tariq, her best friend’s older brother, is growing.  But when her father hears of it he sends Ameera to stay with his family in Kashmir and attend her cousin Jamila’s wedding.  Only when she gets there does she discover the devastating truth – the intended marriage is not Jamila’s but her own!

Once I started reading this story, I couldn’t put it down.  Based in Australia, Ameera and her family, consisting of her Pakistani father and her Australian mother and her older brother, live an Islamic lifestyle.  Ameera tries hard to please her father, and does everything he asks her too, but she is also aware that she lives in the Western society, and there is more freedom than she is allowed.  When she is discovered at a “mixed” party, her father is inconsolable because his beloved daughter has dishonour him and his family.  His only option is to send her to Pakistan and visit with his family in the hopes that their ways might rub off on her.

Ameera’s character is a strong girl, confused by the culture around her.  In Pakistan she is still struggling to understand why she is there, when she loves Tariq and wants to marry him.   And when she discovers her fathers “surprise”, she doesn’t want to be any part of it.  Her situation has been well written, I felt Ameera’s confusion, her pain and hurt, her loss of freedom and inability to talk to her mother or her family.

While the story is written from Ameera’s point of view, the view of her father and the muslim way is done sympathetically.  I understood their cultures and customs and how the family are proud of their traditions and the honour system that they hold so dear.

While this story had a satisfactory ending (I can’t give too much away), there are many still living in those conditions that are unable to escape.  Girls are sold into slavery marriage, or forced marriages if they do not consent to the marriage.  This is a situation still strong today, but legislation is slowly filtering through.

I have a better understanding of the muslim culture and customs by reading this story, although it isn’t a comprehensive understanding of the religion, it has been done in a way that doesn’t make fun of them, or put their religion down.  I respect the author for her attempt to make the story real and really pulling the punches.

An awesome read if you want to learn about another culture.

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

ISBN 978-0-06-192835-2 Published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins

Somer’s life is everything she imagined it would be – she’s newly married and has started her career as a physician in San Francisco – until she makes the devastating discovery she never will be able to have children. 

The same year in India, a poor mother makes the heartbreaking choice to save her newborn daughter’s life by giving her away.  It is a decision that will haunt Kavita for the rest of her life, and cause a ripple effect that travesl across the world and back again.

Asha, adopted out of a Mumbai Orphanage, is the child that binds the destinies of these two women.  We follow both families, invisibly connected until Asha’s journey of self discovery leads her back to India.

What a beautiful story.  There was happiness, sadness, anger, raw emotions all rolled up into one very awesome story.

Kavita gives birth to her first daughter, but her husband has the baby killed while it is only hours old.  Being so poor, they need son’s because they can’t afford the dowry for a daughter to marry.  When Kavita has another baby girl, she begs her husband to give her time with it before he comes for it.  During that time, she takes her beloved daughter to an orphanage in Mumbai and puts her up for adoption.  So begins the story that brings three woman together in one city by the end of the story.

Somer is an American, married to an Indian.  After discovering she can’t carry a baby due to early menopause, Somer’s husband convinces her to adopt from his hometown, Mumbai.

Asha, the baby given up for adoption is raised in America, unaware of her whether her birth parents are still alive.  As a teenager, questions create rifts in her family and she ends up back in Mumbai for a scholarship and uses the opportunity to find herself.

While the story doesn’t end as one would expect, it was a beautiful ending, and one I agree with.

The story was well written, the emotions brought to the front, especially when Somer and her husband separate, but passion as Asha tries to find her birth family, Kavita’s undying support of her husband and life that Somer wants for her daughter and the life her daughter wants to have.

Conflict brings the story to the fore, and just when you think that everything is settled, another spanner is thrown into the works.

Loved this story and highly recommend it

Slightly Peculiar Love Stories

Whimsical, intense, pensive or amorous — we bring you a love story for every mood, each a little unorthodox, mysterious, or slightly peculiar.

Slightly Peculiar Love Stories paint a grand mandala of experience and circumstance: love appears and disappears; it aches and it dares; amuses and amazes; hurts, heals and begins again.

Love preoccupies writers from New Zealand, Israel, Hong Kong, Argentina and Athens, the UK and the US. Their 26 stories have been selected and edited by Penelope Todd.

