24.4.15

Fit Not Healthy

Fit Not Healthy: how one woman's obsession to be the best nearly killed her by Vanessa Alford

Vanessa Alford was obsessed with becoming one of Australia's top marathon runners; so obsessed that she pushed her body to breaking point - literally.

Her body fat percentage dropped to 14%; she developed stress fractures and felt physically unwell most of the time, but she continued training, ignoring the concerns and advice of family and friends.

Looking back now, Vanessa says she was in denial about the need to rest and feed her body in order to give it the opportunity to recover from the physical damage and mental strain she put it under. She was always looking for another way, another practitioner who would confirm that she could heal whilst maintaining a rigorous training schedule that included running over two hours a day. It was only her desire to have a baby and the shock of being unable to fall pregnant that shattered her wall of denial and allowed her to see clearly what she was doing to herself.

Vanessa is now fit AND healthy, and she and her husband have a happy, healthy baby girl and are expecting another child. Others are not so lucky. They are still battling the internal and external voices that say leaner and fitter is always better; that women can be healthy at the same body fat percentages as men; and that you do not need to eat more, even if your body is telling you it is hungry. It is Vanessa's hope that her story can save at least one of woman from herself. Fit Not Healthy is a story for our times.  - - - 

This is a very graphic description of what can happen to someone when they are so driven to achieve that commonsense and reality seem to escape them. Vanessa was a typical high achiever and obviously very intelligent women, who let that "voice" in her head completely take over her life, and she was very lucky that she seems to have come out the other side reasonably OK.

A runner by choice who achieved many personal goals including placing in the top runners at the 2005 Melbourne Marathon, but those accolades and admiration by her peers and friends and family actually proved to be counter-productive in her mind and she just drove herself to run further, exercise more, and caused her to develop sport-related anorexia, which almost killed her.

This book was very honest, and I'm yet to be convinced that she has "recovered" completely, but I would hope that commonsense has come to find her and that "voice" in her head is gradually disappearing. A recommended read for any aspiring sports person. I read this book in a day!

Janine

23.4.15

Lone Star

Lone Star by Paullina Simons

Chloe is eager to drink in the sights and sounds of the Old World as she embarks on a European adventure with her closest friends. Buried in the treasures of the fledgling post-Communist world, Chloe finds a charming American vagabond named Johnny, who carries a guitar, an easy smile - and a lifetime of secrets. As she and her unlikely travelling companions traverse the continent, a train trip becomes a treacherous journey into Europe's and Johnny's darkest past - a journey that shatters Chloe's future plans and puts in jeopardy everything she thought she wanted. From Treblinka to Trieste, from Carnikava to Krakow, the lovers and friends crack the facade that sustains their lifelong bonds to expose their truest, deepest desires and discover only one thing that's certain: whether or not they reach their destination, their lives will never be the same.

Lone Star is a compelling coming-of-age story. Chloe and Hannah are best friends and are dating two brothers, Blake and Mason. They all grew up on the same street, went to the same school, and on the surface all is well, but Simons is skillful at keeping secrets and teasing them out slowly but surely through the narrative. We found reading about the friends’ travels through post-communist Europe captivating, and the descriptions of Treblinka, in particular, heartbreaking. The bestselling author of Tully and The Bronze Horseman Trilogy has delivered another epic love story – perfect reading for a long, lazy day in bed.

From the Better Reading team

22.4.15

The Stella Award 2015

The Stella Prize is a major literary award celebrating Australian women’s writing.  The prize is named after one of Australia’s iconic female authors, Stella Maria Sarah ‘Miles’ Franklin, and was awarded for the first time in 2013. Both nonfiction and fiction books by Australian women are eligible for entry. The Stella Prize seeks to:

  • recognise and celebrate Australian women writers’ contribution to literature
  • bring more readers to books by women and thus increase their sales
  • provide role models for schoolgirls and emerging female writers
  • reward one writer with a $50,000 prize – money that buys a writer some measure of financial independence and thus time, that most undervalued yet necessary commodity for women, to focus on their writing

The winner of the 2015 Stella Prize announced last night at a Melbourne event is Emily Bitto for The Strays.

