Laura cvrIts about this time of year that animal charities and welfare organisations plead with us not to give animals as presents, because an animal is for life not just for Christmas. But every year in the days and weeks after December 25th their shelters and veterinary practices are inundated with the results of weak-willed and irresponsible parents, who gave in to the demands of their kids. Who up until the 24th December, think every cute kitten or puppy is a must, but by midday on Christmas day the reality is it can’t compete with a doll or a computer game, which has no responsibilities attached and can be left down and picked up at will. Well with this months book, I feel a bit like this and more importantly I’ve been sold a pup. The book is Laura by Anne Firth.

This is the second of two books that I was invited by Austin MacAuley Publishing to select for review from the range on their website (  earlier this year. What appealed to me was the blurb both on the website and on the back of the book when it arrived. The blurb states: Laura Blakeslee is a promising law student. When she picks up a part-time job with the Manley brothers, she thinks Henri, Robert and William are no more then a quaint bunch of bachelors. Yet their offices have a grand staircase leading to a STRICTLY PRIVATE notice? If it’s just for storage why is it out of bounds? Also why is the largest room in the offices left unused? Is it also connected to the mysterious “Robert’s Boys” coming in to care for the beautiful, but hidden back garden? All three Manley Brothers have secrets, but little does Laura know that their father has the deepest secret of all. Unwittingly she has stumbled on a trail that will lead to a mysterious island in Bermuda, a ghost story, a love story and the woman whose bracelet she wears.



What I got was the first two hundred pages of a three hundred page book filled with Laura shagging her way across Canada and then the south of England, before she even comes anywhere near the Manley brothers and their weird hot chocolate filled lives. It’s peppy at the start but then gets puerile after that. The book is more like Fifty Shades meets Sex and The City in the Home Counties and a poor imitation of Fifty Shades at that. The book is pure suburban erotica, not set in any sort of reality. When Laura finally settles down with her husband Tom, they have it away like rabbits almost every night as well as consuming wine like a pair of alcoholics, which as we all know is not going to help him in the bedroom dept, let alone her. It comes across all jolly hockey sticks and quite Enid Blyton-esque, although there wasn’t as much sex in Ms Blyton’s work.

enid blyton writing

Enid Blyton

The book is divided into three parts, but the first one and a half are totally useless and by the time you get to any sort of mystery, then there’s a fifty page preface to go through at the start of part three. Anne Firth may have thought she was drawing out the suspense, but you have to have built some sort of suspense first before drawing it out. In this instance she was just prolonging the agony.

At this stage, as I write the review, I’ve got three quarters of the way through the book and its still hasn’t delivered on any real mystery or ghost story. So having lost all Interest in this tawdry piece of bunkum, I’ve given up. The best thing Anne can do with this book is rip out the first two thirds and republish Laura as a novella.

This is Firth’s first novel and going by it, she might want to consider going back to her roots(excuse the pun) running  a successful hair and beauty business in the south of England or seek some new wise council on how to write your first serious piece of literature. Yes, a few successful actors have started their careers by making the odd pornographic flick just too make ends meet, but very quickly they have moved on to bigger and better things and have tried to bury their sordid past. Porn stars never win Oscars.

In the literary world, trying to use sex to sell your first novel is not on either As I’ve said earlier it’s worked once – all eyes’ are now on EL James to see what she’ll do next, people have tried to copy her success but this topic is a one hit wonder. Why not start by writing children’s stories, plays or even TV and radio dramas. Then if you think you have a penchant for eroticism by all means inject some into to your various works, but not bury the first serious piece in it.


I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all my followers on Word Press, Facebook,Twitter and LinkedIn a Happy and Prosperous New Year for 2015 and I look forward to bringing you more book reviews over the next twelve months. Please spread the word about The Library Door to your friends and family.

Feel free to leave a comment on any of the reviews. If you are an author or a publisher and want to send me a book for review you can contact me by twitter @apaulmurphy  or  

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Rosie prjct CvrRemember how when we were growing up we were always told never to make fun of people who were less well off than ourselves, had a stigma, disability or were over-weight. This never seemed to apply on TV Sitcoms and the like, such as the Carry On movies or more recently Little Britain, which went all out to send up those with disabilities or  weight issues. Then there’s the current US hit comedy the Big Bang Theory which makes fun of highly intelligent people who are on “The Spectrum”.

