27.8.14

Victor Hugo: Les Mis

The State Library of Victoria invites you [FREE] to:

Victor Hugo: Les Misérables – From Page to Stage panel discussion: The social conscience and the popular novel – Victor Hugo and his contemporaries.

Victor Hugo, Leo Tolstoy, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Dickens were all bestselling authors of their time – Hugo’s Les Misérables sold 6000 copies a day when it was published in 1862. Each of these writers touched on themes of repression, poverty and political unrest in their novels. Did they deliberately tap into the current concerns of the day or were they just producing ripping good yarns?

Join Melbourne writer Jane Sullivan as she chairs a lively and entertaining discussion about the 19th-century novel and the social conscience. Jane's column ‘Turning pages’, about books and writing, runs in the Saturday Age. Her latest novel, Little people, was published by Scribe.

Panellists include historian Anna Welch, who worked as the assistant curator on our exhibition Victor Hugo: Les Misérables – From Page to Stage; Brian Nelson, Emeritus Professor of French Studies at Monash University, who is well known for his critical studies and translations of the work of Émile Zola; and world-renowned translator Julie Rose. Julie's 2008 translation of Les Misérables is the first full original unabridged English translation of the book.

Date: Thursday 28 August 2014, 6:00pm - 7:15pm
Cost: Free 
Bookings: Book online or phone 03 8664 7099 or enquiries@slv.vic.gov.au
Venue: The Courtyard, Main entry, Swanston St

Deb

26.8.14

The Silence of the Sea


The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Sigurdarttir  


From the cover: 'Mummy dead.' The child's pure treble was uncomfortably clear. It was the last thing Brynjar - and doubtless the others - wanted to hear at that moment. 'Daddy dead.' It got worse. 'Adda dead. Bygga dead.' The child sighed and clutched her grandmother's leg. 'All dead.' A luxury yacht arrives in Reykjavik harbour with nobody on board. What has happened to the crew, and to the family who were on board when it left Lisbon? Thora Gudmundsdottir is hired by the young father's parents to investigate, and is soon drawn deeper into the mystery. What should she make of the rumours saying that the vessel was cursed, especially given that when she boards the yacht she thinks she sees one of the missing twins? Where is Karitas, the glamorous young wife of the yacht's former owner? And whose is the body that has washed up further along the shore?

This author is a master at creating a sinister atmosphere with a logical explanation. The characters and family relationships are subtle and believable. 
A quality follow-up to her I Remember.
Dot

25.8.14

The Shadow Tracer

The Shadow Tracer by M.G. Gardiner


From the cover:  Can a person ever really disappear for good by going off the grid? And what happens when vanishing is no longer an option? Sarah Keller is a single mother to five-year-old Zoe, living quietly in Oklahoma. She's also a skip tracer, an expert in tracking people who've gone on the lam to avoid arrest, prosecution, or debt-- pinpointing their location to bring them to justice. When a school bus accident sends Zoe to the ER, their quiet life explodes. Zoe's medical tests reveal what Sarah has been hiding: Zoe is not her daughter. Zoe's biological mother-- Sarah's sister, Beth - was murdered shortly after the child's birth. And Zoe's father is missing and presumed dead. With no way to prove her innocence, Sarah must abandon her carefully constructed life and go on the run. Chased by cops, federal agents, and the group responsible for Beth's murder, Sarah embarks on a desperate journey. 

The publisher’s blurb really doesn’t ramp up much excitement, and it should because this is one pacy, thrilling ride -  it would make a great movie! Even when the action is not full throttle, the characters are very well drawn and realistically portrayed, from the downright evil Worthe cult members Grissom Briggs and two of Eldrick Worthe’s granddaughters, Fell and Reavy; to our main protagonists (do we detect a hint of romance?) Sarah and Marshall Michael Lawless;  to 5-year old Zoe who has been implanted with a microchip bearing some very important cult information. From Oklahoma to Roswell New Mexico, there are some hair-raising chapters including a brutal murder in an isolated farmhouse during a snow storm, a dangerous car chase along a freeway and the extravaganza - a final bloody confrontation in that famous Texan aeroplane graveyard.  This action-packed crime thriller was brilliantly read by the talented female narrator, Laurence Bouvard.  Highly recommended in any format... Borrow now and buckle up! 
Deb
PS - Some of this author's titles are under the name Meg Gardiner, others as M.G. Gardiner.  The playaway version I borrowed had the initials.  

22.8.14

Concealed in Death

Concealed in Death.  Being book number 37 in JD Robb's 'In Death' series, one would think there is nothing new to bring to these futuristic mysteries!
But one would be wrong...

When billionaire Roarke takes the ceremonial first swing in the demolition of one of his buildings, he finds hidden behind a false wall the remains of two teenage girls. Luckily he's married to Lieutenant Eve Dallas, New York's top Homicide cop, who quickly uncovers more remains, 12 in total. It will take all of Eve and her team's considerable skills to crack this case; one that has twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end! 
Tara

21.8.14

Cop Town

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

Atlanta, 1974:  As a brutal killing and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way — wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies. It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.  Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are sidelined in the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach boiling point. With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.

This is another brilliantly written, evocative, deeply moving and exceptional read from the master of crime fiction. She is so good at her craft and makes writing and reading this seem easy, with well-developed protagonists and bad guys – there are many – which you simply hate! Slaughter captures the flavour of the 70’s and reduces it down to a piquant stock that flavours the entire narrative. The 70’s are a transforming time – not just in Atlanta but all over the world and she captures it so well. It gives a female perspective on being a police officer and the daily battles they must face not only from the criminals but also from within their own force.