Rosa Mira exceptional e-books first popped up on my radar a few months ago when I saw the name on twitter. Ever eager to discover new gems of publishing in New Zealand, I checked out the site and found that an anthology was coming out soon.

Of course, when I saw a tweet asking for reviewers, I jumped at the chance. I’m quite fond of anthologies, really enjoying the variety that you get. This one in particular interested me as the writers who have contributed are from all over the world – I felt like it was a good opportunity to experience ‘love’ from the perspective of other nationalities.

As the title suggests, these are not your typical love stories. The foreword puts is nicely: “Of course the story of love fulfilled is no story at all; it’s in the gap between longing and completion that the narrative appears.” And it is in those spaces that these stories come to life. Each one gives a glimpse, an insight, into the lives and loves of someone else.

The anthology starts off really well with some of my favourite stories: Beyond Pluto by Sue Wooten, a beautiful story of how life can get away on you, of potential love, lost but not forgotten, followed by the haunting tale What Exactly Did I Lose? by Lawrence Pun. This is translated from Chinese, but loses nothing in translation.

In fact, that was one of the striking things for me – that while the telling of these tales of loves differs quite dramatically depending on country of origin, the expressions, the pains, the difficulties and splendors of love are the same the world over. It felt like with each story another strand was woven to show the web that links humanity together.

The stories within these pages are short, some incredibly so (as short as a few sentences), and as such I think it’s an anthology best savoured over a few days. Each story stands on it’s own and will provide a unique experience. I really enjoyed taking my time with the collection and think there is something for everyone here. There were only a few stories that I didn’t really connect with, though I am sure they will appeal to other readers.

Definitely worth checking out. I know I’ll be browsing further titles from this publisher, and hunting out other works from the authors featured in this anthology.

Cassie Draws the Universe – P.S. Baber

Cassie Harper is a disillusioned high school senior who is daily losing ground in a battle against her own nihilistic inclinations. When a beautiful new girl from California comes to town and attempts to befriend a reluctant Cassie, the two unlikely companions find common ground in a shared sorrow.

Cassie lives with her mother and grandmother in a dilapidated house in a nameless Kansas town, where she is haunted nightly by dreams of a father who died before she was born. Amy Cole has just moved from California, where she recently lost her mother and brother in a car accident. When Amy finally breaks down the walls of Cassie’s self imposed solitude, the girls band together to avoid the common end of all high school students: inexorable assimilation into an increasingly empty and incomprehensible world. But as Amy and Cassie attempt to outrun fate, their pursuit will be cut short by an unexpected adversary, leading Cassie to devise a chilling and unimaginable revenge.

Cassie Draws the Universe is a complex and tragic tale of friendship and betrayal, living and dying, human cruelty, and the terrible price of vengeance.

This book is brutal. Brutally good. Raw, rich, and unexpected. I wasn’t sure what to think going in, having read some of the reviews for it, but from the opening, I was captivated, wanting to know what happened in order to get to the place where the book starts (9 months from now).

This is most definitely not a young adult novel, I never thought it was, but apparently YA has taken over the world so much that some people assume if the main character is a teen, then it must be YA. It was actually refreshing to read an adult novel written about a teenager, and I really enjoyed the philosophical conversations that Cassie has with her new friend Amy, and Amy’s father as well.

There are a lot of these conversations. The dialogue is heavy, yet intelligent and while at times it doesn’t seem as though it has a point, in the end, I think it all does. This is not light reading, but it’s interesting and engaging.

I don’t typically read literary fiction, but this book has a dark core to it which really appeals to me. There are lots of subtle hints, and threads of tension and threat running through it. Every now and then I would think I knew what was coming, but I was never right. These moments of relief never alleviated the underlying sense of unease that seems to be inherent in the novel.

And the climax? It will blow you away. It’s not easy reading at times, but despite this it seemed entirely fitting. I would never have guessed what was coming, yet when it did, it felt like it evolved naturally from all the things that went before. It was beautiful and desperate and sad and weeks after reading it, I am still thinking about it. Still feeling the impact of it.

I actually think I will read this book again, and I don’t often revisit novels. There are so many new ones to read that it seems indulgent to go back and read something twice. This one, I feel like I need to.

If you like a thinkers book, if you like intelligent, dark, literary fiction which doesn’t pull punches then you’ll probably enjoy this book. But I warn you, it is not for everyone. Four stars from me!