Of the winning book, Kerryn Goldsworthy, chair of the 2015 Stella Prize judging panel, said:  “Emily Bitto’s debut novel The Strays is about families, art, isolation, class, childhood, friendship, and the power of the past. It’s both moving and sophisticated; both well researched and original; both intellectually engaging and emotionally gripping."

Emily Bitto has a Masters in literary studies and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Melbourne. Her writing has appeared in various publications, including The Sydney Morning Herald, Meanjin, Heat and the Australian Literary Review. The manuscript of her debut novel was shortlisted for the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. The Strays was shortlisted for the 2015 Indie Prize and is currently longlisted for the Dobbie Award.  She lives in Melbourne where she runs a new Carlton winebar, Heartattack & Vine.

Deb.

21.4.15

Pulitzer Prize 2015

The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievement in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American (Hungarian-born) publisher Joseph Pulitzer, and is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. In twenty of the categories, each winner receives a certificate and a US$10,000 cash award. The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal. The Prize generates interest across the globe, particularly in the areas of Fiction and Non-Fiction writing.  
In these two categories, the 2015 winners are:


FICTION - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 

GENERAL NONFICTION - The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

For the full list of winners, click http://www.pulitzer.org/

For the history of the Pulitzer Prize, click http://www.pulitzer.org/historyofprizes

Deb


20.4.15

Numbers

Numbers by Rachel Ward 
Narrated by Sarah Coomes 

From the cover:  Since her mother's death, fifteen-year-old Jem has kept a secret. When her eyes meet someone else's, a number pops into her head - the date on which they will die. Knowing that nothing lasts forever, Jem avoids relationships, but when she meets a boy called Spider, and they plan a day out together, her life takes a new twist and turn. Waiting for the London Eye, she sees everyone in the queue has the same number.  Today's number. Today's date. Terrorists are going to attack London.


This is one of those Young Adult novels that offers much to the adult listener.  Very well narrated by Sarah Coomes whose many English accents are delivered with aplomb, it’s a convincing and incredibly moving story, one that had me laughing or in tears. Luckily, for once, I actually picked a book which turns out to be No. 1 in a trilogy and not no. 6 or whatever! I must borrow the next one - The Chaos.
Deb. 


17.4.15

There Was A Little Girl

There Was A Little Girl: the true story of my mother and me by Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields never had what anyone would consider an ordinary life. She was raised by her Newark-tough single mom, Teri, a woman who loved the world of show business and was often a media sensation all by herself. Brooke's iconic modeling career began by chance when she was only eleven months old, and Teri's skills as both Brooke's mother and manager were formidable. But in private she was troubled and drinking heavily.  At the age of 13 Brooke appeared in the controversial film "Pretty Baby", then in her teenage years was in "The Blue Lagoon" and "Endless Love". She abandoned her career and attended Princeton University and graduated with a degree in French Literature before returning to the stage and screen thereafter.

As Brooke became an adult the pair made choices and sacrifices that would affect their relationship forever. And when Brooke’s own daughters were born she found that her experience as a mother was shaped in every way by the woman who raised her. But despite the many ups and downs, Brooke was by Teri’s side when she died in 2012, a loving daughter until the end. Only Brooke knows the truth of the remarkable, difficult, complicated woman who was her mother. And now, in an honest, open memoir about her life growing up, Brooke will reveal stories and feelings that are relatable to anyone who has been a mother or daughter.

This was a very interesting portrayal of the child star and the ugly parent syndrome. Brooke was an only child to a parent who was basically an alcoholic her whole life. Her relationship with her mother was 'interesting', as although they were extremely close, Brooke's mother controlled her life and her mind, never worked and basically lived off her daughter's earnings.  Brooke talks about her marriage to Andre Agassi and subsequent marriage to Chris Henchy and their two daughters. She also tells of her mother's eventual decline and the effect that had on her and her family.

This was a fascinating book.  I had earlier read "Open" which is Andre Agassi's biography where he speaks in part of their marriage as well, so I found it interesting to compare their stories.