This is a good standalone novel or perhaps the start of another series? She has definitely left the door open for us to read more of the Lawson’s story or Kate’s story. Devote an evening to Ms Slaughter’s fare – you will not be sorry.
Janine


20.8.14

The Broken Ones

The Broken Ones by Stephen M Irwin 


From the cover:  The world has descended into chaos. On the surface, everything looks the same, yet the unthinkable has happened. The dead have risen.

Everyone is haunted by a relative, friend, spouse, or stranger, and these spirits are unshakeable, silent and watching. Governments the world over fail to deal with the epidemic. Crime is rife, and murders commonplace. But who is responsible: the ghosts or the people?

Finding out is where Detective Oscar Mariani comes in. He stumbles onto a case that cuts through his apathy. A ritualistic, brutal serial killer is at work murdering young women and the evidence implicates those in high places. If Mariani can solve the case, and keep alive himself, he may be able to exorcise his own ghostly shadow, a dead young man who might have a message Mariani needs to hear. 

This Australian author has been making it big overseas – his debut novel The Dead Path (reviewed here back in 2011) was a great introduction to his trademark of blending genres.  This one is crime and mystery mixed with the supernatural, horror and some semi-dystopian elements.  I really enjoy a good ghost story, but initially I didn’t know whether to stick with this or not as it’s rather bleak and depressing.  It is, however, a powerful read ... it gains a sense of urgency and the ending came as a surprise. Well done Mr Irwin.  I enjoyed Grant Cartwright's narration on the Playaway format I borrowed.  We also have this title in hard print, CD, MP3 and e-audiobook.
Deb  

19.8.14

Set Up

Set Up by Claire McNab 

From the cover:  Detective Inspector Carol Ashton is faced with three unsolved murders that seem linked by the fact that the victims' names appear under the heading Notable Deletions on the website of a radical international environmentalist group. Overseas, the entrepreneurs and magnates that the group, Gaia's Revenge, describes as environmental vandals have been dying mysterious deaths. Now it seems as if it's Australia's turn to play host to a hired killer. Three unsolved murders; her son, David, accused of selling marijuana; and a journalist hanging around, following her every move. Life is challenging for Detective Inspector Carol Ashton. 

I wished I had’ve seen the “this is the 11th book in the series” note in the catalogue, but alas, too late; I was already well into this story when I got the feeling that this might be the case. Who is Sybil never got answered.  Well narrated by Caroline Lee, this had the potential to be a good series, but it’s just a tad on pedestrian side and that's what stopped me from searching for Book 1.  However, having a female, gay police inspector who has a teenage son puts a new spin on things, and environmental radicals keeps it topical, so some may enjoy it.  But when all is said and done, this is a fairly average police procedural and there are too many other titles beckoning.   
Deb.

18.8.14

East of Innocence

East of Innocence by David Thorne

From the cover:  One man. On the hunt for the truth. On the edge of London. And way outside the law. Daniel Connell is a disgraced ex-City lawyer now scraping a living in Essex, a man trying to escape the long shadows of his past. When an old childhood friend visits him, asking for his help with a case of police brutality, Daniel wants nothing to do with it. But obligations are obligations, and he soon finds himself on the wrong end of police attention, and dragged into the shady business of a local gangster. But there is far more at stake than he could ever have anticipated, including the mystery of what happened to his mother, who disappeared months after he was born. Daniel must keep ahead of his pursuers long enough to uncover the bloody mysteries of the past, and the fate of another young woman, too innocent to protect herself in the midst of a dangerous game. Welcome to Essex.

If you’re familiar with English crime shows in the realm of The Bill, The Minder, Blood on the Wire, that sort of thing, then you’ll know what this book was like - it packs a punch in more ways than one.

East of Innocence is incredibly violent, has more than its share of nasty criminals looking to inflict more than “a bit of bovver, Sunshine”, features a bent cop and his cronies, a gangster and his thugs, and is peppered with more foul four-letter words than a bad Scrabble day … mmmm … not quite your average cuppa tea: “fanks son, put the kettle on, ta” [without sounding the letter ‘t’ once]. 

Surprisingly, two characters in the book stopped me from returning it pronto. Our protagonist Daniel and his mate Gabriel, two seriously flawed mid-thirties guys who just happen to be doubles tennis champions.  Go figure.  Daniel, a lawyer, has been hurt in so many ways it tugs at the heart strings, while Gabe, an undercover sniper home from the war in Iraq, is minus the lower half of one leg.  Does it get any better than this?  How about Daniel’s mother – ah, but that would spoil it.
   
If you are liberal minded with your language and strong of stomach, you might really enjoy this book.  It’s very well written, and if you get the audio version as I did, Rupert Degas delivers an excellent narration.  
Deb.

15.8.14

Bittersweet

Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough

From the cover:  This is the story of two sets of twins, Edda and Grace, Tufts and Kitty, who struggle against all the restraints, prohibitions, laws and prejudices of 1920s Australia.  Only the submissive yet steely Grace burns for marriage; the sleekly sophisticated Edda burns to be a doctor, the down-to-earth but courageous Tufts burns never to marry, and the too-beautiful, internally scarred Kitty burns for a love free from male ownership. Turbulent times, terrible torments, but the four magnificent Latimer sisters, each so different, love as women do: with tenderness as well as passion, and with hearts roomy enough to hold their men, their children, their careers and their sisters.

