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Recent customer book reviews and opinions on books

Trying to decide on what books to read next? We've got some ideas for you! Biblio.com customers and booksellers share their thoughts and opinions on books they've read and enjoyed -- or not...


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The Silent Wife

by Karin Slaughter


On Dec 4 2020, CloggieDownunder said:

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The Silent Wife is the tenth book in the Will Trent series by best-selling American author, Karin Slaughter. The aftermath of a prison riot sees GBI Special Agents Faith Mitchell and Will Trent offered information by an inmate in exchange for the reopening of a cold case. Jailed eight years earlier as a paedophile, Daryl Nesbitt is determined to expose the corrupt police whose (illegal?) search sent him to prison: Grant County cops Lena Adams and Jeffrey Tolliver.

Grant police always believed Nesbitt guilty of the attacks on three women, although he was never tried and the cases remained open. Now, he cites a number of (apparently accidental) deaths after his imprisonment, that fit the profile of those still-unsolved Grant County attacks. Is Nesbitt simply an opportunist, or is there substance to his accusations? If he's not guilty, has there been a serial killer out there for eight years?

GBI deputy director, Amanda Wagner decides to act cautiously: with Jeffrey Tolliver dead, Faith and Will go to see an uncooperative Lena Adams, to try (and fail) to obtain her notebooks covering those cases; Dr Sara Linton, now a GBI pathologist, checks the body of the most recent victim to which Nesbitt has drawn attention. That body does indeed bear the same signs; the source of Nesbitt's information turns out to be a surprise; and further investigation leads the GBI to understand this is far from being a cold case.

The narrative is from multiple perspectives, including that of Jeffrey Tolliver eight years previous, and a prospective victim; in both past and present timeframes, it takes place over just a few days, but Slaughter manages to fill those days with plenty of tension, action and a gripping climax. And each time the situation gets a little too tense, Slaughter inserts Faith Mitchell with her inane but often blackly funny chatter.

In Lena Adams, Slaughter once again, gives us the character we love to hate, and does it so well that this time Will and Faith won't be the only ones itching to use their fists. The disharmony between Will and Sara that follows a certain proposal persists in the background (and sometimes jumps to the foreground) of the main action. And the spectre of Jeffrey doesn't help things.

Regular readers will know that Slaughter does not shy away from confronting issues, so when she tackles them with explicit examples of murder, rape, assault, stalking, forcible sodomy, mutilation of corpses and necrophilia, no one should be too surprised.

In her author's note, Slaughter explains the liberties taken with the timeline to satisfy the obsessive reader, but this does contain spoilers so is best read last. Any Karin Slaughter book is going to be hotly anticipated, but a Will and Sara book is always well worth the wait, and this one is a brilliant read.

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The Silence In the Garden

by William Trevor


On Dec 3 2020, oldlibrarybook said:

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There must have been a seanachie in William Trevor's background, so skillful is he in telling an enthralling story. Or, more likely, a weaver because Trevor does not just tell a story, he weaves one. In his skillful hands the disparate threads of the narrative are shuttled skillfully in and out until finally they come together to form a complex picture, in this case of a family living just off the coast of south Cork in a disintegrating Big House. The thread that runs all through the story and binds it together is the bridge that is to be built to connect island with mainland. This thread is picked up by Sarah Pollexfen, a poor relation to the Rollestons, who comes to Carriglas to act as governess to the three orphaned children whose grandmother is the doyen of the estate. In a sense, Sarah is the seanachie of this story because it is she whose intermittent diary entries knit together the tragic tale of the three Rolleston children with that of Tom, the fatherless child of their maid Brigid, against the background of the promised bridge.

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The Life She Left Behind

by Nicole Trope


On Dec 2 2020, CloggieDownunder said:

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The Life She Left Behind is the eleventh novel by Australian author, Nicole Trope. Rachel Flinders has a perfect life: a loving husband, a sweet daughter and their beautiful new dream house. At least, it should be perfect. But her beloved mother is dying, the house stands alone in a new subdivision, and her husband seems tense, edgy. And then, an intruder, who doesn't take anything, but leaves something that strikes fear into Rachel's heart.

When Ben Flinders gets a late-night call from his distressed wife, he rushes home; the police are there, but Rachel ascribes her alarm to a possum, and there are no signs of forced entry. Perhaps the stress that Rachel is under with her mother, and the isolation, has affected her perception and equanimity. Himself, Ben is stressed about leaving his young family vulnerable in this empty suburb, in a house that has overextended his means, just when his work situation is looking tenuous.

Little Bird is what Daddy calls her, and she tries very hard to do everything exactly as he tells her, because when they don't, her (often nasty) older brother Kevin feels the effects of Daddy's anger; Mummy, even when she does everything right, seems to end up with her skin blue with hurting flowers.

Dr Amanda Sharma's latest patient on Lyndon Public Hospital's psychiatric ward knows he has to tread carefully if he wants to avoid a transfer to prison. He got drunk and almost beat a man to death, so he has the twenty-one days of his involuntary admission to prove to her that he belongs here. The system, the doctors, the nurses are all easier to manipulate than the bunch of sadists that run the prison.

