Dreams of The Good Life

Dreams of The Good Life: the life of Flora Thompson and the creation of Lark Rise to Candleford by Richard Mabey

This is the story of the author who wrote the English literature classic Lark Rise to Candleford. Unfortunately she is far less renowned than her crowning achievement! 

While Flora Thompson's much-loved portrait of life in the nineteenth-century countryside has inspired a hit television series, relatively little is known about the author herself. 

In this highly original book, bestselling biographer and nature writer Richard Mabey sympathetically retraces her life and her transformation from a post-office clerk who left school at fourteen to a sophisticated professional writer. Mabey shows how her legacy emerged from the creative tension between two different dreams of the good life. While her work's appeal comes from her commemoration of the virtues of traditional village life, just when these values were being eroded by the advance of urbanisation, her own history consisted chiefly of an escape from this culture and a hunger to become a different kind of person, a writer with her sights on the skies. Above all, this book helps us understand how the creation of a formidable imagination can arise from the humblest of beginnings.

Fans of the series Lark Rise to Candleford or those who have read the books might enjoy this biography of Flora Thompson who wrote the original books.   Lark Rise is about village life in England in time of change, the rural life that many saw as a simpler time.  Mabey tells of Flora’s escape from this life and her transformation from a working class girl to a professional writer. Mabey is a naturalist and biographer who does a great job telling this story.  



A Week in Winter

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

From the catalogue:  Stoneyville is a small town on the coast of Ireland where all the families know each other. When Chicky decides to take an old decaying mansion, Stone House, and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, the town thinks she is crazy. She is helped by Rigger- a bad boy turned good who is handy around the place, and her niece Orla, a whiz at business. Finally the first week of paying guests arrive: John, the American movie star thinks he has arrived incognito; Winnie and Lillian, forced into taking a holiday together; Nicola and Henry, husband and wife, both doctors who have been shaken by seeing too much death; Anders, the Swedish boy, hates his father's business, but has a real talent for music; Miss Nell Howe, a retired school teacher, who criticizes everything and leaves a day early, much to everyone's relief; the Walls who have entered in 200 contests (and won everything from a microwave oven to velvet curtains, including the week at Stone House); and Freda, the psychic who is afraid of her own visions; and others. You will laugh and cry as you spend the week with this odd group who share their secrets and might even have some of their dreams come true.
The literary world took a huge hit when it lost one of Ireland’s best and most beloved authors, Maeve Binchy.  This book was her last before she passed away in July 2012.   Binchy wrote with warmth about locations she knew best and populated them with a mix of characters – one of her most-loved writing traits.

It’s been years since I read a Binchy novel and I did enjoy meeting her people with their all-too-human flaws. And I loved the landscape - the crashing Atlantic sea on the rocks below the hotel, the seabirds and the rugged walks, while inside the warmth of the fire, Gloria the kitten curled up and the homely kitchen beckon.  But the way this book was constructed was like slamming two different novels into one, bang, then publishing it!

The first half concentrated on Chicky Starr, her story, and how she forged the decrepit Stone House into a warm and welcoming hotel by the sea.  The second half tells all the individual stories of each guest and how they come to be there during the opening week. The tenses were different, the voice was different, and that’s where it lost a lot of charm for me.

Narrated by the talented Caroline Lennon, her delightfully lilting Irish accent complemented the book beautifully so I can recommend the audio version for those who just simply want to lose themselves in the last novel from the Binchy pen.

We have this book in hard copy, large print, Playaway and CD formats.



Nancy Wake

Nancy Wake: a biography of our greatest war heroine by Peter FitzSimons

Australia Day...  and a fitting time for a book review of Australia's most decorated* World War II heroine - the legendary Nancy Wake.

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, on 30 August 1912, Nancy Wake's family moved to Australia and settled at North Sydney when she was 2 years old. In the early 1930s, Nancy Wake was a young woman enjoying a bohemian life in Paris. By the end of the Second World War, she was the Gestapo's most wanted person.

Her courier job became a highly successful escape network for Allied soldiers, perfectly camouflaged by Nancy's high-society life in Marseille. Her network was soon so successful - and so notorious - that she was forced to flee France to escape the Gestapo, who had dubbed her 'the white mouse' for her knack of slipping through its traps.

But Nancy was a passionate enemy of the Nazis and refused to stay away. Supplying weapons and training members of a powerful underground fighting force, organising Allied parachute drops, cycling four hundred kilometres across a mountain range to find a new transmitting radio - nothing seemed too difficult in her fight against the Nazis.