Twins.  Hurrumph!  If anything is going to put me off a storyline, it’s one of twins! I have no idea why I borrowed this book but it is way better than the publisher’s blurb, so much so it would make a very enjoyable movie!  There’s a depth and intelligence to it that is not even hinted at - a strong commentary on the politics of the day runs through the story -  Joseph Lyons, Jack Lang, and a young ‘upcoming’ Menzies;  the Depression, which has such impact under this author’s pen, more so than others I’ve read; and the machinations of a running a hospital as opposed to those that populate one.  

This is an obvious choice of setting for Ms. McCullough; she started out as a teacher, librarian, then journalist, changed to medical studies at the University of Sydney then switched to neuroscience and worked in Royal North Shore Hospital. She eventually took a research associate job at Yale University, followed by ten years researching and teaching in the Department of Neurology at the Yale Medical School in New Haven, Connecticut, USA, where she first turned her hand to writing novels.  It comes as no surprise that this book has so much of her background underpinning it, and I think it’s stronger for it.  My only negative is the ending.  Is it an ending?  It is so open-ended I can’t help but think there’s a sequel.  Considering it closes just before the rumblings of Hitler and WWII, it’s the next logical step.
Deb. 

14.8.14

Ned Kelly's Shortlist

The Ned Kelly Awards are Australia’s oldest and most prestigious prizes honouring Australian crime fiction and true crime writing. The awards began in 1995 and is now run by the Australian Crime Writers Association.  The shortlist for 2014 is:



BEST CRIME NOVEL
Garry Disher, BITTER WASH ROAD
Kathryn Fox, FATAL IMPACT
Adrian McKinty, IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE
PM Newton, BEAMS FALLING
Stephen Orr, ONE BOY MISSING
Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH

BEST FIRST CRIME NOVEL
Peter Cotton, DEAD CAT BOUNCE
Candice Fox, HADES
Alex Hammond, BLOOD WITNESS
Ellie Marney, EVERY BREATH

BEST TRUE CRIME
Paul Dale, DISGRACED?
John Kidman & Denise Hofman, FOREVER NINE
Eleanor Learmonth & Jenny Tabakoff, NO MERCY
Colin McLaren, JFK: THE SMOKING GUN
Duncan McNab, OUTLAW BIKERS IN AUSTRALIA
John Safran, MURDER IN MISSISSIPPI

Winners will be announced at the Brisbane Writers Festival on 6th September.
Deb.

13.8.14

Everything to Lose

Everything to Lose by Andrew Gross.

From the cover:  Hilary Cantor has lost her job, is about to lose her house, and is running out of money to care for her son with Asperger’s syndrome. When Hilary is first on the scene of a car accident, she finds a satchel full of cash on the back seat. Her split-second decision takes her to the heat of a conspiracy involving blackmail and a powerful figure who’ll do anything to keep the past buried.

What would you do in this moral quandary? Such an interesting scenario that had me intrigued from start to finish. It made me wonder what I would do in this same dilemma and really made me connect with the main character, Hilary Cantor. During this story it provided fear and suspense which I quite enjoy. It's definitely a good read for those who love a thriller.  I listened to the audio version of this story narrated by Tavia Gilbert. It is also available in book format.
~ Narelle



12.8.14

Skin and Bone

Skin and Bone by Kathryn Fox

From the cover:  Detective Kate Farrer returns to duty after three months of stress leave. Fearing that she has lost her edge, she reluctantly partners homicide newcomer, Oliver Parke. They are immediately thrown into the investigation of a young woman who has been murdered and burnt beyond recognition. The post-mortem reveals she had recently given birth, but there is no sign of the baby. With homicide short-staffed and overloaded, Kate and Oliver are also ordered to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl. Suspicion falls on Mark Dobbie, a fitness trainer who is obsessed with the missing girl’s sister. When the detectives find drugs and photos of naked women in his apartment, they wonder if they have uncovered a serial date rapist-turned-murderer. While the pressure to find the missing baby and teenage girl escalates, Kate Farrer's past demons come back to haunt her. But she must fight them - her partner's life depends on it. 

This may well be Book 3 in the Anya Chrichton series, but if you’re hanging out for Anya to do her stuff you’ll be in for a disappointment.  This is the Kate Farrer show; Anya is overseas for 6 weeks, allowing the flinty detective a little ‘star’ time.  And that’s all good as this book is firstly, and best, Australian [Sydney setting].  It’s also fast paced, offers an interesting plot with a couple of twists, some seriously bad people with very big egos, and a little soul searching for our protagonist who must overcome what happened to her in Book 1, Malicious Intent.   

The author knows her stuff and it shows through in the writing.  Kathryn Fox is a physician with a special interest in forensic medicine. She says her time spent in forensic medicine forming relationships with murderers, victims, police, lawyers, and prisoners and their families gives her an insight in motivations and behaviours.  With 7 books so far published, I need to get a wriggle on and reserve more as I have been enjoying this series very much.  We have it in all formats and I highly recommend you put a hold on one if you like this genre.
Deb. 

11.8.14

I Am Malala

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb.

I chose this book to read as I wanted to find out more about this young woman who was the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. What I read was so much more.

