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Title: The Room

Author: Jonas Karlsson

Genre: Contemporary

Opens: The first time I walked into the room I turned back almost at once

My Thoughts: THE ROOM is narrated by Bjorn as he starts a new job after leaving his previous position in slightly murky circumstances. Whatever the implied reason for his change in job circumstances he sees it as a step up the promotion ladder, the reader is not quite sure. Whether Bjorn is a reliable narrator is something that readers will need to sort out for themselves – my personal take is that I would suspect not. At first he seems like any other person who is focussed on rising to the top of their career. That he is obviously intelligent is not in question, that he is socially inept is not in question either, what is in question is his mental state and how organisations deal with someone who, it becomes increasingly apparent, has an obvious mental issues. As THE ROOM progresses the reader slowly comes to doubt the reality of what Bjorn is saying and to eventually doubt his sanity; at the same time the reader will start to doubt the other characters and their motives, and yes even their collective sanity; finally, the reader may even start to doubt their own perceptions of reality.

A short yet surreal story, all the action seems to be based mostly in reality, but whose? The government office where Bjorn works will ring true for public servants across the world. Bjorn is the office odd bod/ weirdo even – oh come on, we have all worked with one. Sadly the office weirdo is often in need of help rather than derision. Bjorn has such a set routine, a strong perception of how other people should be, and an inability to interact with his work colleagues that you immediately start to wonder if he might have some form of Asperger’s – which then makes you feel guilty for thinking him as odd. The whole situation begins with Bjorn annoying his colleagues by his inability to fit in, and in turn the colleagues annoy Bjorn for not doing things properly in his opinion. He rewrites conversation in his mind so they say what he believes is happening, which is the readers first inkling that Bjorn may not be a reliable narrator. The escalating situation overwhelms Bjorn to the extent that he needs time to gather himself mentally, and this is when he discovers the room. It is a small unused office near the toilets with a desk and chair. Bjorn starts to use it. The room becomes a soothing refuge from the main office, a place where he can work more quickly and efficiently. The trouble is when Bjorn goes into the room; his colleagues see something much different, what they see is the ‘weird one’ standing motionlessly and staring at a blank wall, as if he has shut down. And that is when Bjorn’s idealism clashes with his colleague’s realism – they doubt his sanity whilst he suspects conspiracy – how can they not see the room.

I did not like Bjorn as a person; I would hate working with someone like Bjorn and it would be an HR minefield dealing with a Bjorn-like person in the workplace. This is not to say I have issues with people with mental issues in the workplace – far from it. I worked with a person who had Asperger’s and he was a delightfully quirky character who the whole office got on with and accepted his quirkier habits. In THE ROOM Bjorn does not have nice personality, and I couldn’t feel a lot of pity for the events that followed, well only a little, and that is the crux of my problem. Does it make me a bad person to not like someone who is clearly under the influence of a mental illness? Alternatively should I force myself to like someone because they do? To be fair though I don’t much like his ‘normal’ colleagues either, although many would argue what is normal? In reality working with someone who has mental issues should not end up the way it did in THE ROOM. There appeared to be no compassion from any of them at all, and the one attempt at counselling/diagnosis was a joke.

Summed up THE ROOM is very thought provoking, and anyone who has gone through stressful events in an office environment will find themselves relating too much of what occurs. Jonas Karlsson does not stick to political correctness when dealing with mental issues in the workplace, instead he brings out the reality of what occurs – the whispers, the intervention, the counselling – in fact anything that political correctness says should happen does happen – and as in real life political correctness adds to the problem. Just because an action is the politically correct way to do something, doesn’t mean it is the right way, and can make things much worse. I went out of my comfort zone while reading THE ROOM – but I cannot recommend enough; is there a room, and if so where is it? Read it for yourself and make your own mind up

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

With thanks to Crown Publishing and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

February Reading Wrap Up

Welcome to my February reading wrap-up which I am posting now because I won’t be finishing any of my current reads by tomorrow:

The total of books I read in February was: 14

Of these: 3 were Library Books, 7 were E-books and 4 were from my physical TBR pile

Then: Out of the books I read I discovered 8 ‘new for me’ authors (i.e. the first time I have read their work).

And: 4 of the books read were written by Australian authors.

Best Book of the month:

I have had the best month ever in February with no less than 6 (yes, you read it right – six) ‘A’ reads. I give ‘A’s (or 5 stars) to books that regardless of genre are complete page turners for me, that have me reading late into the night, suck me straight into the story and leaves me wanting more at the end; and I utterly recommend it. If I give a high score to a book it means it is a top example of whatever genre it belongs to. Picking the best out of such a strong field this month was hard, two stood out as the top of all the tops. Those books were The Room by Jonas Karlsson (Contemporary Fiction) and A Small Madness by Anne Touchell (Contemporary YA). In the end though as it was an unputdownable and amazing story about teen pregnancy, family relationships and mental issues, A SMALL MADNESS by Anne Touchell just made its nose over the winning line, so it is my book of the month for February (and I have no doubts it will be in my Top 10 of the year).