This book was a pleasant surprise.  As it is a biography, I was expecting something reasonably dry, more a factual documentation, but it is written in FitzSimons' typical style - light, easy-to-digest, something more akin to fiction than non-fiction.  This may rankle some biog aficionados, but I liked it.  Overall, this Bolinda e-Audio download is well worth a listen and Stephanie Daniel narrates it well, handling the many accents with aplomb. We also have this title in other audio formats - MP3, CD and Playaway, and hard print.

*Companion of the Order of Australia
United Kingdom George Medal
Commonwealth of Nations 1939–1945 Star
France & Germany Star
United Kingdom Defence Medal
United Kingdom War Medal 1939–1945
French Republic Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur
French Republic Officier de la Légion d'Honneur
French Republic Croix de Guerre
United States of America Medal of Freedom
French Republic Médaille de la Résistance
Badge In Gold - New Zealand


This Changes Everything

This Changes Everything: capitalism vs the climate by Naomi Klein

In her most provocative book yet, Naomi Klein tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth. Klein exposes the myths that are clouding the climate debate. 

You have been told the market will save us, when in fact the addiction to profit and growth is digging us in deeper every day. You have been told it's impossible to get off fossil fuels when in fact we know exactly how to do it - it just requires breaking every rule in the "free-market" playbook: reining in corporate power, rebuilding local economies and reclaiming our democracies. You have also been told that humanity is too greedy and selfish to rise to this challenge. In fact, all around the world, the fight back for the next economy is already succeeding in ways both surprising and inspiring. Climate change, Klein argues, is a civilizational wake-up call, a powerful message delivered in the language of fires, floods, storms, and droughts. Confronting it is no longer about changing the light bulbs. It's about changing the world - before the world changes so drastically that no one is safe. Either we leap - or we sink. 

I admit I am a Naomi Klein fan, so picked up her latest effort with glee and was not disappointed. Klein convincingly argues that the root cause of climate change and the failure of humanity to adequately deal with it lies in the western free-market economic model. It is capitalism which has fostered the exploitation of the earth’s resources to the point of possible human extinction, and therefore the solution to the carbon crisis lies with transforming the global political system to break free of our slavish devotion to fossil fuels. And Klein also argues convincingly that this task is definitely do-able, quoting recent reports and investigations which prove it. While much of the narrative is grim, there is also a very positive case to argue that the chances of humanity saving itself are good – IF we take heed and act now.



Circle Line

Circle Line : around London in a small boat by Steffan Meyric Hughes

Join the editor of Classic Boat magazine as he sets sail around London, glides through historical monuments, and unearths long-forgotten secrets from beneath the waterways.

In 1969, man flew to the moon and sailed around the world solo. In 2009, sailor and Londoner Steffan Meyric Hughes thought he'd try something a little closer to home and became the first to sail and row around London in a small boat. Along the way, he discovered not only history of the great city but great secrets of the mysterious Thames: wrecks, bombs, and intrigue. This is the story of a unique journey on the forgotten waterways of one of the world's greatest capitals; an investigation into the way we live today; and a humorous, moving trip down memory lane.

Here's one for the armchair traveller with a taste for the unusual.  There are lots of yarns to enjoy about people who live around the water, the history of these areas and of course, the city that they pass through.  It's a very engaging book and easy to read.



When the Devil Drives

When the Devil Drives by Chris Brookmyre

From the cover: Private Investigator Jasmine Sharp has been hired to find Tessa Garrion, a young woman who vanished without trace.  What begins as a simple search awakens a malevolence that has lain dormant for three decades.  As Jasmine uncovers a hidden history of sex, drugs, ritualism and murder, she realises she may need a little help from the dark side herself if she’s going to get to the truth. 

This novel is the second featuring PI Jasmine Sharp and Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod, the first being Where the Bodies are Buried.  And from various Brookmyre fans comes the general consensus of opinion that he’s on a bit of a downhill slide.  

Not having read the first one, I can only put forward my opinion that this book is OK, a relatively pedestrian read and a bit of a letdown when compared to the blurb above which sounds like there’s going to be some paranormal goings on.  There isn’t.  Set in Scotland and with myriad accents, narrator Sarah Barron does well, bringing colour to the somewhat one dimensional story.  Our 21 years old protagonist, Jasmine, has potential but just doesn’t ramp up any feelings of “go girl!!”  This book is not bad, it’s just a bit 'ho hum'.  We have this title in hard copy, large print, audio CD, playaway and e-Audio formats. 


Premier's Literary Awards

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour literary achievement by Australian writers. The Awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.