I was intrigued by not only Malala’s story but that of her father which is described in detail during the book. In a society which prizes sons over daughters, Malala’s father wanted his daughter to be treated equal while also not compromising their religious beliefs. Together their fight for education of young girls, and establishing schools for children in Pakistan, was inspirational.
There is a lot of detail about the political environment of the times which set the scene and helps the reader understand and empathise with these two amazing individuals.

In October 2012, Malala Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head while returning home on a school bus. She was targeted due to her very public campaign for the rights of young women to an education in Pakistan.

The book is set out in six parts. The first is Malala’s early life before the Taliban came to Swat, Pakistan. Next is all about the political unrest when the Taliban arrived and extended their influence across Swat. Part three  is the time leading up to Malala being shot by members of the Taliban, part four was her journey between life and death, and the last two parts are about her life in England receiving wonderful medical treatment and rehabilitation services, and then her life that she is now living after her amazing and miraculous recovery.

To quote Malala, she says that her goal “in writing this book was to raise my voice on behalf of the millions of girls around the world who are being denied their right to go to school and realise their potential.”  She has certainly achieved being a great supporter, advocate and champion for universal access to education.

Definitely an inspirational and thought-provoking read.
~ Narelle

8.8.14

Recipes for a Perfect Marriage

Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Kate Kerrigan

From the cover:  New York food writer Tressa returns from her honeymoon worried that she has married her handsome new husband out of a late-thirties panic.  In 1930s Ireland, her grandmother Bernadine is married off to the local schoolteacher after her family is unable to raise a dowry for her to marry her true love, Michael. 
During the first year of marriage, Tressa distracts herself from her stay-or-go dilemma by working on her grandmother’s recipes, searching for solace and answers through their preparation.

The title is deceptive, the audio narration by Caroline Lennon is great, and if you’re female, this is one book that may touch some nerves. The author digs into our sensitivities in this entertaining novel – why do girls want to be married; become inured to sharing our lives with that Man; staying with him for … 50 years or more? 

Interspersed with the occasional recipe, the story explores the lives and love of two women from different times and places. The interesting thing about this rather non-descript, easy-to-pass-over cover, is that it contains some observations so well drawn they can really make you wince.  
Deb
We have this title in print, Large Print, Audio CD and e-book. 

7.8.14

Cooked

Cooked: a natural history of transformation by Michael Pollan

From the cover:  In Cooked, Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements, fire, water, air, and earth, to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture. Both realms are transformed by cooking, and so, in the process, is the cook.

I thought this author seemed familiar – he wrote, amongst others, The Omnivore’s Dilemma which I read last year.  It was very thought provoking and well done.  Despite the engaging blurb above, this one was a hard slog, though the Introduction is excellent and I can highly recommend that.  The book is split into parts 1-4: Fire (Creatures of Flame), Water (A recipe in Seven Steps), Air (The Education of an Amateur Baker), and Earth (Fermentation’s Cold Fire).  Pollan takes us on a journey through the fundamentals of cooking, uncovering the inner mysteries of everything from tiny specks of yeast to a whole hog roast.  There is also an Afterword and two appendices – one has recipes from each of the four above headings, and the other a list of other books on cooking.
Deb.

6.8.14

A Change in Altitude

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve

From the cover:

Margaret and Patrick have been married just a few months when they set off on what they hope will be a great adventure, a year living in Kenya. While Patrick practices equatorial medicine, Margaret works as a photojournalist.  A British couple invites the newlyweds to join them on a climbing expedition to Mount Kenya, and they eagerly agree. But during their harrowing ascent, the unthinkable happens. In a reckless moment, an horrific accident occurs and a life is claimed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Margaret struggles to understand what happened on the mountain and how these events have transformed her and her marriage, perhaps forever.

Anita Shreve is a dab hand at writing - to date some 18 novels have gained her fans around the globe with bestselling titles like Light On Snow, The Pilot’s Wife and Rescue. (As an aside, she also wrote two non-fiction books back in the 1980s to do with working mothers and motherhood.) Prior to all this, among other jobs Anita Shreve worked for three years as a photojournalist in Nairobi, Kenya, and it is obvious that this eventually provided the setting of A Change in Altitude, though why it took her so long, I’m not sure.

We have this book in all formats, but I chose the Playaway version which was read by Laurence Bouvard (female).  She delivered an excellent narration, handling male, female, Dutch, British and many African accents with aplomb.  This added colour to what is a fairly slow character-driven story.  Apart from one incident, not much in the way of action happens, which is fine if you like this style of book.  At least the characters hold interest – equatorial medicine and photojournalism in areas from shanty towns to old colonial splendour are not your usual grist for the mill.  Throw in some politics, romance, geography, tribal factions, tropical weather, mountain climbing and AMS – acute mountain sickness or altitude sickness, and you will find you’ve reached the end of the book sooner than expected.  Which is very annoying because it doesn’t really end, it just stops abruptly leaving us hanging in limbo.  Is there going to be a sequel?  
Deb.

4.8.14

Phantom Instinct

I have been a fan of Meg Gardiner since her debut award-winning novel "China Lake" in 2008.  Her novels have featured either lawyer-turned-freelance journalist Evan Delaney or forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett. However, her latest title, "Phantom Instinct" takes a new direction, with a one-off story with new characters and a slight change in writing style.

