Friday 31 January 2020

Book Review: A Minute to Midnight by David Baldacci

A Minute to Midnight
David Baldacci

From #1 bestselling author David Baldacci comes the gripping second novel in the Atlee Pine series, a tenacious female FBI Special Agent assigned to the wilds of the western US.

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia 
Publication date: 29th October 2019
Series: Atlee Pine #2
Genre: Crime / Murder mystery 
Pages: 464
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher 

Atlee Pine has spent most of her life trying to find out what happened that fateful night in Andersonville, Georgia. Her six-year-old twin sister, Mercy, was taken and Atlee was left for dead while their parents were apparently partying downstairs. One person who continues to haunt her is notorious serial killer, Daniel James Tor, confined to a Colorado maximum security prison. Does he really know what happened to Mercy?

The family moved away. The parents divorced. And Atlee chose a career with the FBI dedicating her life to catching those who hurt others. When she oversteps the mark on the arrest of a dangerous criminal, she's given a leave of absence offering the perfect opportunity to return to where it all began, and find some answers. But the trip to Andersonville turns into a roller-coaster ride of murder, long-buried secrets and lies.

And a revelation so personal that everything she once believed to be true is fast turning to dust.

A Minute to Midnight is the second novel in the special agent Atlee Pine series.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Atlee and finding out what makes her tick in the first novel. In this second story Atlee is still hung up over her sister’s disappearance almost thirty years ago. And rightly so! Mercy was her identical twin and not knowing what happened to her must be traumatic. However, after an incident that could have Atlee kicked out of the FBI she is told to take a holiday.

Atlee returns to her home town of Andersonville Georgia, home of the former confederate prisoner-of-war camp and now a historic site which Baldacci includes seamlessly into the story.

The story runs with two different plot lines. One being Atlee asking questions about her family and talking to people that were friends of her parents or those that lived in the town the time of her sister’s disappearance. The more she finds out the more the mystery of who her parents were and who she is deepens. The second plot line is the investigation of a string of bizarre murders that start not long after Atlee arrives in town.

Baldacci’s characterisation is brilliant and he quickly built up a cast of believable characters that lived in the small town of Andersonville.
I was much more invested in Atlee’s personal investigation than the mystery surrounding the murders although that part of the story was well wrapped up. I’m hoping Atlee receives some more concrete evidence about her sister in the next book.

Baldacci writes a fast paced and compelling read. It stands alone well, as any relevant backstory is filled in for the reader.

A Minute to Midnight is a highly recommended read for any thriller fans.


My rating   4/5
You can read my review of Long Road to Mercy here

Photo credit: Guy Bell

David Baldacci has been writing since childhood, when his mother gave him a lined notebook in which to write down his stories. (Much later, when David thanked her for being the spark that ignited his writing career, she revealed that she’d given him the notebook to keep him quiet, "because every mom needs a break now and then.”) He published his first novel, Absolute Power, in 1996; it was subsequently adapted for film, with Clint Eastwood as its director and star. In total, David has published 40 novels for adults; all have been national and international bestsellers, and several have been adapted for film and television. His novels have been translated into more than 45 languages and sold in more than 80 countries, with over 130 million worldwide sales. David has also published seven novels for younger readers.

David and his wife, Michelle, are the co-founders of the Wish You Well Foundation®, which supports family and adult literacy programs in the United States. In 2008 the Foundation partnered with Feeding America to launch Feeding Body & Mind, a program to address the connection between literacy, poverty and hunger. Through Feeding Body & Mind, more than 1 million new and used books have been collected and distributed through food banks to families in need.

A lifelong Virginian, David is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia School of Law. 


Thursday 30 January 2020

Book Review: Blurred Vision by Steve Harrison

Blurred Vision
Steve Harrison

Publisher: Elsewhen Press
Publication date: 18th November 2019
Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction
Pages: 236
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the author

When Polly Hart agrees to swap places with a girl from another planet, she has no idea that this makes her a fugitive in the fabulous universe revealed by her new friend, and now she must outwit the school bully, a weird teacher and an interstellar hit squad to survive. So annoying!

First contact?
“Take it easy,” said Kylie, still with a hint of amusement. “You’re perfectly safe. Think of me as a tourist.”
Polly squinted back at her. She couldn’t help herself. “Are you invading earth?”
“Are you kidding? Do you know how much that would cost?”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“We found you after you activated the camera on the satellite and were impressed by the other stuff you did to hide your tracks. Easy for us, but we all thought it was very cool. For an Earth human, anyway.”
“You don’t talk like an alien.”
“How many do you know?” asked Kylie. Polly couldn’t argue with that. “Good point.”

Harrison has written a humorous story with aliens both good and bad. We are conveyed to a world of space travel where a girl is the heroine of the story, surviving dire circumstances and doing it with a sense of adventure.

Through Polly he gives his readers a protagonist who is smart and adventurous. She can hack top NASA files and doesn’t baulk at danger if it includes an adventure.

When a portal opens outside Polly’s house she comes face to face with teen alien Kylie. They agree to swap places so Kylie can experience life in an Earth school. Polly is taken to Kylie’s spaceship.