Fiction – $25,000 The Prize for Fiction
Non-fiction – $25,000 The Prize for Non-fiction
Drama – $25,000 The Prize for Drama
Poetry – $25,000 The Prize for Poetry
Young Adult – $25,000 The Prize for Writing for Young Adults

The winners of these five categories will contest the Victorian Prize for Literature – worth $100,000 - and will be announced on Wednesday 28 January.  Here's your last chance to vote, CLICK HERE.


Last Man Off

Last Man Off by Matthew Lewis

From the cover:  The waters of Antarctica, June 6th 1998. 23-year-old Matt Lewis has just started his dream job. An observer aboard a deep sea fishing boat, he is mesmerized by his new surroundings: glistening icebergs, killer whales and majestic albatross. As the crew haul in the longline for the day, the waves seem bigger than usual - they are casting shadows on the deck. A storm is brewing. What follows is an astonishing story of human courage, folly and tragedy. With the captain missing, and the crew forced to abandon ship, Lewis leads the escape onto three life rafts, where the battle for survival begins. 

This was a fascinating look at a subject I've never given a thought to - longline fishing on the southern ocean for Patagonian Toothfish!  

If you remember that solo sailor, Tony Bullimore, who got himself lost down there a few years back, you will recall just how far away from everything and how dangerous that particular patch of water is! The Falklands are hundreds of miles away, Chile is a little closer, and Antarctica's South Georgia island is your best bet if you're in trouble, only 200 nautical miles as the crow flies.  So if you're bopping about the briny in a little patch of rubber, you wouldn't be feeling too positive about a happy ending.  

The sheer of size the area; the challenges of having an international crew and the language barrier that presented; the short-cuts regarding regulations, safety gear, and modifications to the boat; the weather - a force 7 gale, 10 metre waves, blowing ice and and snow on the water; and the blatant incompetence by the skipper  ... all these things combined to create a disaster of epic proportions. 

I borrowed the Playaway format and Malcolm Hamilton narrated the book well, handling the many accents with aplomb.  We also have this book in hard copy, large print and CD audio format.  This hour-by-hour account will be enjoyed by readers of non-fiction classics such as 'A Perfect Storm' and 'Touching the Void'.


Mateship with Birds

Mateship With Birds by Carrie Tiffany

Set in Victoria in the 1950s, Mateship With Birds tells the story of the developing relationship between a lonely dairy farmer and a nurse who is raising two children on her own. But it also tells the story of the local kookaburra family through the eyes of the dairy farmer. 

This book has the quintessential innocence of the 1950s Australia and resonated with me as my sister lives in Echuca, raises her children on her own and works at the local hospital. I have spent time there at her farm and amongst the birds.

This is Tiffany's second novel and it was selected for the $40,000 NSW Premier's Award. The author's success came soon after also taking out the inaugural Stella Prize for Australian women's writing. 

The Stella prize for female authors is quite controversial as it was established to recompense the disparity of male winners in the Miles Franklin Award. Ironically Stella is Miles Franklin’s first name - Stella Maria Miles Franklin. Tiffany is an agricultural newspaper writer by trade and has travelled a lot in the country observing the lives of country people. This is a warm easy read, soft gentle and funny. 

Sandra S



Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell

From the cover:  Under cover of night in Richmond, Virginia, a human monster strikes, leaving a gruesome trail of stranglings that has paralysed the city. Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta suspects the worst: a deliberate campaign by a brilliant serial killer whose signature offers precious few clues. With an unerring eye, she calls on the latest advances in forensic research to unmask the madman. But this investigation will test Kay like no other, because it’s being sabotaged from within – and someone wants her dead.

After having read most of the Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta series, I had apparently missed the very first one, so visited the very beginning of the series, all of which, I must say, are well narrated by Lorelei King.    

It was an odd first introduction because it felt like no-one was being introduced.  There was no explanations about characters, no background explained, no 'fleshing out' the characters.  Even Dr Scarpetta's neice, Lucy, was already staying with her at age 10, no explanation for quite some time as to why, and a computer geek.  Now that was funny as the story is set in the 80s and we can all recall how new and exciting PCs were with their 'back-up discs', clunky modems and dialling via phone lines, and typing commands at the C: prompt! There's a lot of that in this story, plus the usual body count, autopsies, the 'new' science of DNA matching, lots of medical jargon, bureaucracy, and colourful Det. Marino colloquialisms like 'squirrel' and 'whackjobs'. 

All in all?  Not what I was expecting but there's just something about this series that makes you want to keep on picking up the next one after a few different reads in between.  As well as this Bolinda e-audio download, we have Postmortem in paperback, MP3 and CD formats.