Trope's depiction of life with a psychopath is believable and downright scary: the physical, emotional and psychological abuse that leads to difficult choices and long-held secrets certainly attract the reader's empathy, although some are bound to find the violence confronting. And those creepy troll dolls will send a shiver down many a spine. An engrossing read. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Bookouture.

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Buck Duane

by Romer Zane Grey


On Dec 1 2020, anonymous said:

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To compare father and son can be a dangerous and delicate subject. Or to tread on the reputation of the father to advance yourself is likewise a thing too often abused. Romer Zane Grey did accompany his famous father on many of the father's adventures, and did write the daily comic strips which bore his father's name, according to various sources. But whether or not he actually wrote all of the stories which were published under his name in the "new" Zane Grey Western Magazine from which these stories were collected, is subject to debate, as there is probably no one living who can tell us. Regardless of that, these stories are entertaining, featuring characters Zane Grey created, and that is enough.

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Laramie Nelson

by Romer Zane Grey


On Dec 1 2020, anonymous said:

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To compare father and son can be a dangerous and delicate subject. Or to tread on the reputation of the father to advance yourself is likewise a thing too often abused. Romer Zane Grey did accompany his famous father on many of the father's adventures, and did write the daily comic strips which bore his father's name, according to various sources. But whether or not he actually wrote all of the stories which were published under his name in the "new" Zane Grey Western Magazine from which these stories were collected, is subject to debate, as there is probably no one living who can tell us. Regardless of that, these stories are entertaining, featuring characters Zane Grey created, and that is enough.

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The Last Of the Plainsmen and Last Of the Great Scouts

by Helen Cody; Grey, Zane Wetmore


On Dec 1 2020, anonymous said:

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First Off: These are not novels, but biographies. Secondly, had The Last of the Plainsmen been left by itself, I would have given a Five Star Rating. Here's why-- When Zane Grey met Buffalo Jones in New York City in 1908 Zane Grey instinctively knew he had met someone special. And the two men remained friends until Jones' death many years later. This book recounts only a small portion of the plainsman's life, but what is provided relates to us the life of an adventurer, an empire builder, and a conservationist. Included are stories of the man's trying to rope lions in the Grand Canyon and to his attempt to preserve the last of the buffalo from extinction, after once having slaughtered them to provide meat for the railroad workers. When this book was first published it did not receive very good reviews, but has since been praised for Zane Grey's prose and narrative skills. Furthermore, the people Zane Grey met on this trip with Jones led directly to his creation of such great novels as Heritage of the Desert and Riders of the Purple Sage and set the stage for his entire career. Without this trip and the writing of this book there might not have been a Zane Grey as we know him today. It all began here. Third: As to the other story, The Last of the Great Scouts-- Don't let Zane Grey's name fool you into anything, as he only wrote an introduction and an afterward to the book. He had nothing to do with the story of Buffalo Bill; the contents were written by his sister and published as a book several times before Zane Grey's name was added to the cover. I suspect it was done so to help make the book sell even more copies, as were illustrations by Fredrick Remington placed in an edition of this book at one time. The historical accuracy of this book is also suspect in some things, and Helen Cody Wetmore's older sister even published a book many years later in an attempt to correct some of those inaccuracies. But having said that, this book will give you a loving account of man by his adoring sister, and will give you much of what really did happen to him. Buffalo Bill Cody was indeed an important man of the nineteenth century and helped make the West what it still is today. These two, left alone would have been better off.

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The Lawless West

by Louis / Zane Grey / Max Brand L'Amour


On Dec 1 2020, anonymous said:

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This book I bought because it had a Zane Grey story inside--From Missouri--and is the third installment of a series of books edited by Jon Tuska which contain stories or short novels by Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour and Max Brand. Mr. Tuska and the Golden West Literary Agency has done a fine job in trying to keep Zane Grey relevant to today by having his work published as he actually wrote it, instead of the expurgated versions editors have foisted on the public down through the years. Max Brand is what he is; he has written some excellent books and stories, and some I wouldn't give two cents to own. His west was purely imaginary even though he had "voluminous notes and research materials on virtually every aspect of the frontier" Jon Tuska in writing about Max Brand in this book. Louis L'Amour's contribution to this set is Riders of the Dawn a short novel he reworked and Bantam published as Silver Canyon. Despite having said what I have so far, this book is worth buying if you are a fan of any one of the three writers as it gives you some of their early work, or different work, one does not usually find. I bought it because of Zane Grey as I said; I'll buy anything he is associated with regardless if I already have it or not just to have another edition. As to story value and worth, these three stories are good reading. Buy it.

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My Name Is Anton

by Catherine Ryan Hyde


On Nov 30 2020, CloggieDownunder said:

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My Name Is Anton is a novel by award-winning American author, Catherine Ryan Hyde. After a truly horrible year in which eighteen-year-old Anton (call me Anthony) Addison-Rice loses his loving and beloved grandfather, his mentally-ill older brother and his own right hand, his parents take his "I'm OK" at face value and depart for a three-week South American vacation in early December, leaving him on his own.