Janine


16.4.15

Girl in the Dark

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey  

Anna was living a normal life. She was ambitious and worked hard; she had just bought an apartment; she was falling in love. But then she started to develop worrying symptoms: her face felt like it was burning whenever she was in front of the computer. Soon this progressed to an intolerance of fluorescent light, then of sunlight itself. The reaction soon spread to her entire body. Now, when her symptoms are at their worst she must spend months on end in a blacked-out room, losing herself in audio books and elaborate word games in an attempt to ward off despair. During periods of relative remission she can venture cautiously out at dawn and dusk, into a world which, from the perspective of her normally cloistered existence, is filled with a remarkable beauty. And throughout there is her relationship with Pete. In many ways he is Anna's saviour, offering her shelter from the light in his home. But she cannot enjoy a normal life with him, cannot go out in the day, even making love is uniquely awkward. Anna asks herself "by continuing to occupy this lovely man while giving him neither children, nor a public companion, nor a welcoming home - do I do wrong?" With gorgeous, lyrical prose, Anna brings us into the dark with her, a place from which we emerge to see love, and the world, anew.

Why we love it: I felt absolutely heartbroken reading this memoir; it's so deeply sad at times but uplifting and hopeful at others. Anna Lyndsey's novel is a series of vignettes from her life, pre- and post-darkness. Her transition from a desk jockey for the government, to a hostage to her own photophobia, is an emotional roller coaster. She journeys from the depths of despair to elation at the tiniest sign of progress. But even with her heartbreaking illness, Anna is able to find bright spots through her relationship, immersion in audiobooks, and even the funny side of dressing like a madwoman to survive journeys into the outside world. This is a heart wrenching memoir, as well as a story full of hope, love and living life to its fullest. It reminded me a little of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby. Where he was trapped mentally in a space, Anna Lyndsey is trapped physically. Reading it left me with a feeling of gratefulness for the life I have.  

The Team at Better Reading  

15.4.15

Joe's Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

Joe's Fruit Shop and Milk Bar by Zoe Boccabella

From the catalogue:  Leaving the small village of Fossa in Italy in 1939 to meet a father he barely remembered in a place that was far from everything he knew, fifteen-year-old Annibale Boccabella arrived in Australia determined to make a go of it. It was a time when everything was changing and anything seemed possible. Life was tough but you could still chase your dreams. 

More than 70 years later, in 2011, Zoe Boccabella and her family hurriedly try to save the treasured belongings of Annibale and his wife Francesca - Zoe's grandparents - from the rising waters of the Brisbane River. When Zoe sees the sign from their old fruit shop and milk bar about to disappear beneath the floodwater, this triggers in her a realisation that while she has long looked to Italy to discover her migrant heritage, much of it happened here in Australia. In Joe's Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, Zoe artfully weaves her own experiences with those of her grandparents, taking us on a journey from Abruzzo and Calabria in Italy to Australian sugar cane fields, internment camps, Greek cafes, and the fruit shop and milk bar that was the focus of a family's hopes and dreams for the future. 

With memorable, beautifully portrayed characters, evocative writing and a sweeping tale that reflects the experience of so many Australians, this is a story that will touch your heart and remind you of the important things in life.

I really enjoyed Zoe Boccabella's first book - Mezza Italiana.  It was warm, funny, evocative, and touched me in a personal way as my best friend at high school was Italian and I was drawn into their family and way of life - hell, even starting speaking the language so I could mind the baby of the family!  Though still a very good read, this book lacks that intimacy while painting a more gritty side of the migrant story - that of internment camps during WWII and the struggles to establish new lives after the war ended.  

I was mortified to read about the racist attitude that saw thousands wrenched away from their families to be locked up and worked on labour farms or projects, their businesses collapsing as Aussies were urged to 'dob in' any 'Wogs' that looked suspicious. If you are unaware of the politics and bureacracy of the time, this could be a very good book to read.

We have this title in many formats, I borrowed the e-audio version narrated perfectly by Daniela Farinacci. 
Deb.

14.4.15

Mannix

Mannix by Brenda Niall

Daniel Mannix, Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne from 1917 until his death, almost made it to his 100th birthday, but not quite, dying just a few months shy of that accomplishment in October 1963. From the time of his arrival in a very different Australia from the one from which he departed, he was a controversial, divisive yet in many ways surprisingly compassionate figure. Most commonly remembered for his fierce opposition to conscription in the two wartime referendums, his part in the great Labor Party split in the 1950s and his longstanding advocacy for Irish home rule, he also promoted social justice for the poor and even wrote a lengthly submission to the Second Vatican Council arguing for reform of the church hierarchy.