The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Many of you may have seen the movie. If you have, the book is still worth a read. And if you haven’t seen the movie then read the book first! 

This is an amazing tale about a young girl given up by her mother in 1939 to be raised by German foster parents. It is a story of courage, friendship, love and dedication. The heroine of the story is young Liesel, whose life is changed when she picks up an object by her brother’s graveside on her way to a new home. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook and is her first act of book thievery. This soon leads to a love affair with reading and books. Throughout the story there are many other occasions Liesel steals books, hence why she is known as the Book Thief. Liesel’s foster father, Hans Hubermann, is an amazing character who mentors her love for words. 

It is interesting to also read a book set in World War Two from a German perspective rather than a Jewish one. We often consider the hardships and atrocities faced by the Jewish people but what of the innocent Germans? The book opens up on the dangerous and difficult times for kind-hearted and loving German people. This is particularly exemplified when Liesel’s foster family hide a young Jewish man in their basement.

I absolutely fell in love with this story which is so poetic and poignant. It will not be a story to disappoint!  The Book Thief is also available as an e-book, e-audiobook and MP3 talking book. Then of course there is also the DVD!
I hope you all enjoy this beautiful story as much as I did.

~ Narelle


Still Alice

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what's it's like to literally lose your mind...

This book was a captivating and sad read. Alice is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers disease. The effect it has on herself and her family is so devastating, her husband is also a lecturer and sets about trying to find a cure, while her three adult children struggle with their mother's diagnosis and the subsequent effect it has on their own lives.

Its a very scary topic to explore, and the author herself has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, which shows in the novel. I highly recommend this book. It spent over 40 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and the movie adaptation starring Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin is coming out in Australia later this month (January). Five stars from me.



Strange library

Fully illustrated and beautifully designed, this is a unique and wonderfully creepy tale that is sure to delight Murakami fans. (Random House)

Being a librarian, I am interested in fiction that is set in a library, so after reading this description, my curiousity was piqued and I had to try out "Strange Library" by Murakami.

I had never read anything by Murakami and I am generally not a reader of creepy tales, so I went in without any idea of what I was going to read, beyond the book blurb.

'All I did was go to the library to borrow some books'. On his way home from school, the young narrator of The Strange Library finds himself wondering how taxes were collected in the Ottoman Empire. He pops into the local library to see if it has a book on the subject. This is his first mistake. Led to a special 'reading room' in a maze under the library by a strange old man, he finds himself imprisoned with only a sheep man, who makes excellent donuts, and a girl, who can talk with her hands, for company. His mother will be worrying why he hasn't returned in time for dinner and the old man seems to have an appetite for eating small boy's brains. How will he escape?

The book is only 70 pages long and many pages only have a line of text over a page wide illustration, so it didn't take long to get through.  And it was quick, but left me perplexed.

It was more weird than creepy and seemed to have no purpose or reason. It was more like what I imagine a horror story coming out of a young child's imagination would be like, made up as it went along.  Although it was a nonsensical tale, none of it made any sense, including what happened beyond the adventure in the library.

It was short, it was different, it was weird, but unless you are a fan of either Murakami or the bizarre, it is not one I would recommend.

~ Michelle


All Good Things

All Good Things by Sarah Turnbull

From the cover: For many people, finding the love of your life and moving to Paris would come pretty close to having it all. Having shared her story in the bestselling Almost French, Sarah Turnbull seemed to have had more than her fair share of dreams come true. But there was still one dream she was beginning to fear might be impossible. Then out of the blue an opportunity to embark on another adventure offers a new beginning - and new hope. Leaving Paris behind was never going to be easy. But it helps when your destination is known as paradise on earth.

Sarah Turnbull's first memoir Almost French is one of my favourite books so I had high expectations when I picked up All Good Things. Instead of the trials and tribulations of adjusting to life in Paris, this memoir is all about the highs and lows of living in Tahiti. Sarah, her lawyer husband Frederic, and their dog Maddie relocate there when Frederic gets a transfer. They set up their home in a cottage near a lagoon on Mo'orea and Frederic takes the ferry to Pape'ete for work. 

All Good Things is peppered with vivid descriptions of learning to dive, visiting small islands and atolls, and the rich history of Tahiti. But it is not all smooth sailing. Her new home may be in paradise but Sarah's slides into a depression following failed IVF attempts, culture shock, thefts and isolation. I found this part of the book quite bleak but I'm glad I continued to the conclusion. Sarah Turnball is a great writer and provides a unique perspective on other cultures.

