5 recent reads: Trial to Triumph, Fragment, Just Take My Heart, Ravens, The Invisible Bridge

Trial to Triumph
by George Bryant, DayStar Books, $29.95
The theme of the 21 stories in this book is a salutary one - you can succeed despite the most dire disadvantages or disabilities if you have the will, the courage, and the faith. Inspiring Stories of Overcomers is the sub-title - and it does not exaggerate.
How does a person with no legs climb mountains? How does a blind person sail yachts? Or can victims of abuse use their trauma as inspiration to heal and help others?
Civilised societies have safety nets to help the disadvantaged and a variety of measures are available to assist them. Inevitably, there are people who abuse a welfare system - by declining to work when they could, by claiming sickness benefits long after full health has returned, and so on.
This book is about the exact opposites of those people - and their stories are an example to everyone in society. With the right attitudes, anyone can overcome.
Graeme Barrow

Fragment
by Warren Fahy, Harper Collins, $19.99
This novel will appeal to the fans of Jurassic Park with a little bit of Lost thrown in.
In the South Pacific lies a secret place, a fragment of a lost continent that has developed undisturbed for millions of years. Known only in sailing folklore, Henders Island is a place of mystery until the vessel Trident visits its shores in answer to a distress beacon.
On board are the cast of the TV reality series Sea Life and to the producer and scientific team this seems too good to miss.

But the island's ecosystem is unlike any they have encountered, with vicious plants and predators. Many surprises await but the ultimate realisation is that if anything were to escape to the mainland life on earth might soon cease to exist. The author cleverly leaves us with a few story threads dangling. This would make a great horror movie and I eagerly await a sequel.
Dianne Kerr
Just Take My Heart
by Mary Higgins Clark, Penguin, $25
Assistant prosecutor Emily Wallace takes on the high profile case of a theatrical agent charged with murdering his actress wife. The star witness is a career criminal who claims Greg Aldrich tried to hire him to kill his wife Natalie and the evidence backs up his statement.
Despite this, Emily starts to feel sorry for Aldrich and needs to decide whether she genuinely suspects there is something not quite right or whether the death of her husband two years before is unduly influencing her.
Much of the action takes place in the court and, while the author strives to capture the conflicting emotions of the lead character and the dignified resignation of Aldrich, for the most part it lacks the rawness of stories told from the perspective of investigating officers.
It is still a good read, but it doesn't grab you.
Julie Taylor
Ravens
by George Dawes Green, Hachette, $38.99
After a 13-year wait, the new novel from the acclaimed author of The Juror and Caveman's Valentine, both of which were made into movies, has hit the shelves.
Shaw and his best friend Romeo are on vacation. They make a chance stop at a convenience store where a $318 million jackpot was sold the day before. When the clerk lets slip the identity of the ticket holders, Shaw sees an opportunity to change their lives in a big way. A plot to terrorise the family into sharing their spoils unfolds - but will it be too much for everybody's sanity to take, even Romeo?
Although this could have been a mind twisting, terrifying, racing thriller, it is let down by the depth of the characters and the slow moving pace. Random sub plots are distracting and the main story could have been plumped out in their place.
Rachel Sharp
The Invisible Bridge
by Julie Orringer, Penguin, $39
This is another book about the Holocaust, although with a somewhat different twist. The plot is set in Hungary between 1937 and 1946. A young Jewish architecture student goes to Paris for training in the pre-war period and in the process falls in love with a Jew. At the same time his brother goes to Modena to study medicine and falls in love with a Shephardim.
The rest of the tale involves all the usual complications, but gets more interesting when both couples are forced to return to Hungary early in the war years. Here the author is evidently on her home territory as she documents the horrors of trying to keep a family together in the midst of persecution, not only by the Nazis, but by the Hungarians themselves.
The book is interesting because of the author's detailed knowledge, but one does get a bit exhausted with the plot and the partially-believable characters after 597 pages.
David Reed

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