The term “The Spectrum” refers to the Autism Spectrum or Autistic Spectrum; which is used to diagnose a range of five conditions classed as Nuerodevelopmental Disorders, one of which includes Asperger Syndrome. People with Apergers often display high levels of intelligence, very bad social skills, nonverbal communication and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests. Hence Savants and academics at the top of their fields are often said to be “On the Spectrum”. The 1988 Film Rainman highlighted this side of autism, although it wasn’t meant to be funny, it was amusing. If the Australians’ had made a similar movie it might have been something like this month’s book, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

Published in 2013 by Penguin Books, the book tells the story of Don Tillman a highly intelligent genetics professor in Melbourne. Don’s hit a bit of a mid life crisis, he’s single, has tried all the usual routes, online dating, blind dates, personal ads,  chatting people up in bars – which is difficult for Don, given his limited social skills – all to no avail and with disastrous results(see the Apricot ice cream fiasco). So Don decides to take a more scientific approach to dating. He draws up a questionnaire “The Wife Project”, which again leads to hilarious results.  Gene his promiscuous boss, whose own life project is to shag a female from every nation on the planet and one of only two of Don’s close friends he has (the other being Claudia, Gene’s long suffering wife) then sends a mature student called Rosie  to him, resulting in a misunderstanding when Don believes Gene has put her forward for “The project”. He is roped into helping Rosie find her real dad, despite writing her off as totally unsuitable as a mate, but something begins to evolve through their close scrapes and weird escapades, including Rosie’s modicum of success in de-stigmatizing Don and making him slightly more socially adept, Don starts to realise she is the most beautiful woman he has ever met. But will his rather glaring and outlandish foibles get in the way of true love?

Hold on to your hats and don’t blink. Why? Because this is the funniest book I’ve read this year and if not, then it must share the mantle with The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (See previous review). But where that was a heart tugging, sentimental tale of star crossed lovers with the innocent humour of a small child thrown in for good luck, The Rosie Project is a straight out of the blocks, side splitting laughter fest. From the first page to the three hundred and twenty seventh, Professor Don Tillman will have you eating out of his hand and almost cracking a rib with the laughter. I’ve often said the that you know you’re reading a great funny book when your giggling and failed attempts to control hysterics in public cause other commuters on a train to give you funny looks, this book left me in this situation on a number of occasions.

Whether it’s the descriptions of the previous dating experiences,Big bang theory his idiosyncrasies such as having his meals, alcohol consumption and every hour of his day planned, judging everyone he meets by their BMI,  his and Rosie’s first date when Don gets embroiled in a fight over a jacket and single handedly immobilizes two bouncers, or that he memorises the recipe for almost every cocktail ever made in 48 hours so that he and Rosie can pass themselves off as waiters to collect DNA for “The Father Project”, you will never again meet a person like Don Tillman and the weird and wonderful characters in his life.

Rosie is no wilting wall flower, while the creators of The Big Bang Theory have tried to saddle the male cast with equally straight laced high achievers; Rosie is no regular girl next door. She works in a gay bar and dresses like a biker, while studying psychology. At first you’d think these two are chalk and cheese, but then you realise they are just right, who else is going to be able re-wire the oddly wired Professor Tillman, but a savvy street-wise ‘Sheila’.

As for the other characters, Gene is straight out of the British sitcoms of the seventies, bed hopping his way through the UN, while marking his conquest with a flag on a map in his office. It reminded me of Adrian Mole and how he measured the development of his manhood and kept track of it on a chart in his bedroom supposedly tracing rainfall in the Norwegian forests. There’s the Dean who realises Don is special, but while trying to accommodate him has to keep the University running smoothly round Don – which isn’t easy.

Graeme Simison

This is Australian author Graeme Simsion’s first work of fiction, in another life he was an IT consultant who wrote a book in 1994 on Data Modelling, which is now in its fourth edition. As I started reading this book his second work of fiction The Rosie Effect, was in the bookshops.

The book its self  started life as a screen play and as Graeme says himself at the back of the book, it only  became a novel first because “..It’s cheaper to get a book published then raise money for a film”.

Here in lies one of its only flaws, it’s not Australian, nowhere in the book do you get any feeling that it’s Australian, the speech Not Australian imageand dialect doesn’t come out in any of the characters. Yes the characters mention Australian places and street names, but like any script it’s just words on a page until an actor brings a character to the part. This is the second Australian book I’ve read in the past year and a half after Murray Bail’s “Eucalyptus”, which oozed Aussie charm and character from every pore and you could literally taste the hot dry barren outback. As a result this comes across like a RomCom film script, something ideally suited to Hugh Grant, Ricky Gervais or Steve Carrell, but a damn good one at that.

This was a sentiment echoed by the book group at our last Rosie effct Cvrmeeting when we gathered to discuss it, overall they loved the book, a few of us got through the book so quickly we actually went straight on to the sequel “The Rosie Effect”, but like most sequels, it tires quickly and only just manages to keep you to the very end with its modicum of new material. Whereas The Rosie Project is a great piece of original work, the sequel feels very much like a rehash of most American sitcoms, as the story moves to the States.

So, with the Christmas season fast approaching and if you find yourself looking for away to quietly digest the third day of turkey salad sambo’s or pass the time on a long journey home, pop into the nearest bookshop and snap up a copy or download it  and laugh all the way to the New Year.