Sandra E     


Sight Unseen

Sight Unseen by Iris and Roy Johansen

From the cover: Before the experimental surgery that gave her sight, Kendra Michaels developed her other senses to an amazing capacity. Law enforcement agencies clamour for her rare powers of perception and observation, too often disrupting the life she has built helping others through music therapy. Because so very often, only Kendra can get the job done. But in this case, it's Kendra who first realises that the apparent traffic accident on San Diego's historic Cabrillo Bridge is in fact a murder scene, and she rushes to alert the police before crucial evidence is destroyed. As the body count rises and one murder unveils another, a gruesome pattern emerges. Someone is killing people in ways that mirror Kendra's most notorious cases. She has a fan: someone who admires her work and is twisted enough to show that admiration through murder.

Kendra Michaels was safe in a world of darkness. She was born blind but was given her sight at the age of 20. During her childhood she developed her other senses to an amazing degree. She is able to identify a Nissan by the engine sound, a particular brand of razor by the pattern of the stubble, or an obscure colourless fire accelerant by its sweet smell. She is a popular consultant among law enforcement agencies for her rare observations. This leads her into ever-increasing danger as she is hunted by an unseen enemy. This excellent thriller is the tense sequel to Close Your Eyes (2012) by a mother and son writing team.

Sight Unseen is available in both print and large print. 


Tsunami and the Single Girl

Tsunami and the Single Girl by Krissy Nicholson

From the cover: Set in humanitarian disaster zones around the world, Tsunami and the Single Girl is the story of Krissy Nicholson's journey to become an aid worker and her (seemingly) never-ending search to find a soul mate. As a free-spirited traveller, Krissy - now almost 30 - needs her life to start taking shape. So how does a wild night on a dance floor in Vietnam land her a sought-after role in Oxfam working in emergency relief? And how does the excess of the expatriate scene, a string of Mr Wrongs and failed romances lead to self-discovery and ultimately self-fulfilment? Against the backdrop of adrenalin-fuelled disaster response, Krissy begins to understand the power of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Whether co-ordinating emergency relief work in-the-field, or trying to find love in all the wrong places, Krissy takes us on a heartfelt and surprising adventure.

The title of this book sounds so bizarre, I was curious to read it. It sounds like a work of fiction; major disaster crossed with chick lit. However, Tsunami and the Single Girl is actually a quite serious memoir about Australian aid worker Krissy Nicholson's experiences in disaster zones and developing countries across the world. The single girl aspect is woven into the account as Krissy details the difficulties of sustaining meaningful relationships due to distance and the intensity of experiences.

As many people around the world have just reflected on the 10-year anniversary of the 2004 South-East Asian tsunami, this is a fascinating book to read if you would like an insight into how aid workers tackle the complexities of disaster relief. It also provides interesting background on long-term work to improve sanitation and living conditions in developing countries. It's not all hard work though, there's plenty of partying, a fair share of romance, and some heartbreak too.

Tsunami and the Single Girl is available as a paperback and e-book.

Sandra E 



The innovators by Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson is a well-respected biographer of IT “celebrities”, and in this book he brings together the stories of some of the major contributors to the development of the modern technological age.

Most people know the names of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee, but how many know of Ada Lovelace, Vannevar Bush and J.C.R. Linklader, who were just as responsible for the birth of the computer and the Internet as their more famous counterparts?

Isaacson weaves an enthralling tale of these trailblazers and their accomplishments, often against significant odds, telling how they managed to create the tools which we use in virtually every aspect of our lives today. It is a fascinating tale, and one which is far from finished.

This book is not only for computer geeks, but for anyone who is interested in society and how we are always striving to learn something new and conquer the seemingly impossible.



Great Zoo of China

Matthew Reilly is back with his latest blockbuster - The Great Zoo of China.

From the book:
It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane 'CJ' Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong... GET READY FOR ACTION ON A GIGANTIC SCALE

Reilly always writes roller coaster ride books, action-packed adventures that take you on amazing journeys and that leave you breathless.  This one is a little different in that the first 100 pages (it has over 500) are like the slow ride up the first incline on the roller coaster, rather than the action packed take-off from the first word that he is known for.

The first section really sets the scene for an almost unbelievable scenario (although Reilly makes it believable) which takes you on a most amazing ride. From unique creatures to amazing intelligences, from cutting edge equipment and machinery to doing things 'old-school', this book covers everything from A to Zoo.

If you love action, if you enjoy a twist and if you love good over evil (whichever form it takes), then you will love The Great Zoo of China.

