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Book talk: 5 great summer reads

Jeff and Michael Popple recommend five great summer reads. More of their reviews can be found on their blogs: murdermayhemandlongdogs.com and the unseenlibrary.com

Unrestricted Access by James Rollins

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Morrow, $32.99

Short stories always make for great holiday reading and this selection by James Rollins will provide hours of reading pleasure. Rollins is the author of a number of popular action thriller series and Unrestricted Access contains 11 previously released short stories and one new novella. The stories cover the breadth of Rollins’ career and feature the same fast-paced, high-action focus of his novels and offer his usual high-voltage fight scenes and interesting storylines. They also display his well-known fascination with military technology and speculative science. All the stories are entertaining, but the concluding two, which feature dogs, are outstanding and poignant. A fun read.

Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke

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Bantam Press, $32.99

Those looking for some epic fantasy adventure these holidays should check out this second book from Canberran author, Sam Hawke. After being besieged during Hawke’s first novel, City of Lies, the city of Silasta has mostly recovered. However, Silasta’s true enemy is still out there and it falls to poison-taster siblings, Jovan and Kalina, to uncover who they are and what they are plotting. Hawke has produced another impressive novel that sees two compelling characters attempt to unravel an elaborate conspiracy in an inventive fantasy setting. An outstanding and captivating read, this is one of the best fantasy novels of 2020.

The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell

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Hachette, $32.99

Offering less drama and more romance and charm, is the latest novel by Australian author Joanna Nell. Set in a dreary nursing home, it features retired nature writer, Hattie Bloom, who wants to escape back to her home, and assorted wildlife, and would-be comedian, Walter Clements, who needs to master his new mobility scooter so that he too can leave. Together with an assorted cast of other misfits, they set out to right a terrible wrong and enjoy their golden years. This is a delightful and enjoyable book, full of funny asides and lovable and enduring characters. A good uplifting read.

The Emperor’s Exile by Simon Scarrow

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Headline, $32.99

If you’re in an action mood during your holiday break, you should read the latest historical fiction book by Simon Scarrow, The Emperor’s Exile. It is 57 AD, and Tribune Cato, after returning to Rome, finds himself out of favour with Nero’s advisors. Cut off from his friend and ally, Marco, Cato is forced to accompany the Emperor’s mistress into exile on Sardinia, while also putting down a brutal insurgency. This is an exciting book that serves as a key entry in Scarrow’s long-running Eagles of the Empire series. Featuring some great historical elements and well-developed characters, this is an awesome read that is highly recommended.

Box 88 by Charles Cumming

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Harper Collins, $29.99

Finally, those after a clever spy novel will enjoy the latest offering from Charles Cumming. Lachlan Kite is a member of a secret, high level spy agency, Box 88, that runs clandestine missions away from the prying eyes of the traditional agencies. Kidnapped by Iranian Intelligence after attending a funeral in London, Kite is forced to go back over the early days of his career when he was involved in a botched mission in 1989. With his family under threat, Kite desperately tries to escape without revealing the truth of what really happened. High quality spy fiction with plenty of twists and the occasional burst of gunfire.

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