Brenda Niall is a renowned Australian biographer who brings her many talents to this story of a controversial man who was not only a towering figure in the Australian Catholic community but also a significant influence on Australian social and political life in the first half of the last century. The tale is enhanced by the fact that she actually met and interviewed Mannix herself and discovered many unexpected features of his character. The results of her exploration will surprise you.
Teresa

13.4.15

Aurealis Awards

The Aurealis Awards are presented annually to published works in order to "recognise the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy, horror writers".  Created in 1995, categories currently include science fiction, fantasy, horror, speculative young-adult fiction — with separate awards for novels and short fiction—collections, anthologies, illustrative works or graphic novels, children's books, and an award for excellence in speculative fiction.

The results are decided by a panel of judges from a list of submitted nominees; the long-list of nominees is reduced to a short-list of finalists. The judges are selected from a public application process by the Award's management team.

And the winners are:

Best Fantasy novel - Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier

Best science Fiction novel - Peacemaker Marianne de Pierres

Best Horror novel - Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier



Click here for the full list: Aurealis Awards.

Deb

10.4.15

Now I Can Dance

Tina Arena: Now I Can Dance by Tina Arena and Jude McGee


An honest, gritty, funny, frank and totally revealing autobiography from much loved songstress Tina Arena, who is about to celebrate a phenomenally successful 40 years as a singer/songwriter. Over this time, Tina has amassed a huge national and international fan base as well as a cache of amazing stories and experiences. She's sold over eight million albums and had numerous multi-platinum albums around the world; she's had encounters with extraordinary people, fallen in and out of love, had huge highs and lows, but through it all, she's sung her heart out - it's always been all about the music. Most importantly, over these last forty years, she's undertaken a journey of self-discovery and self-fulfilment, moving past prejudice and dismissal to finally become the confident and empowered woman - and artist - she always hoped she'd be. Her's is a truly joyful, intimate and inspiring story of survival, song, triumph and love.


I really enjoyed this biography, Tina speaks so honestly about her time with Young Talent Time and her subsequent recording career both here in Australia and overseas. She also tells a lot about her personal life including her wonderful Italian/Australian family and her marriage to her former manager Ralph Carr. I did not realise how talented she is, with her musical theatre performances in many shows here in Oz and in Paris and London. She is a real all-rounder who is still writing and recording today. I have a lot of respect for her and loved reading about her life.
Janine


8.4.15

The Stranger

The Stranger is the latest hit from Harlan Coben and it more than lives up to what I expect from this wonderful mystery fiction author.

"The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar or a parking lot or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world. Adam Price has a lot to lose - a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American dream -  a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life. Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corrine, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corrine's deception and realises that if he doesn't make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he's stumbled into will not only ruin lives, it will end them."

Adam is not the only one whose life is turned upside down, others receive a visit from the Stranger and you spend a thoroughly entertaining and suspenseful read, trying to unravel all the threads that get tangled up in this web. Secrets upon conspiracies upon misdirections are the order of the day.

It is straightforward to keep track of the threads however, and with so much happening at once, I found it easy to keep reading just to try and find out what is happening - who the bad guy(s) is and how it was all going to work out in the end.

As for the ending?  Satisfying in a story sense, but not in another.  You will have to read it to find out what I mean.

~ Michelle

7.4.15

The Children Act

The Children Act by Ian McEwen

Fiona Maye is a High Court judge presiding over cases in the family court. She is independent and intelligent as well as musical. She has the respect of her peers and plenty of experience. She knows how to weigh up the sensitive cultural and religious differences in court cases. What her colleagues don’t know however is that her marriage is crumbling and one night her husband asks her to consider an open marriage. After an argument he moves out of the house and she is adrift. She throws herself into work and finds herself involved in a complex case about a 17 year old boy, Adam,  who needs a blood transfusion as he has leukaemia. The boy’s parents however refuse to allow him to have one as they conflict with their beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Fiona has to make a choice.