The overseers of Earth, the Hywardathians, find out Kylie is on Earth. She has crossed a line and must be stopped. They are out to capture here at all cost which also puts Polly in danger. Polly must now try to save Kylie and switch back before it’s too late for them both.

I loved the concept of this “freaky Friday” style story and I enjoyed Kylie’s shenanigans at Polly’s school. However I kept getting pulled away from the story with large amounts of world building, or in this case universe building, through extracts from Vryl’s Galmanac a sort of Wikipedia of space.
I really wanted more of Kylie’s interactions with Penny’s school friends and to see more of Kylie’s world other than the spaceship they were stuck on.

Written in an easy style with a sense of fun and adventure Blurred Vision is well suited to the older end of Middle Grade 11 – 13 years.
Contains mild swearing.


My rating     3/5

I absolutely enjoyed Steve Harrison's first adult novel Time Storm.

Steve Harrison was born in Yorkshire, England, grew up in Lancashire, migrated to New Zealand and eventually settled in Sydney, Australia, where he lives with his wife.

As he juggled careers in shipping, insurance, online gardening and the postal service, Steve wrote short stories, sports articles and a long running newspaper humour column called HARRISCOPE: a mix of ancient wisdom and modern nonsense. In recent years he has written a number of unproduced feature screenplays, although being unproduced was not the intention, and developed projects with producers in the US and UK. His script, Sox, was nominated for an Australian Writers’ Guild ‘Awgie’ Award and he has written and produced three short films under his Pronunciation Fillums partnership.

His novel TimeStorm was Highly Commended in the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) National Literary Awards for 2013, Jim Hamilton Award in the fantasy/science fiction category, for an unpublished novel of sustained quality and distinction by an Australian author.

This review is part of the  Booklover Book Review Aussie author challenge  



Monday 27 January 2020

Mailbox Monday - January 27th

Mailbox Monday is a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. It now has a permanent home at the Mailbox Monday blog. Head over and check out other books received during the last week. 

Happy Monday!

It's been hot and muggy here and last week we finally received some much needed rain. Not really enough to fill the dam or remove water restrictions but enough to fill our two water tanks and turn our lawn from looking like straw to a lush green. We still need much more rain but now our tanks are full we can keep the plants and grass alive.

Last week I attended The Wiggles reunion show for bushfire relief. There was originally only going to be one Saturday night show with the old Wiggles (Anthony, Greg, Jeff & Murray) coming together for an 18+ show to raise money. The tickets sold out in minutes and I was lucky enough to get some for my friends and I. There was such an uproar from people that didn't get a ticket they opened a Friday night show. Greg suffered a cardiac arrest during the Friday night show, was resuscitated, and rushed to hospital. 
The Saturday night show went ahead at Greg's insistence and he was there in our thoughts the whole night. I attended my first Wiggles concert in 1993 with my 3rd & 4th sons and my last in 2004 with my youngest daughter so it was such a nostalgic trip to see them perform again. (and no, my children wouldn't come with me.) 🙂

 Jeff, Anthony and Murray
 Simon filling in for Greg
Emma, Simon, Paul and John all wearing the yellow shirt.

Happy Australia Day
Yesterday was Australia Day. We celebrated with a family picnic in the park. The weather was really hot and there was only one other family there braving the heat. Dot and Ditto seemed to be having a wonderful time running around on the play equipment but by 11:30am we decided to go home and jump in the pool.

Books received over the last two weeks:

From the publisher:
Euphoria Kids by Allson Evans
Ever since the witch cursed Babs, she turns invisible sometimes. She has her mum and her dog, but teachers and classmates barely notice her. Then, one day, Iris can see her. And Iris likes what they see. Babs is made of fire.

Iris grew from a seed in the ground. They have friends, but not human ones. Not until they meet Babs. The two of them have a lot in common: they speak to dryads and faeries, and they're connected to the magic that's all around them.

There's a new boy at school, a boy who's like them and who hasn't found his real name. Soon the three of them are hanging out and trying spellwork together. Magic can be dangerous, though. Witches and fae can be cruel. Something is happening in the other realm, and despite being warned to stay away, the three friends have to figure out how to deal with it on their own terms.

 House on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon
At the behest of his agent, renowned author Yoel Blum reluctantly agrees to visit his birthplace of Amsterdam to meet with his Dutch publisher, despite promising his late mother that he would never return to that city. While touring the Jewish Museum with his wife, Yoel stumbles upon a looping reel of photos offering a glimpse of pre-war Dutch Jewish life, and is astonished to see the youthful face of his beloved mother staring back at him, posing with her husband, Yoel's older sister Nettie…and an infant he doesn't recognize.

This unsettling discovery launches him into a fervent search for the truth, revealing Amsterdam's dark wartime history and the underground networks which hid Jewish children away from danger-but at a cost. The deeper into the past Yoel digs, the better he understands his mother's silence, and the more urgent the question that has unconsciously haunted him for a lifetime-Who am I?-becomes.

From the author:

  Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich
When committed female police captain Linda Turner, haunted by the murders of two small children and their pastor father, becomes obsessed with solving the harrowing case, she finds herself wrapped up in a mission to expose a fraudulent religious organization and an unrepentant killer.

Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.

In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.

My purchase:

Undara by Annie Seaton
Within the treacherous caves of Undara, a betrayal will test the bonds of friendship and family. A page-turning new eco-adventure for readers who love Di Morrissey.

When entomologist Emlyn Rees arrives at Hidden Valley she wants nothing more than to escape her marriage breakdown by burying herself in the research team's hunt for new species of insects in the depths of the dramatic Undara lava tubes. However, little does she suspect she will be the key to solving a mystery that's more than one hundred years old.

Travis Carlyle is initially resistant to letting some city folks tramp over his cattle station, but soon the researchers' findings and a growing friendship with Emlyn bring opportunities to turn around his struggling farm. With a broken marriage behind him and children to care for, Travis needs to plan for the future and this could be his family's best chance.

But when things start going wrong for the farm and around the dig site, Emlyn and Travis are at a loss as to understand why. Are they cursed with bad luck, or is there a more sinister force at play? Are the tall tales of enigmatic stockman Bluey turning true? As the unseen saboteur grows bolder, Emlyn and Travis are caught in a race against time to save the station ... and their lives.

What Books did your postman deliver, or you downloaded, this week?

Post a link to your Mailbox Monday or simply list your books in the comments below.

Friday 24 January 2020

Book Review: The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel #BRPreview

The Paris Model
Alexandra Joel

Publisher: Harper Collins Australia 
Publication date: 20th January 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance
Pages: 352
RRP: $32.99AUD
Format read: Paperback ARC
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Better Reading

Sometimes you have to lose everything to find yourself ... A stunning novel of love, betrayal and family secrets for all fans of Fiona McIntosh and Natasha Lester.
After a shocking discovery, Grace Woods leaves her vast Australian sheep station and travels to tumultuous post-war Paris in order to find her true identity.
While working as a mannequin for Christian Dior, the world's newly acclaimed emperor of fashion, Grace mixes with counts and princesses, authors and artists, diplomats and politicians.
But when Grace falls for handsome Philippe Boyer she doesn't know that he is leading a double life, nor that his past might inflict devastating consequences upon her. As she is drawn into Philippe's dangerous world of international espionage, Grace discovers both the shattering truth of her origins - and that her life is in peril.

Alexandra Joel takes her readers from the serenity and isolation of the Australian outback to the catwalks of Christian Dior in Paris. The story then moves from Paris to the tranquility of the French countryside.

Through a young Grace Woods we experience the isolation of a country wheat and sheep farm. Grace loves the farm but she also loves her visits to Sydney to see close family friend Reuben. From a young age Grace has had an affinity with Reuben but little does she know what a major impact he will later have on her life.

When Grace’s whole future seems to be mapped out before her, marriage to her childhood sweetheart, then children and life on the farm, a chance visit by fashion designer Christian Dior to Sydney sees Grace landing a job as a mannequin and then flying to Paris where she is employed as a Dior model.

Grace was quite a flighty character and whenever she was confronted with any sort of conflict she would run rather than wait for an explanation. This trend to avoid conflict would first see her estranged from her mother and later running from love.

Joel includes events from WWII with Australians enlisting to fight in Britain and then the political unrest in France where Grace finds herself in a life and death situation.
With cameo appearances by Jacqueline Bouvier, Pablo Picasso, Francoise Gilot and Chef Julia Child I found the setting and the drama would be perfectly suited to the big screen.

The Paris Model is fast paced and Joel packs a lot of story into this book so it’s never boring and although some of the plot may be a little too convenient I was swept away by Grace’s story and taken to any place and another time.


My rating  4/5

Alexandra Joel is the former editor of Harper's Bazaar and of Portfolio, Australia's first magazine for working women. She has also been a regular contributor to The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend Magazine. She is also the author of Rosetta, a biography of her great-grandmother – the scandalous Australian who enchanted British society – and Parade: the Story of Fashion in Australia, a social history detailing the development of fashion, style and national identity. 
 More recently, Alexandra has been a practising counsellor and psychotherapist. She is an honours graduate from the University of Sydney and has a Graduate Diploma in Applied Psychology. She has two children and lives in Sydney with her husband. She is a keen student of art, fashion, history and politics and is exceedingly fond of Paris.

This review is part of the  Australian Women Writers challenge #AWW2020
the Booklover Book Review Aussie author challenge
and Passages to the Past Historical Fiction Challenge #2020HFReadingChallenge 


Wednesday 22 January 2020

Books and Bites Bingo - Category 2 #BooksandBitesBingo2020

This bingo challenge is with Facebook group Books and Bites with Monique Mulligan

It's still early days in my reading year but I was lucky enough to read a fabulous book that fit perfectly with this challenge.

This week I will be completing the 'A book with a door on the cover' category.

A book with a door on the cover

For this category I have chosen "Saving Missy".  

I initially thought this would be a hard one to fill. How often do you see doors on the cover of books! But here we have a book with several doors. It was a fabulous read as well.

Saving Missy teaches us it is never too late to change, grow and make new friends.

You can read my full review here