~ Michelle



Cairo by Chris Womersley

From the cover: Frustrated by country life and eager for adventure and excitement, seventeen-year-old Tom Button moves to the city to study. Once there, and living in a run-down apartment block called Cairo, he is befriended by the eccentric musician Max Cheever, his beautiful wife Sally, and their close-knit circle of painters and poets. As Tom falls under the sway of his charismatic older friends, he enters a bohemian world of parties and gallery openings. Soon, however, he is caught up in more sinister events involving deception and betrayal, not to mention one of the greatest unsolved art heists of the twentieth century: the infamous theft of Picasso's Weeping Woman. Set among the demimonde - where nothing and nobody is as they seem - Cairo is a novel about growing up, the perils of first love, and finding one's true place in the world.

This is a beautifully written book about finding your feet in a new city but also a captivating glimpse into the bohemian lifestyles of artists and musicians in Fitzroy and Collingwood during the eighties. Country boy Tom gets swept up in the excitement of attending parties and gallery openings with his neighbours, Max and Sally, and their artistic friends. He is drawn into their sinister web and becomes unwittingly involved in an escalating series of shocking events. 

Chris Womersley has based this novel around the real-life events of 1986 when a group calling themselves the Australian Cultural Terrorists stole a $1.6 million Picasso painting from National Gallery of Victoria. 

I love reading books set in locations that I know well and enjoyed the vibrant descriptions of Fitzroy, Carlton and Collingwood during the eighties era. It was also really intriguing to learn about the theft of the Weeping Woman and imagine what went on behind the scenes. Cairo provides plenty of excitement and is a brilliant book to read to learn a little more about Melbourne's colourful history.

I read the e-book of Cairo through the BorrowBox app. Cairo is one of the 10 books selected for the 2015 Summer Read.

Sandra E


Ark Storm

Ark Storm by Linda Davies

From the cover: The Ark Storm is coming - a catastrophic weather event that will unleash massive floods and wreak more damage on California than the feared "Big One". One man wants to profit from it. Another wants to harness it to wage jihad on American soil. One woman stands in their way: Dr Gwen Boudain, a brave and brilliant meteorologist. When Boudain notices that her climate readings are off the charts, she turns to Gabriel Messenger for research funding. Messenger's company is working on a program that ionizes water molecules to bring rain on command. Meanwhile, Wall Street suits notice that someone is placing six-month bets on the prospect of an utter apocalypse and begin to investigate. Standing in the shadows is journalist Dan Jacobsen, a former Navy SEAL. War hardened, cynical, and handsome, Jacobsen is a man with his own hidden agenda. Ark Storm brings together the worlds of finance, scientific innovation and terrorism in a fast-paced thrill ride that will leave readers gasping. 

Ark Storm is an exciting, scientific, techno-thriller. Pack it in your luggage as it would make a great holiday read!

Unfortunately for society, the science of the weather patterns, the potential disastrous events, the financial profit-making, and the terrorist angle of Ark Storm seem all too likely to happen. 

The author's interesting and engaging cast of characters works well in this entertaining and somewhat frightening book.


Circle Line

Circle Line: Around London in a Small Boat
by Steffan Meyric Hughes

From the cover: In 1969, man flew to the moon and sailed around the world solo. In 2009, sailor and Londoner Steffan Meyric Hughes thought he'd try something a little closer to home, becoming the first to sail and row around London in a small boat. Along the way, he discovers the history of the great city's future and great secrets of the mysterious Thames: wrecks, bombs and intrigue. "Circle Line" is the story of a unique journey on the forgotten waterways of one of the world's greatest capitals; an investigation into the way we live today; and a humorous, moving trip down memory lane.

For our Christmas Day review we have one for the armchair traveller with a taste for the unusual! 

In 2009 Steffan Meyric Hughes was the first person to sail around London in a small boat using forgotten waterways, disused tunnels and of course the Thames. This travel tale includes plenty of yarns about people who live around the water, the history of these areas, and the city that they pass through. 

Circle Line: Around London in a Small Boat is a very engaging book and easy to read. 


Warning: Cyclone Tracy

Warning: the story of Cyclone Tracy by Sophie Cunningham

When Cyclone Tracy swept down on Darwin at Christmas 1974, the weather became not just a living thing but a killer. Tracy destroyed an entire city, left seventy-one people dead and ripped the heart out of Australia's season of goodwill. 

For the fortieth anniversary of the nation's most iconic natural disaster, Sophie Cunningham has gone back to the eyewitness accounts of those who lived through the devastation - and those who faced the heartbreaking clean-up and the back-breaking rebuilding. From the quiet stirring of the service-station bunting that heralded the catastrophe to the wholesale slaughter of the dogs that followed it, Cunningham brings to the tale a novelist's eye for detail and an exhilarating narrative drive. And a sober appraisal of what Tracy means to us now, as we face more—and more destructive—extreme weather with every year that passes.