This story was enjoyable and kept me interested right to the end. The domestic problems allowed a breather from the court scenes.  It would have been nice if we heard more of Adam’s history but  despite this I very much recommend the book. 
Ali

6.4.15

Tell the Truth

Tell the Truth  by Katherine Howell

Paramedic Stacey Durham has an idyllic life; her dream job, a beautiful house, and a devoted husband. Until her car is found abandoned and covered in her blood. Detective Ella Marconi knows information is key in the first twenty-four hours, questioning the frantic husband, Marie, the jealous sister, and Rowan, the colleague who keeps turning up in all the wrong places.Just as Ella starts to piece together the clues, a shocking message arrives for James: You won't see her again if you don't tell the truth. As she sifts through the lies, Ella's relationship with Dr Callum McLennan is under siege, and she doesn't know if it can survive the over enthusiasm of her family, or the blind hatred of his mother.With the investigation hitting dead ends and new threats being made, Ella must uncover the truths buried beneath the perfect façade before the case goes from missing person to murder.


Katherine Howell is an Australian crime writer who was formerly a paramedic for 15 years.  She plots the Marconi series around characters working in the NSW Ambulance Service which adds another level of interest to these popular novels, this one being the 8th in the series. The workaholic Detective Ella Marconi is an interesting character with her Italian family always trying to marry her off; and each book offers a host of paramedics to provide sub-plots, twists and turns.

Katerine Howell won the 2008 Davitt award best adult crime novel for her debut book, Frantic, [a great book to kick off the series!] and has added to her award collection twice more, in 2009 for The Darkest Hour [Davitt reader's choice award] and the best adult novel award for Cold Justice (first author to win this category twice) in 2011.

This is a terrific Australian crime series, so if you love the genre, jump on board.  We have the series in all formats, but I can definitely recommend the e-audio downloads narrated by the talented Caroline Lee. 
Deb.


2.4.15

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

There is something about Ove. At first sight, he is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots - neighbours who can't reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d'etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents' Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets. But isn't it rare these days to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so? In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible...

At first, Ove seems like a grumpy old man who keeps trying unsuccessfully to commit suicide. These attempts are interrupted by demands on his unlikely skills and abilities from neighbours and even a stray cat! This is a funny but charmingly quiet everyman fable on the hidden values in us all. Delightful!
Pru

1.4.15

Nothing Sacred

Nothing Sacred by David Thorne

From the catalogue:  A mother's nightmare: her children taken from her, unexplained injuries all over their bodies. Her only explanation: an evil visitation, the work of malevolent spirits. Desperate for answers, she turns to Daniel Connell, lawyer and old flame. But the truth he uncovers is more disturbing than they ever imagined. From the mountains of Afghanistan to the dark heart of Essex, Daniel finds himself in a terrifying world where monsters are real - and nothing is sacred."

I had never heard of this book or the author but on a road trip to South Australia, my husband and I decided to listen to an audiobook.  I hopped onto Bolinda audio and picked out this one thinking it would appeal to us both.

Nothing Sacred tells the story of a lawyer in Essex, England who is helping an old friend regain custody of her children. Meanwhile a friend of his is trying to get justice for an incident that occurred when he was serving in the armed forces in the Middle East. There are two separate narratives happening in this book which seem unrelated, though they intersect eventually.

This is a graphic, gritty crime novel and I would describe it as a real "blokes" novel as the narrator has a very strong English cockney accent and the subject matter is quite graphic at times. No romantic girly themes here!

After about an hour of listening. I asked my husband what had happened so far, and he replied "I wouldn't have a clue!" Unbelievable! I should have picked a Chic-Lit!  Despite this, I did quite enjoy it and would read his other novel too.

Janine

31.3.15

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Café

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Café by Mary Simses

From the cover:   Manhattan lawyer Ellen Branford is going to fulfil her grandmother’s dying wish – to find the hometown boy in Beacon she once loved and give him her last letter. Hoping to be in and out in 24 hours,  Ellen ends up the talk of the town when carpenter Roy Cummings saves her life when she tumbles into the ocean. Roy happens to be the nephew of Ellen’s grandmother’s lost love, and the one person who can bring closure to her quest. But as Ellen learns what Beacon has to offer and what her grandmother left behind, she may find that a 24 hour visit will never be enough.

It is heart-warming and uplifting to hear of one woman’s journey to discover the hidden past of her grandmother and discover that a simpler life that can be more rewarding than the high-flying life of the lawyer she once was.