"An injured cop and an ex-thief hunt down a killer nobody else believes exists after a murder spree in a crowded L.A. club. When shots ring out in a crowded L.A. club, bartender Harper Flynn watches helplessly as her boyfriend, Drew, is gunned down in the cross fire. Then somebody throws a Molotov cocktail, and the club is quickly engulfed in flames. L.A. Sheriff Deputy Aiden Garrison sees a gunman in a hoodie and gas mask taking aim at Harper, but before he can help her a wall collapses, bringing the building down and badly injuring him. A year later, Harper is trying to rebuild her life. She has quit her job and gone back to college. Meanwhile, the investigation into the shoot-out has been closed. The two gunmen were killed when the building collapsed. Certain that a third gunman escaped and is targeting the survivors, Harper enlists the help of Aiden Garrison, the only person willing to listen. But the traumatic brain injury he suffered has cut his career short and left him with Fregoli syndrome, a rare type of face blindness that causes the delusion that random people are actually a single person changing disguises. As Harper and Aiden delve into the case, Harper realizes that her presence during the attack was no coincidence--and that her only ally is unstable, mistrustful of her, and seeing the same enemy everywhere he looks."

This book is fast paced and action packed, much like I have come to expect with Matthew Reilly's titles and as with his books, Meg Gardiner does it well.  The action is thick and fast, but not too overwhelming and the main characters respective histories and current situations are intricately woven into the story, making you barrack for them as they face adversity both together and apart and as their own interactions develop in a way that both scares and appeals to them.  Twists, turns, bad guys, good guys who have their own issues - it's all there and more.

Meg Gardiner is a multi-award winning author and she has proven her calibre yet again with this excellent story.  It was very hard to put down and finished well, if a little unexpectedly...... but you'll have to read it for yourself to find out how.  :)

~ Michelle

1.8.14

Stolen Moments

Stolen Moments by Rosie Harris


From the cover:   At eighteen, Kate Stacey accepts a post as nanny to Lady Helen Sherwood's daughters, and falls passionately in love with Lady Helen's brother, David. When the liaison is discovered, David is recalled to his father's industrial empire in the Welsh valleys, and Kate is dismissed. Following her heart to Wales, Kate is horrified by the squalid poverty on which the Owen fortune is built. Her sympathies lying with the increasingly rebellious workers, she finds herself dangerously caught up in the Chartist Movement. Meeting David again, Kate finds their love still endures. But is David strong enough to defy his autocratic father - and can Kate contemplate a future living on the proceeds of human misery?

Kate's quest and immeasurable time spent longing for David dominate this novel. The lovers spend very little actual time together but Kate palpably wishes to. The lightness of this read is demonstrated through the easy language and the dabbling in detail. The language within the novel includes local dialect which is very enjoyable, but I felt a fairly non-specific historical voice, as the only contextual date is on the last page (it's set in 1839 for other readers who might find this useful).  Interestingly, the author describes how Kate feels about the atrocities she faces (estranged love, rape, nursing sick men), but rarely details the atrocities themselves beyond what one would describe in a polite letter. The strongest moments are when the author's description allows Kate to express to us how she is feeling about what is happening to her as it is happening. For example she recounts being visited in the night by a sardonic man, but only describes that he does unthinkable things to her. We know that Kate covers her bruises with fine clothes and reveals to other characters what she has experienced, but not to the reader, which gives the impression that we do not really know her on an emotional level. We are told, rather than shown, many of Kate's experiences and we are sometimes left to feel less sympathy for her as a result. Contrastingly, heavily detailed recounts of the plight of the industrial workers are frequent and voiced actively. This pattern breaks for patches where Kate takes up work as a nurse and I wanted more of this description to exercise my empathy with the main protagonist.

I don't usually read romances but the inclusion of the Welsh country side and the historical/social uprising of the workers caught my interest so I thought I'd give it a try. What I found was a story that was an easy and enjoyable read but not life changing in any sense and left me longing for a deeper connection with the characters.
Riannon

31.7.14

The Last Weekend

The Last Weekend by Blake Morrison  

From the cover:  A dark, haunting tale of friendship, passion and jealousy. When Ian receives a surprise phone call from an old university friend, inviting Ian and his wife, Em, for a few days by the sea, the couple agree to go. Their hosts, Ollie and Daisy, are a golden couple whose glamour and happiness drive Ian to distraction, and dangerous tensions quickly emerge. Beneath congenial yet charged conversation, the history of their relationship is uncovered. Ian and Ollie resurrect an almost forgotten bet made 20 years before. Each day becomes a series of challenges for higher and higher stakes, setting in motion actions that will have irreversible consequences.

Place two couples and a wayward teenager in dilapidated and damp ‘holiday house’, mix in the fact that one distasteful guy married the other distasteful guy’s ex-girlfriend (who’s still carrying a torch for her), ramp up some old rancour that one is high class and the other an also ran, throw in a match and stand back to watch what happens.  
This rather boring novel dragged its feet, despite the author being hailed as a multi-award winning 'British Gem'.  There's not a lot to like about this book and I found it disappointing. Have you read it?  What did you think?

I listened to the audio CD format narrated by Elliot Levey, but we have this title in print, large print, e-audiobook and Playaway formats. 
Deb

30.7.14

'Written by Women' Top 20

Back in May 2014, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction U.K. launched the #ThisBook campaign to find out which books, written by women, have had the biggest impact on readers.