Least Favourite Book(s):

I say ‘least favourite’ because my lowest ‘score’ still means it is very readable, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish. I didn’t really struggle with any of the books this month.

General Summary:

Because I am an eclectic reader I read many different genres, sometimes at the same time! This month the different genres covered were Young Adult, Romance, Science Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy, Dystopian, Women’s Fiction, Historical (set over 50 years ago), Contemporary Fiction (set in the last 50 years) and non-fiction. Some of the books were a blend of two or more genre.

My 4 Australian authors for February were 2 of the new-for-me authors Deborah O’Brien and Anne Touchell; along with Loretta Hill and Kate Forsyth. Just to clarify an Australian author is defined by me as either an Australian born author no matter where they live and write in the world now, or an author who currently lives and writes in Australia even though they have been born elsewhere.

Finally, the 8 ‘new-for-me’ authors this month were my Aussie authors Deborah O’Brien and Anne Touchell; along with Sophia McDougall, Gregory Funaro, Tessa Hainsworth, Austin Aslan, Jonas Karlsson and Jill Shalvis; and I would happily read all of these new authors again.

Interesting book related link that I’ve come across this month:

Is it Dystopian Literature you’re reading? If not then what is it? Bookriot tries to clarify the nuances of the different speculative fiction subgenre so you can figure out if you’re reading Dystopian, Utopian, Ecotopian, Apocalyptic, Post-Apocalyptic or even Parallel Universe, Multiverse or Metafiction:

http://bookriot.com/2015/02/16/defining-end-world-know-apocalyptic-vs-dystopia-vs-spec-fic/

The List

So let’s get onto what this post is about – here is the list of books that I read during the last month (each group is in the order I read them):

A = Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down

Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall – YA Science Fiction

The Room by Jonas Karlsson – Contemporary Fiction

Mr Chen’s Emporium by Deborah O’Brien – Women’s Fiction

Operation Valentine by Loretta Hill – Romance

A Small Madness by Anne Touchell – YA Contemporary Fiction

Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth – YA Fantasy

B = Really Good Read

Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis – YA Contemporary Fiction

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger – YA Historical Mystery

The Islands at the end of the World by Austin Aslan – YA Science Fiction/Dystopian

A Killer Retreat by Tracy Weber – Mystery

C = Above Average – very readable and enjoyable

Alistair Grim’s Odditorium by Gregory Funaro – YA Historical Fantasy

Up With the Larks by Tessa Hainsworth – Non-Fiction

A week in winter by Maeve Binchy – Women’s Fiction

Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis – Romance

D = Average – it was OK, a bit of a struggle to finish

None

So onward to March –Woo Hoo! I wonder what book goodies I will discover this month?

Title: A Killer Retreat

Author: Tracy Weber

Genre: Cosy Mystery

Opens: “This is bad, Michael. She’s not responding. I think she might be dead.”

Blurb: When Kate Davidson gets an offer to teach yoga classes at the Elysian Springs resort, she jumps at the opportunity. A wedding guest is found floating face-down in the resort’s hot tub, shortly after a loud, public fight with Kate. So when the police pick Kate as their number-one suspect, she teams up with her boyfriend Michael, best friend Rene, and German shepherd sidekick Bella to find the real killer.

My Thoughts: Last year I read, and enjoyed, the first book in the ‘Downward Dog’ series Murder strikes a Pose. So I jumped at the chance to read A KILLER RETREAT. I was not disappointed and liked this one even better! From the very first page as Kate, Michael and Bella travel to the resort I was drawn into the story. Kate may be a Yoga teacher and as such an ‘expert’ on channelling peace in and stress out, but as with anyone Kate has issues. Kate’s issues are commitment to a relationship and a really bad temper, so things are off to a bad start when while stretching their legs on a beach Michael casually mentions their imaginary future children which send Kate into a terror stricken panic leading her to having a run in with an unleashed dog owned by an obnoxious owner. The same obnoxious owner turns up at the resort as the trophy wife of the father of the bride, and still not putting her dog on a lead. Once again Kate lets her mouth run off before her brain kicks in and she publicly makes a threat to kill the women by strangling her with the dog’s lead, only to have the woman turn up dead a short time later – strangled with the dog lead. This makes Kate the chief suspect.

Rene and her husband turn up bringing their own issues with them; so with Kate avoiding Michael so he won’t talk commitment with her, Rene hiding a secret from her husband, and all of them trying to find the real killer it turns into a fast-paced story with lots of humour, and lots of suspects, and a few twists and turns. Because it turns out that Kate is not the only person to have been antagonised by the murder victim. When all is revealed in the edge-of-the-seat ending it all makes perfect sense.