The inspiration for this novel came from the radio when Mary Simses heard one woman’s story about how her grandmother’s last words before dying were “Erase my hard drive”.  Simses immediately began to wonder what was on the grandmother’s computer that she wanted to remain unknown. And so the story began but this time, with a sealed letter, rather than a computer.

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Café was such a beautiful story about love, loss, secrets and sacrifice.

Narelle

30.3.15

St. Kilda Blues

St.Kilda Blues by Geoffrey McGeachin

It's 1967, the summer of love, and in swinging Melbourne Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin has been hauled out of exile in the Fraud Squad to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl, the daughter of a powerful and politically connected property developer. As Berlin's inquiries uncover more missing girls he gets an uneasy feeling he may be dealing with the city's first serial killer. Berlin's investigation leads him through inner-city discothèques, hip photographic studios, the emerging drug culture and into the seedy back streets of St Kilda. The investigation also brings up ghosts of Berlin's past as a bomber pilot and POW in Europe and disturbing memories of the casual murder of a young woman he witnessed on a snow-covered road in Poland in the war's dying days. As in war, some victories come at a terrible cost and Berlin will have to face an awful truth and endure an unimaginable loss before his investigation is over.

I love this author - you just never know what he's going to produce next!  From the hilarity of Fat, Fifty and F***ed to the horror and heartbreak of St. Kilda Blues, the man can sure do justice to the written word.  This is Book 3 in the excellent Charlie Berlin series.  He's a deep and fascinating character is our Detective Sergeant Berlin, and with each chapter we get further into his personality to find out what makes him tick. Even if this is your first Charlie Berlin book, you will pick up quite easily why Charlie is the way Charlie is.  

This book also ticked a few boxes for me in the familiarity stakes with not only the setting - my old stamping grounds of St. Kilda, South Melbourne and Parkville, but the era and its fashion, the hair, the new-fangled decimal currency, the music, even the names of the discos, like Berties, that were the bane of parents' existence. Bolte was premier, the Beatles were 'in' and the second semi final in the VFL was about to be played.  It doesn't get more parochial than that, and the author delivers it in spades. 

This may all sound a bit lightweight, but nothing could be further from the truth.  St. Kilda Blues has some full-on language at times, is quite sexually graphic and can be brutal and hardhitting, but thankfully McGeachin doesn't overplay his hand.  The story is also peppered with some wry humour, some very well-written sarcasm and a well-tuned appreciation of family dynamics.  He also delivers a surprising twist, one I didn't see coming, and that was very upsetting.

We have this book in all formats - I chose to download the Bolinda e-Audio version with David Tredinnick delivering an excellent narration.  Overall, this is a great Australian read and I highly recommend it.  
Deb

27.3.15

Be Safe I Love You

Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman

This is the story of former Sergeant Lauren Clay, a woman soldier returned from Iraq, and her beloved younger brother Danny, who is obsessed with Arctic exploration and David Bowie.  Until she went into the military Lauren was the protector and provider for both Danny and her dysfunctional father after her mother left them.  Lauren is home in time to spend Christmas with Danny and her father, who is delighted to have her back but reluctant to acknowledge that something feels a little strange.   As she reconnects with her small-town life in upstate New York, it soon becomes apparent that things are not as they should be.  And soon an army psychologist is making ever-more frantic attempts to reach her.  

All the characters that interact with Lauren are interesting and believable in their own right.  The statistics on the lives of returned servicemen and women in America are chilling; I hope Australian veterans have better support. This is a quiet thoroughly intriguing book to read and hard to put down - you know something is wrong and you keep wondering what she is going to do, or has done.  Highly recommended. 
Dot



26.3.15

Indie Book Awards

Every December, the 170+ independent Australian booksellers that make up Leading Edge Books take stock of the year in books and nominate their favourite Australian titles for the Indie Book Awards shortlist. The shortlist falls into four categories - fiction, non-fiction, debut fiction and childrenʼs/YA books.

Judges select a winner of each category and the Indie Book Awards overall winner is voted on by the Leading Edge group as a whole.

Last night, Wednesday 25 March 2015, Don Watson was awarded the 2015 Indie Book of the Year Non-Fiction and the overall prize for The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia.

Other category winners were: Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (best fiction); Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke (debut fiction); and Withering-by-Sea by Judith Rossell (best children's and young adult category).