I can remember hearing about the sudden impact of Cyclone Tracy upon the small, somewhat parochial town of Darwin on Christmas Eve, 1974. Or rather, I heard about it on Christmas Day, as back then there was no Internet, no Facebook and no Twitter to spread the news of this natural disaster as there is today.  Indeed, reading this account of the devastation that hit Darwin on that day made me realise just how much modern communications have changed our world. The people of Darwin didn’t even have functioning radios after Tracy struck and the community was totally unprepared to cope with the devastation and the aftermath of the cyclone. 

Sophie Cunningham tells the story warts and all – the mass evacuation of the citizens which saw families split up and piled into planes with no idea of their destination, the shortage of food and fresh water, the lack of simple bedding to sleep in at night let alone houses to go back to, the tragic mass shooting of family pets. It is a heartbreaking story yet an inspiring one too, with stories of courage, nerve and love. She also adds another type of warning for us – to heed the results of climate change which is causing the increasing frequency of such natural disasters.


French Parents Don't Give In

French Parents Don't Give In by Pamela Druckerman

From the cover: In response to the enthusiastic reception of her bestselling parenting memoir French Children Don't Throw FoodPamela Druckerman now offers a practical handbook that distils her findings into 100 short and straightforward tips to bring up your child à la françaiseIncludes advice about pregnancy, feeding (including meal plans and recipes from Paris creches), sleeping, manners, and more. 

Pamela Druckerman offers a practical handbook of helpful and fun short tips to bring up your child à la française, with advice about feeding (including meal plans and recipes from French creches), sleeping and dealing with tantrums and other bad behaviour.

Pamela is a freelance journalist on lifestyle issues who lives in Paris with her husband, English football writer Simon Kuper, young daughter and toddler twin boys. Apart from using her own first-hand observation of her French friends and neighbours, she interviewed numerous French mothers, teachers and child experts as part of her research for French Parents Don't Give In.

More great tips from the author of French Children Don’t Throw Food.


State of the Union

State of the Union by Douglas Kennedy

From the cover: America in the sixties was an era of radical upheaval of civil rights protests and anti-war marches; of sexual liberation and hallucinogenic drugs. More tellingly, it was a time when you weren't supposed to trust anyone over the age of thirty; when, if you were young, you rebelled against your parents and their conservative values. But not Hannah Buchan. Hannah is a great disappointment to her famous radical father and painter mother. Because instead of mounting the barricades and embracing this age of profound social change, she wants nothing more than to marry her doctor boyfriend and raise a family in a small town. Hannah gets her wish. But once installed as the doctor's wife in a nowhere corner of Maine, boredom sets in.

Writing in a similar style to Jodi Picoult, Douglas Kennedy explores contemporary social issues through the eyes of warm but intelligent characters.
Hannah is a fine upstanding citizen, wife and mother, but one small indiscretion 30 years ago comes back to haunt her and her family in a very public way. 
I read this on holiday and it was very enjoyable. The main characters had good depth and their relationships with each other were complex. 


Taking the Leap

Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves From Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chodron 
From the cover: In this book Pema Chodron shows us how to break free of destructive patterns in our lives and experience a new sense of freedom and happiness. Drawing on the Buddhist concept of shenpa, she helps us to see how certain habits of mind tend to "hook" us and get us stuck in states of anger, blame, self-hatred, and addiction. The good news is that once we start to see these patterns, we can begin to change our lives for the better." 
"The key is learning a new way of facing the inevitable difficulties and insecurities of our daily lives: we must learn how to stay present and open our hearts. 
"This path entails uncovering three basic human qualities;" explains Pema. "These qualities have always been with us but perhaps have gotten buried and almost forgotten. They are natural intelligence, natural warmth, and natural openness. Everyone, everywhere, all over the globe, has these qualities and can call on them to help themselves and others."
This book gives us the insights and practices we can immediately put to use in our lives to awaken these essential qualities. In her friendly and encouraging style, Pema Chodron helps us to take a bold leap toward a new way of living - one that will bring about positive transformation for ourselves and for our troubled world.

I read about this author in David Roland’s book, How I Rescued my Brain, and can recommend it to anyone that is interested in freeing their mind. Pema Chodron clearly explains the Buddhist idea of "shenpa", which are regular thought patterns that we can get hooked on. For example, being hooked on anger, blame and self hatred. 