A KILLER RETREAT has everything I enjoy in cosy – a mystery (goes without saying really) realistic characters, some edge-of-the seat action, some over-the-top drama, lots of humour and a little romance on the side. Throw in an animal and I am in cosy heaven!

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Midnight Ink and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Waistcoats & Weaponry

Author: Gail Carriger

Genre: YA Historical Mystery

Opens: “Funambulist,” said Sophronia Temminnick, quite suddenly

Waistcoats & Weaponry is the 3rd book in the ‘Finishing School’ series. Mind you Miss Geraldine’s Finishing School is not like any finishing school you would have heard of, for a start it is not located in a solid brick building; instead it is contained in a huge airship that floats around Dartmoor for the most part. It also takes on very proper young ladies from the higher echelons of society and turns them into spies and assassins. If this was not unconventional in itself the teachers include a vampire and a werewolf. The young ladies, our heroine Sophronia in particular, don’t lead a normal school life – oh they still learn the art of flirtation and how to dance, but the fans they flutter can be steel-bladed and learning to waltz on thin planks high up in the air can be quite hair-raising.

…."That’s it?" Sidheag was disappointed in Sophronia’s desultory description of the pilot’s bubble.

"When did you get interested in technology?" replied Sophronia.

"It’s not that; I was hoping that after we left, you would fall to your doom. Something exciting for once."

"Thank you kindly, Lady Kingair. The fact that I was initially dropped overboard by a vampire wasn’t exciting enough for you?"

"Not with you, Sophronia, it wasn’t."

"I spoil you, that’s the problem."….

Sophronia shares a room with the ultra-ladylike Dimity and their closest friend in the next room is Sidheag aka Lady Kingair. Sidheag comes from a Scottish Castle that is owned by a werewolf pack and the story follows a disaster that has occurred back at the castle. Dimity and Sophronia decide to travel with Sidheag back to Scotland to protect her reputation, Sidheag, wanting to be with her pack at this time, was planning to runaway and travel alone otherwise. So they steal a small airship, stowaway on a train and stumble across a plot that is being concocted by the despicable Picklemen and the vampires. Sophronia’s two admirers both come along as well, Soap – one of the School’s coal stokers and the young gentleman Lord Felix Mersey. This allows for plenty of tension to be added to the already action packed adventure. The girls have to work out who is friend and who is foe to prevent world domination by quite the wrong people.

I love this series, Gail Carriger is an imaginative and entertaining writer who is able to make the unlikely mechanical gadgets and gizmos seem normal. There is friendship, danger, a light touch of romance, laughter and adventure and I can’t wait to join Sophronia in her next adventure in ‘Manners and Mutiny’ due out later in 2015

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

Title: Operation Valentine by

Author: Loretta Hill

Genre: Romance

OPERATION VALENTINE is an ace little novella about Sarah who has had so much bad luck on Valentine’s Day (dates previously cancelled sue to food poisoning, ended relationships, flight delays and even death) that she has never been able to have a successful Valentine’s date, so she just isn’t going to try anymore as she is convinced she is cursed. OPERATION VALENTINE opens with Sarah and her two best friends having drinks at their favourite waterhole, Blue Saloon. Sarah needs a date at a very important work do that is being held on Valentine’s Day which could make a difference as to whether she will keep her job. Sarah’s friends decide she should try finding dates on an online dating service. The new owner of the bar, the darkly handsome, Owen Black – already established as a love ‘em and leave ‘em womaniser of the highest calibre – is held as an example of what type of man she shouldn’t choose. But Sarah finds herself drawn to him, and she seems to be breaking down Owen’s defences at the same time. So the stage is set for some disastrously funny blind dates and a growing relationship between two people who don’t want one. Even though the book is a tad under 150 pages there is a lot packed into it – even some quite heavy stuff – but overall it was a lovely book to read on Valentine’s Day with a glass of wine and my Valentine beside me on the lounge. I haven’t yet read a Loretta Hill story that I haven’t liked, and I recommend OPERATION VALENTINE for all lovers of romance.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

With thanks to Random House and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Mars Evacuees

Author: Sophia McDougall

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Opens: When the polar ice advanced as far as Nottingham, my school was closed and I was evacuated to Mars

My Thoughts: Earth has been invaded by invisible aliens called Morror. They like things cold so settle in the polar icecaps – trouble is they are extending the ice caps and the liveable area for humans is getting less, so now war has broken out between the two groups. Scientists are in the process of terraforming Mars but it is not quite ready for permanent human habitation. Still it is decided that 300 children aged between 8 and 16 should be sent to Mars anyway – doesn’t matter that there is not enough oxygen or that the sun can burn you to a crisp. Twelve-year-old Alice Dare is one of the 300 – her mother is a war hero flying ace battling the enemy and her father is also on the frontline.