Following the launch, the judges took to Twitter to ask the general public to share their submission and thousands used the #ThisBook hashtag to take part and nominate the book that changed their life.  

Harper Lee’s timeless classic To Kill a Mockingbird took the top spot as the most influential book written by a woman, with Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, taking second and third place respectively.  



Interestingly, nearly half of the top 20 were published before 1960, including Lousa May Alcott’s Little Women (8th) and Middlemarch (15th) by George Eliot. 

To view the top 20 list, click here
Deb.
PS - More than a little surprised at what came in 4th spot!

29.7.14

The Universe versus Alex Woods

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

From the cover: A tale of an unexpected friendship, an unlikely hero and an improbable journey, Alex's story treads the fine line between light and dark, laughter and tears. And it might just strike you as one of the funniest, most heartbreaking novels you've ever read. 

Alex Woods knows that he hasn't had the most conventional start in life. He knows that growing up with a clairvoyant single mother won't endear him to the local bullies. He also knows that even the most improbable events can happen - he's got the scars to prove it. What he doesn't know yet is that when he meets ill-tempered, reclusive widower Mr Peterson, he'll make an unlikely friend. Someone who tells him that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make the best possible choices. So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at Dover customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the passenger seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he's fairly sure he's done the right thing ...

The universe versus Alex Woods is a wacky novel with far-fetched events, interesting scientific facts and an exploration of big issues such as euthanasia and one's right to be in control of their own destiny. 

I really liked Alex. He is an odd teenager who ends up with epilepsy after being hit on the head by a meteorite. He has time out from school and doesn’t relate well with his peers so he builds a support network of adult friends. His friendship with Mr Peterson is really strong and shapes Alex’s journey, including a daring road trip across Europe, to keep his long-held promise. 

The Universe Versus Alex Woods isn’t a page turner but has plenty to keep the reader interested. The novel has some dark themes but plenty of light moments too – especially when the meteorite tears a hole in the bathroom ceiling. 
Sandra E

28.7.14

The Playdate

The Playdate by Louise Millar     

From the cover:  Sound designer Callie Roberts is a single mother. And she's come to rely heavily on her best friend and neighbour, Suzy. Over the past few lonely years, Suzy has been good to Callie and her rather frail daughter, Rae, and she has welcomed them into her large, apparently happy family. But Callie knows Suzy's life is not quite as perfect as it seems. Its time she pulled away and she needs to get back to work. So why does she keep putting off telling Suzy? And who will care for Rae in the anonymous city street, the houses each hide a very different family, each with their own secrets. Callie's increased sense of alienation lets her to try and befriend a new resident, Debs. But she's odd and you certainly wouldn't trust her with your child, especially if you knew her past. 


This story, a kind of genre blend between chick lit and psychological suspense, dragged its feet initially but, unusually for me, I stuck with it.  Why I'm not sure, but at CD number 6 of 8, I became completely absorbed.  Clare Corbett does a brilliant narration, moving easily between different English accents, both male and female, and the American Suzy. There were a couple of twists in this book, one easier to spot than the other, and overall it was a good read though definitely would have benefitted with more diligent editing.  
We have this title in hardcover, large print, audio CD and e-book format.  To reserve a copy, just click on the title at the top of this post. 
Deb. 

25.7.14

After Glow

After Glow by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle 

From the cover:  Life is complicated for Lydia Smith.  She’s working at that tacky, third-rate museum trying to salvage her career in para-archaeology, and dating the most dangerous man in town.  Just when she thinks she might be getting things under control, she stumbles over a dead body and discovers that her lover has a secret past that could get him killed.  Just to top it off, there’s trouble brewing underground in the eerie, glowing green passageways of the Dead City.  Of course, all these problems pale in comparison to the most pressing issue: Lydia has been invited to the Restoration Ball and she hasn’t got a thing to wear!

I think this genre is called paranormal romance.  It’s my first-ever ‘dip a toe’ in this arena and surprise, surprise, I quite liked it, though I get the feeling it’s part of a series. Perhaps because Jayne Ann Krentz  has the business of writing down pat; or perhaps because it was very well narrated by Joyce Bean; or maybe it seemed very reminiscent of Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone -  lots of action, quick humour and a love story to keep things simmering.  Whatever, I enjoyed it!  
Deb. 

24.7.14

Pygmalion - A Play

Pygmalion - A Play by George Bernard Shaw


A review by L.E Simpkin (Casey-Cardinia Library Corporation Work Experience Student - Age 15.)

Not many people in their teen years have heard of the play Pygmalion.  I mean most of us don’t even read plays! I read this for a school assignment but for me it became so much more. As an avid fan of the movie My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, I was extremely excited to hear that this play is what the movie was based on.

Set in the early 1900's under Edwardian rule, this play is about a teacher of phonetics, the science of speech, and Eliza Doolittle a poor flower girl trying to get by on the little amount of money she makes. Higgins meets Eliza in not the best of situations with her convinced he's a cop and thinks she was ‘coming onto’ an older gentlemen. She is absolutely horrified to say the least. You can imagine the noises she makes with her horrid cockney accent when she’s in a rush! As the play progresses Higgins decides to take Eliza on as a bet of a sort with a friend of his,  Colonel Pickering a fellow linguist (scientist of speech if you will) that he could transform Eliza and even pass her off as the queen of Sheba within 13 months. A the bet progresses and Eliza is taught how to speak and act like a proper elegant and well-dressed lady, more problems, feeling, and characters come to light. The real question is will Eliza ever be able to pull it off and what will happen to her now if she doesn’t?