Anthony is fiddling with his early Christmas present, a telescope, when he accidentally sees a young woman in an apartment across the road being physically abused by her husband. Over the next few days, he manages to find her, express his concern for her welfare, and offer the family's apartment as a refuge should she need it.

She turns up, beaten again, in the middle of the night, and he promises to help her escape, while promptly falling in love with this woman theoretically old enough to be his mother. Sound advice from his cherished grandmother helps him understand what he must do if he loves her as much as she suspects he does: "What's best for her, even if it doesn't include me."

He lets her go, and his heartbreak triggers the reaction to all the grief he has been suppressing. His recovery is aided by the words and actions of his wise great uncle, and he steps out into the world to live his life, but never forgets her parting words: "I love you too." And then, one day, fifteen years later, he bumps into her on the train…

As with many of this author's novels, this one is very much character-driven, and she gives those characters wise words and insightful observations and sound philosophies to deal with the challenges life throws at them. Ryan Hyde easily captures the era, from 1965 to the present day, and takes the opportunity to include two of her favourite diversions, star-gazing and horses, into this wonderfully moving love story. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing

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The Book Of Hidden Wonders

by Polly Crosby


On Nov 29 2020, CloggieDownunder said:

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The Book Of Hidden Wonders is the first novel by British author, Polly Crosby. At nearly nine, after some years of seemingly aimless roaming, Romilly Kemp has recently settled with her dad in a dilapidated old farmhouse, Braër, surrounded by a moat. Tobias Kemp is an artist, formerly teaching at the University, now trying to make a living by painting. Romilly's mother, Meg has been absent since she was four.

Romilly's attic room is shared with her newly arrived Siamese kitten, Captain Montgomery of the Second Regiment, to be included in paintings Tobias will create of his daughter. Under the sloping roof, Dad tells wonderful bedtime stories; sometimes Romilly has fleeting memories of Meg, "a pair of smooth, delicate hands holding onto mine, sharp red nails gripping my skin painfully, a glittering diamond ring crackling with light."

While Tobias is creatively engaged, Romilly amuses herself in the grounds, carefully avoiding the moat, and discovers a friend, a cheeky, daring boy/girl named Stacey. They get up to plenty of mischief, some of it quite dangerous, while Dad turns Romilly into the star of a series of books. Romilly quickly learns that fame has its drawbacks: treasure hunters armed with spades convinced that Tobias Kemp has filled the Romilly books with clues, making her virtually a prisoner inside Braër.

It is true: Tobias Kemp has filled the Romilly books with clues but, he tells her, they are for her alone, and not all treasure is gold or precious stones. The clues are cryptic, and Romilly doesn't even know what she's looking for when, eventually, she does start looking.

Crosby saddles her protagonist with a loving, quirky but erratic father, a mercurial best friend, a damaged mother and a too-late-found grandmother. As the story develops, the reasons for this, and Romilly's apparent immaturity, become clear, but the significance of some elements (eg the circus) do not.

While this ought to be a magical read, and Crosby does manage to tug at the heart-strings a few times, it somehow lacks the connection, repetition and resolution that would thoroughly enchant the reader. Some scenes and characters that seem like they should be relevant to the story turn out to be rather random, and could have been edited for a more pleasing read. A much darker read than the blurb depicts. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Harlequin Australia.

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Collected Stories

by Shirley Hazzard


On Nov 27 2020, CloggieDownunder said:

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Collected Stories is a book of twenty-eight works of short fiction by award-winning Australian author, Shirley Hazzard. Eighteen have been previously published in two volumes: Cliffs of Fall and People in Glass Houses, while eight are uncollected and two, previously unpublished.

The first ten stories are virtually devoid of any trace of joy, or any hint of humour; in fact, the first two stories, concerning older men taking advantage of young women, are particularly depressing. One young woman muses: "She reflected that in love one can only win by cheating and that the skill is to cheat first. (Having coveted neither the advantage nor the skill, however, she had no justification for disputing—as she did—the defeat that confronted her.)"

Hazzard's descriptive prose is often beautiful, and her characters are complex, but whether people really spoke that way in the late 1950s, only a reader of a certain vintage and class could comment. Some of these stories feel unfinished, rather more like the first chapter of a longer work.

Hazzard's work at the UN certainly authenticates the second collection, People In Glass Houses. These eight stories, satires on bureaucracy, feel more complete, and various characters appear in each other's stories, the whole being set mostly in Geneva at the offices of "The Organization". While there is humour in them (DALTO, the Department of Aid to the Less Technically Oriented. The work of this department— to induce backward nations to come forward, with sections like Forceful Implementation of Peace Treaties and Peaceful Uses of Atomic Weapons), by the time the reader reaches Sadie Graine, boredom and skimming may well set in.

The remaining ten stories are, except for some, pleasant enough reads, and Hazzard is skilled at portrayals of moments of crisis and understanding of the relationships between men and women. She throws her characters into situations and records their reactions, so the result is very much dialogue and inner monologue driven. As with Anne Tyler novels, not much happens, but Tyler does it better, or at least with more appeal to the common reader. A mixed bag. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

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