The sending of the children to Mars is very reminiscing of the evacuations of children from London to the country during WWII. Only instead of being billeted out to people’s homes when they arrive on Mars the kids come under the care of a handful of Scientists, military personnel and some teacher robots such as a giant Teddy Bear who makes 7-year-olds cry and an annoyingly cheerful mechanical Goldfish that will shoot you with lasers if you don’t do your homework. The idea is that the children will be trained in warfare and when they come of age they will be sent back to earth to join the war effort. On the flight to Mars Alice befriended the odd Josephine, more by accident than design, Josephine has victim written all over her when it comes to being picked on by the other kids. They also strike up a sort of friendship with Carl and his younger brother Neil. The alliance comes in useful when the adults suddenly all disappear and the older kids take over the base, the situation quickly disintegrate into a Lord of the Flies type scenario. Finding themselves kicked off the base Alice, Josephine, Carl and Neil steal a spaceship and take off, along with the Goldfish robot which constantly wants them to do their homework, to try to get to the nearest base to find help. This is when the adventure really starts!

MARS EVACUEES is a very clever, action-filled, space adventure that had me on the edge of my seat more than once. LOVED Goldfish. The kids were all very believable – taking into consideration that they were braniacs and brave so not likely to end up in whimpering piles. They did adult things as a child would, and were still innocent enough to be more accepting of the weird and wonderful than adults – and I really liked that the distinction was made rather than falling into the trap making the kids do things that wouldn’t have come naturally. There are a few sub-plots going on – and lots of humour, including ‘gallows humour’ as the kids will face dire consequences if things go belly up. A fun yet meaningful space opera for middle school with enough hidden messages to keep an English teacher happy.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

.

Title: The Cat, the Quilt and the Corpse

Author: Leann Sweeney

Genre: Cosy Mystery

Opens: My cat is allergic to people – yes, odd, I know – so when I came in the back door and heard Chablis sneeze, I stopped dead. Why was she sneezing?

My Thoughts: THE CAT, THE QUILT AND THE CORPSE is the first of the ‘Cat in Trouble Mysteries’ and I can’t wait to work my way through the rest. Shortly after moving to their retirement home in Mercy Jillian’s husband dies leaving her a widow and single mum to 3 rescue cats all named after different wines. Jillian’s life now revolves around her cats and her online business of making and selling cat quilts. She does not mix much with other folk in Mercy, still grieving her loss.

The story opens with Jillian returning home after attending a quilting show; as she walks through the door she hears one of her cats sneezing – this may not be immediately seen as a problem but this cat is allergic to humans so a sneeze indicates someone has been around. Jillian finds that she has been broken into and one of her cats has gone. She calls the police to report a kidnapping – but kind of gets off on the wrong footing when she says my baby has been taken. When the police dispatcher finds out the ‘baby’ is a cat she is quite dismissive.. Candace Carson is one of the police officers sent to investigate the crime and she becomes firm friends with Jillian, and through her Jillian starts to interact with the community. Candace wants to be a ‘proper’ detective and is a stickler for gathering forensic evidence and bagging it up. A habit condemned as overkill by her senior who is disinclined to treat the catnapping as an important crime and writes it off as a prank. Jillian decides to do some investigation herself to find the catnapper, and starts to meet other Mercy residents and make friends while she investigates; including the charming ex-cop now PI, Tom Stewart who installs her new security system. When Jillian decides she knows who has stolen her cat she impulsively goes to his house to confront him – and there she does find her cat, but also an open door through which she finds the catnapper’s body with a knife sticking out of him. There are also more cats in the house. The police once again turn up to investigate the murder and decide to follow who gains the most from his death after they decide it is probably not by Jillian. Jillian decides the police are wrong and the murder must be cat related so starts her own investigation to find the owners of the cats – and maybe the murderer as well. THE CAT, THE QUILT AND THE CORPSE has a few twists and turns that kept me guessing until all fell into place at the end and I slapped by hand on my forehead and said DOH – because it absolutely made sense!!

Mercy is a perfect small-town community with a gossip network that has Jillian’s head spinning at how fast the information gets around. All the support characters are alive on the pages, and there are some delightfully quirky ones, Leann Sweeny writes very well and describes vividly the relationships between the different characters and their interactions; the gossipy information leaving this reader thinking she is almost part of the community as well. Jillian is a not a dithery, brainless woman – she is intelligent, determined and brave and I would love to sit down with a glass of iced tea and have a chat. The cats are themselves they don’t talk or do any investigating or even hint with a twitch of a tail. But they are very central to the story and make their presence known.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

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