Deb.

25.3.15

Man Booker Finalists

Ten writers are on the judges’ list of finalists under serious consideration for the sixth Man Booker International Prize, the £60,000 award which recognises one writer for his or her achievement in fiction.  It is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. 

The winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel; there are no submissions from publishers. In addition, there is a separate award for translation and, if applicable, the winner may choose a translator of his or her work into English to receive a prize of £15,000.

The authors come from ten countries with six new nationalities included on the list for the first time. None of the writers has appeared on a previous Man Booker International Prize list of finalists and the proportion of writers translated into English is greater than ever before at 80%.

The ten authors are:

César Aira (Argentina)
Hoda Barakat (Lebanon)
Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe)
Mia Couto (Mozambique)
Amitav Ghosh (India)
Fanny Howe (United States of America)
Ibrahim al-Koni (Libya)
László Krasznahorkai (Hungary)
Alain Mabanckou (Republic of Congo)
Marlene van Niekerk (South Africa)

Professor Marina Warner, Chair of the judging panel said:  "The judges have had an exhilarating experience reading for this prize; we have ranged across the world and entered the vision of writers who offer an extraordinary variety of experiences. Fiction can enlarge the world for us all and stretch our understanding and our sympathy. The novel today is in fine form:  as a field of inquiry, a tribunal of history, a map of the heart, a probe of the psyche, a stimulus to thought, a well of pleasure and a laboratory of language. Truly, we feel closer to the tree of knowledge."

The 2015 Man Booker International Prize winner will be announced at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on 19 May.
Deb. 

24.3.15

Lambert & Hook

Although the author of many stand-alone novels, last year prolific UK author J M Gregson added book 26 to his Lambert & Hook series. Think gentle English country crime shows on tv and you won't be too far wrong in picking up the setting and tone of these books. I've had the 'pleasure' of reading a couple of these, and they vary widely with reviewers as well as with myself.  I chose Bolinda audio downloads narrated by the somewhat grating Richard Aspel, but we have them in all formats so the print route might be a better idea. 

Dead on Course
Book 3 in the series
Amid the luxurious surroundings of the Wye Castle Hotel and Country Club, a man is found dead on the course. Superintendent Lambert and Sergeant Hook establish fairly quickly how he died, but discovering who killed him provesa more difficult challenge. The golf course and hotel are set in spectacular scenery beside one of England's most beautiful rivers, with Hereford's ancient Cathedral visible in the distance. In May this incomparable valley is at its best, but it is a bizarre context for the investigation of a brutal murder. Gradually, over the days of their stay, Lambert unearths the secrets of the group who surrounded the dead man. There is an urgency about his investigation, for even while the suspects play golf and enjoy good food and wine, there is more violence outside the ivy-clad walls of the old hotel. 

This is a typical police procedural and definitely not the crime thriller as publicised.  It’s all rather humdrum; a pleasant enough time waster but tedious in patches with the writer’s determination to show off his skills with the dictionary (e.g. Pusillanimous - lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid.  Anodyne - anything that relieves distress or pain.  Pulchritude - physical beauty; comeliness). 

The Fox in the Forest
Book 5 in the series
A motiveless murder - every policeman's nightmare - is committed in a stretch of forest between two peaceful villages. Superintendent Lambert and his CID team can find few connections between the people who were around at the time of this death and a victim who seems to have no enemies. Before long, it seems that they have a serial killer on their hands, selecting victims at random. The rural community closes upon itself, preserving its secrets from outsiders...

With between 4, 4/12 and 5 stars on Good Reads.com, this appears to be one of the better ones in the series.

If you've read any of the other in this series, we'd love to receive your review for publication.  Drop us a note in the comments section below.

Deb. 

23.3.15

When the Wind Blows

When the Wind Blows by James Patterson

From the catalogue:  Frannie O'Neill, a young and talented veterinarian whose husband was recently murdered, comes across an amazing discovery in the woods near her animal hospital. Soon after, Kit Harrison, a troubled and unconventional FBI agent, arrives on Frannie's doorstep. And then there is eleven-year-old Max - Frannie's amazing discovery - and one of the most unforgettable creations in thriller fiction. 