As a play it is very different from a book in how you read it and how to understand what exactly is happening so I’ll give you some tips. All stage directions will be in italics and [brackets], it gives actors directions for movement and expression. At the beginning of each act, think of them as chapters if you will, there will always be a very detailed setting so that you know exactly of your surroundings because that is how it was meant to be done on stage. When one character is speaking to the other it may come up with them speaking their name and then saying something aimed to them and them alone. One thing that I found to be a great help was if you completely had no clue what a word meant just have a dictionary on your lap or on a laptop. By the end of the book your vocabulary will clearly be so resplendently refined that you will be able to baffle all whom you meet just like Eliza does.

If you happen to enjoy the movie that was based of this play then I recommend you read this too as it opens your eyes so much to all of these other ideas and things that were meant to happen and coincide with each other, I for one find it absolutely fascinating.

I see now that I have rambled on quite a bit about this play probably because for me I’ve always wondered if more happened beyond the movie because as they say all of the best movies are based on books.

As far as I know this doesn’t have any prizes behind it like many others of the time but it does have a string of performances and a movie featuring some of the most brilliant actors and singers alike starring in it.


Note:  We can add that My Fair Lady won many awards in 1965 - including Best Picture Oscar, Best Actor in a Leading Role Rex Harrison , Best Director George Cukor, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best  Music. Here's a clip about the making of the movie from the play.

Your library has many formats of Pygmalion - click here to reserve one!

Man Booker Prize longlist

This year’s Man Booker longlist sees Americans appearing for the first time amid a field of established names, including David Mitchell, Ali Smith and 2010 winner Howard Jacobson. The shortlist will be announced on 9 September and the winner on 14 October.  Check out the pictorial list here ...
http://www.theguardian.com/books/gallery/2014/jul/23/man-booker-prize-2014-longlist-in-pictures

Deb.

22.7.14

In the Shadow of Gallipoli

In the Shadow of Gallipoli by Robert Bollard
Our vision of Gallipoli and the First World War is of a young nation proving themselves in defence of the Empire. We have been bought up to believe that our country was united by conflict and behind our soldiers all the way. The shadow of Gallipoli sets out to dispel some of this myth.

It is not about the war and the conflict in Europe but about the conflict in Australia which continued throughout the war years. Though at first there may have been a great deal of patriotic fervour, this waned steadily as the casualty lists came in from Gallipoli and continue to go down as a huge percentage of young men were slaughtered on the western front. The war years were punctuated by massive strikes in a number of key industries, the failure of two referendums to enforce conscription, the alienation and victimisation of Irish Australians, unionists, and anyone who disagreed with the government. 

This book will certainly give a new insight into the past but also shed light on the present; a very interesting read.
Fay



21.7.14

Blueeyedboy

Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris 
Bolinda download narrated by Colin Moody

From the cover:  Blueeyedboy is the new novel from Joanne Harris: a dark and intricately plotted tale of a poisonously dysfunctional family, a blind child prodigy, and a serial murderer who is not who he seems. Told through posts on a webjournal called badguysrock, this is a thriller that makes creative use of all the multiple personalities, disguise and mind games that are offered by playing out a life on the internet.

I really enjoyed Chocolat and was looking forward to Blueeyedboy as I love a good thriller. Unfortunately, this isn’t one.  It’s just a confusing ping pong match of blogposts and comments, one where you think you’ve got a handle on the character one moment, then blip, that disappears like a deleted email.  The book is riddled with dysfunctional characters, none more so than blueeyedboy’s mother with her china dog collection and a penchant for delivering beatings with electric cords, fists and feet. 

After finishing the book, I saw a review where Joanne Harris said that, as authors often say, the story just carried her along to its natural end, so she had to return to rewrite the second half to fit the conclusion.  That’s a pretty good summation because I still can’t make sense of it. 
Deb

18.7.14

The Science Fiction Universe

The Science Fiction Universe … and beyond – Syfy Channel Book of Sci-Fi –Text by Michael Mallory


From the cover:  The science fiction universe ... and beyond brings a breadth of knowledge, insight, and passion to a century of close encounters, black holes, time travel, distant planets, impossible quests, nuclear war, futuristic technology, inexplicable forces, spaceships, extraordinary monsters, and subterranean societies. Arranged chronologically, it follows the progression of sci-fi over the decades, dealing with a variety of classic films and television shows.

This book is a treat for those interested by this genre all the way from the classic old horror/SF authors like Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne.  From the silent film monsters and early television superhero series to the continuing epics like Star Wars, Star Trek, Terminator, Avatar, Dr Who, Jurassic Park – too many to list!  It is divided into chapters covering different times and themes: ‘Early dreams and nightmares’; ‘Exploration of space’; ‘Space and relative time’; ‘Alternative times, alternative realities’; and so on.  You can dive into the various sections to follow your own particular favourites (Dr Who, Star Trek), or read it all to see how far we have travelled into the unknown future … or past.  Fascinating! 
Dot

17.7.14

Les Mis has arrived!

This is just a little bit exciting ... 
In this series of photos the Chief Heritage Curator from Bibliotheque nationale de France is pictured in the State Library's Conservation lab with Conservator Ian Cox removing the original Victor Hugo Les Miserables manuscript from its protective case.  Check it out!! https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/vichugo
Deb.