Once we are aware of the shenpa, we can then learn to work in the present moment with our “natural intelligence, natural warmth and natural openness” to help ourselves and others. Pema has presented these ideas in Taking the Leap in an accessible and encouraging style.


False Advertising

False Advertising by Dianne Blacklock

From the cover: Helen always tried to be a good person. She recycles, obeys the water restrictions, she is even polite to telemarketers. As a mother, wife, daughter and nurse, Helen is used to putting everyone's needs before her own. But it only takes one momentary lapse of concentration to shatter her life forever.
There was no momentary lapse for Gemma. Her customary recklessness leaves her pregnant, alone and estranged from her family with her one-promising advertising career in tatters. So when Gemma barges unceremoniously into Helen's life, things will never be the same again for either of them. Two very different women who have one thing in common - their lives have fallen short of their expectations. But is fate offering them a second chance?

It's no secret that I really enjoy Dianne's books, as our Endeavour Hills branch was lucky enough to have Dianne visit a couple of years ago. This is the only book of hers that I hadn't yet read. I was hoping a new one would be on the way soon, but I'm led to believe it is a little way off yet.
I really enjoyed this story, I love the way Dianne makes the characters feel so real. I felt for Helen, the young widow who believes she is still married, and I loved Gemma and her family, her OTT mother and her sister. 
Dianne weaves an interesting plot in this book and I really believe it would make such a wonderful movie - hey there, movie producers you need to option this one!
This book will appeal to all readers of Contemporary Women's Fiction and, as she is an Australian author, the story is set in Sydney.


Books to film in 2015

Many of the better films on the big screen these days were inspired by books. While most book lovers despair at shallow cinematic adaptations that don’t “get” the novel or the unnecessary introduction of new love interests and locations, we all still make the effort to read the book before seeing the film.

Next year there are plenty of books making their way onto the big screen. Here's a selection to read over the summer:

The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman

From the cover: 1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia, and lives there with his wife. One April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and an infant. Years later Tom and his wife discover the consequences of the decision they made that day - as the baby's real story unfolds.

Last month more than 100 cast and crew of The Light Between Oceans descended on the town of Stanley on Tasmania’s north-west coast to film scenes in the historic town. The story is located on an island off the coast of Western Australia but the film will be shot in Stanley, Sydney, and Marlborough and Otago in New Zealand. Directed by Derek Cianfrance, the film stars Oscar winner Rachael Weisz and Michael Fassbender, star of X-Men: Days of Future Past, plus plenty of Stanley locals who grew beards to score roles as extras!

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

From the cover: Mariam is just fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism.

Director Steven Zaillian has the difficult task of bringing to life the complicated relationship of Miriam and Laila (Saye Yabandeh) against the backdrop of Afghanistan's political and social turmoil. Hopefully he can achieve the same balance of gritty reality and emotion as the novel.

American Sniper by Chris Kyle

From the cover: The astonishing autobiography of SEAL Chief Chris Kyle, whose record 150 confirmed kills make him the most deadly sniper in U.S. military history.

The upcoming adaptation is directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Bradley Cooper of The Hangover and, more recently, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Sienna Miller. 

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

From the cover: In Communist Russia, there is no murder, only crimes against the state. Dedicated MGB officer Leo Demidov arrests whomever he is told to because he believes in the Party stance. When he is forced to witness the torture of an innocent man and investigate his own wife his belief that he serves a greater good crumbles. Child 44 is the first of a trilogy.

Swedish director Daniel Espinosa is behind the film adaptation of Child 44. He is best known for the Denzel Washington thriller Safe House. The cast includes Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Paddy Considine, Dev Patel and Charles Dance. 

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

From the cover: Libby Day was just seven years old when her older brother massacred her family while she hid in a cupboard. Her evidence helped put him away. Ever since then she has been drifting, surviving for over twenty years on the proceeds of the 'Libby Day fund'. But now the money is running out and Libby is desperate.

Another dark thriller from Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl, which was one of the hit movies of 2014. The big screen version stars Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult and Corey Stoll.

The Martian by Andy Weir

From the cover: I'm stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Earth. I'm in a Habitat designed to last 31 days. If the Oxygenator breaks down, I'll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I'll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I'll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I'll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

This survival story adaptation directed by Ridley Scott has attracted a stellar cast including Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Kate Mara and Sean Bean. 

And I suppose we probably need to mention this one...

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

From the cover: When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind - until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time.

With translations into 51 languages, the Fifty Shades trilogy has sold more than 100 million copies in e-book and print — making it one of the biggest and fastest-selling book series in history. The film is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, with Jamie Dornan starring as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele.

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