Victor Hugo: Les Miserables

The State Library of Victoria is about to launch a major international exhibition Victor Hugo: Les Miserables - From Page to Stage, coinciding with the 25th anniversary production in Melbourne of the Cameron Macintosh stage musical.  

The exhibition begins in 19th century Paris with the book itself – the Library has part of Hugo's original manuscript on loan from the Bibliothéque nationale de France.  The idea of a famous writer leaving their papers and manuscripts to a library was a new phenomenon in the 1880s.  When Victor Hugo, considered one of the greatest French writers of all time, decided to bequest his entire archive to the National Library of France in 1881, he began a hugely important trend that continues to this day.

The exhibition includes rare manuscripts, photographs and drawings by the writer himself, sculptures by Auguste Rodin, photographs by Charles Marville, prints by Charles Méryon as well as costumes, posters, photographs and texts covering over 150 years of theatrical, filmic and literary adaptations.  The exhibition includes loans from the Bibliothéque nationale de France, Maisons de Victor Hugo, Musée Rodin, Musée Canavalet and Cameron Macintosh.

When and where?

18 July - 9 November 2014
State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne
Exhibition Website: http://www.victorhugoexhibition.com.au
 

Be quick for this …

Victor Hugo: Les Misérables pop-up talk!

with Gérard Audinet, Director of the Maisons de Victor Hugo in Paris
 

1.00pm Friday 18 July 2014
3.00pm Saturday 19 July 2014

Bookings:
03 8664 7099
inquiries@slv.vic.gov.au

Deb.

16.7.14

The People Smuggler

The People Smuggler by Robin de Crespigny is the amazing true story about Ali Al Jenabi. Some see him as a saint while others see him as a criminal! Regardless of your thoughts, you are certain to be engrossed with this account of one man’s journey from Iraq to Australia. 

He is a man who fled Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers in Abu Ghraib and was forced to leave his beloved family in Iraq. He then began working in the anti-Saddam resistance in Iran before setting the goal of freeing his family from Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror.

While trying to help his family out of Iraq, there was a long line of ill-fortune, new found friendships, and amazing experiences. Eventually Ali became a “people smuggler”.  Ali Al Jenabi faced much adversity, but nevertheless exemplifies resilience, bravery, determination, empathy and love.

This book won the Ned Kelly award for Non-Fiction in 2013 and I found it both inspiring and thought provoking. Definitely worth a read!

Narelle.

15.7.14

Americanah



Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
From the cover: From the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah is a powerful story of love, race and identity. As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race.

This challenging read sheds plenty of light on the immigrant experience and the reasons why many people end up comprising their values to gain entry into a new country and a better life. During university strikes in Nigeria, Ifemelu and Obinze plan their new life in America. However, while Ifemelu gains a scholarship and starts university in Philadelphia, Obinze has more difficulty obtaining a visa and getting out of Nigeria. 
Adichie compassionately describes Ifemelu’s isolation, financial struggles and slide into depression before her US life begins to brighten with a love interest, job prospects and friendships with fellow Africans and international students. She eventually begins a blog commenting on racial issues from the perspective of the “non-American black”. At several points the narrative switches to Obinze and we hear of his experiences in the UK and his miserable existence as he overstays his visa and works in menial jobs under a false name.
While the plot is bleak, both central characters are able to overcome adversity. Americanah is a thought-provoking novel that examines American and English culture from an African perspective and brings alive the sounds, sights, smells and tastes of Nigerian culture. Highly recommended.
Sandra

14.7.14

PATRON SAINT of LOST DOGS

THE PATRON SAINT OF LOST DOGS by Nick Trout
 

American vet Nick Trout is better known for his non-fiction books.  This is his first novel.
Cyrus Mills is NOT ‘the Patron Saint of Lost Dogs’.  Instead, he is a not very likeable vet – or person.  He only knows about dead animals.  He is left the ‘Bedside Manor for Sick Animals’ by his estranged father – a man he hasn’t seen or talked to for years - he has even changed his name to his mother’s maiden name so that no one knows he is related.  All Cyrus wants to do is sort out the practice and sell it.  He discovers that his father was a great vet loved by all the locals - and a lousy manager who has left behind a financial disaster.   As he gets involved with the people of the town and their animals, he finds his narrow outlook on life changing - in many unexpected ways.  A quietly satisfying read – and it is not just an animal story. 
Dot.

PS ...  DOG GONE, BACK SOON  also by Nick Trout
The sequel to the charming ‘Patron Saint of Lost Dogs’ continues straight on from the first one and it is just as good.  Dot

10.7.14

An American in Oz

An American In Oz by Sara James 
From the cover: The warm, uplifting and funny chronicle of one woman's journey from glamorous, globe-trotting New York television correspondent to a small-town mum grappling with Australian country life - an odyssey filled with drama and adventure, both personal and professional, both intentional and accidental. Meet the steel magnolia in the Australian bush.


From TV anchor in New York to life and love at the edge of the Wombat State Forest. What happens if following your heart means stepping off the fast track onto a dirt track?

This book is about a loving family, life in the bush, making new friends, coping with a disabled child, tackling everything that is strange and different, even coping with the terrifying experience of Black Saturday.  

A wonderful story. 

Dot

Library Catalogue

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Search This Blog

Loading...

Blog Archive

Labels

Reading Rewards | Template by - Abdul Munir - 2008 - layout4all