The legion of James Patterson fans would never let any of his titles disappear from our Library shelves, which is why I discovered this one!  It's one of his early ones, and an absolute treat if you enjoy something that's entertaining and not too much of a brain drain!  This book has reviewers completey polarised - from 5 stars: "What an amazing book. Flawless in every aspect, and throughouly enticing" or 1 star:  "a dull plot, flat characters and general silliness". When the Wind Blows was written as an adult sequel to Patterson's Maximum Ride series for young adults, as as RR readers know, there are some damn fine YA titles out there to be thoroughly enjoyed. Like this one!

Deb. 

20.3.15

The Strange Library

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

This book has prompted much discussion and reviews from two Library staff members.  Why not borrow it and send in your comments?


“All I did was go the library to borrow some books”

How could anyone working in a library resist a title like this? A quick thumb-through reveals some intriguing illustrations - but don’t let them fool you - this is not a children’s book! Our protagonist is a child who visits the local library after school with a seemingly innocent request for information. From the moment he walks through the door, the tale takes on the elements of a dream - bizarre characters living within labyrinthine corridors beneath the library, whose behaviour cannot be explained. I don’t want to give any more of the story away.

One wonders if the author had an unpleasant experience at the library as a child. It’s such a little book, but the story packs a wallop and tends to linger. It’s not a horror story by any means, but I would not recommend reading before bedtime. But go on - I challenge you to visit “The Strange Library”.
Kim

Another comment :
This weird little novella by Japanese author Haruki Murakami left me wondering what was going on. A child goes to the library to return some books on his way home from school, three days later he gets home. Was what happened in between a dream? Sheepmen, disappearing girls, Ottoman taxes? Is it an allegorical tale in the Japanese tradition or maybe a joke?
Fay


19.3.15

The Boy in the Woods

The Boy in the Woods by Carter Wilson

This intriguing tale is narrated by a man, Tommy Devereaux, who was witness to a horrific murder when he was fourteen years old. Back in 1981, he, along with two other mates of the same age, witnessed the murder of a young boy in the Oregon woods. All three boys were manipulated into becoming unwilling accomplices to the subsequent cover-up, swearing never to talk about what had happened on that fateful day. 

Thirty years later, Tommy has become a successful bestselling author and is using his writing as a kind of therapy and disguising the murder he witnessed as fiction. At a book signing event he is approached by a woman who asks for his autograph, leaving behind a note that read: 'You didn’t even change my name'. 

Tommy's worst nightmare has just come true. A figure from his past has returned, threatening to divulge his darkest secret unless he agrees to do everything she asks of him. Thus begins a deadly cat-and-mouse game... 

I loved this book for the thrills, manipulation and intrigue that is woven throughout the story. It was a page-turner that was both terrifying and tantalising. 

~ Narelle

18.3.15

Flying on Broken Wings

Flying on Broken Wings by Carrie Bailee

Carrie Bailee fled Canada and came to Australia when she was twenty. Once here she was assisted by a number of Australian women, and was ultimately encouraged to apply for refugee status in order to stay in this country. So began her battle to be granted asylum in Australia. 

Carrie stood before the Refugee Review Tribunal and revealed the dark underbelly of child sexual abuse and organised crime rings in our privileged, first-world neighbourhoods. This is the story of one young woman’s heroic journey to survive, escape and soar above her shocking childhood experiences, and her powerful struggle for freedom and a beautiful life in Australia.

Carrie Bailee would have to be one of the bravest young women in Australia. After a years of shocking sexual, physical and psychological abuse from her own father and others, she has managed to write a compelling account of her life with candour and honesty. 

The chapters alternate between Australia and Canada which is just as well because the extreme nature of some of her recollections warrants a breather with more uplifting events. Because of her tendency for major blackouts explicit description is minimised, however some parts are confronting. Carrie Bailee should be so proud of not shying away from getting her story out there. She is a natural writer and encapsulates her personality nicely, revealing a good humoured and self deprecating nature despite all that has happened in her past. 

Ali


17.3.15

Romance Readers Awards

The winners of the 2014 Australian Romance Readers Awards (ARRA) have been announced. The nominations were open to all romance novels published in 2014. 

The awards are handed out annually in nine categories, and each year in the run-up to the awards, ARRA members are invited to choose and vote on three, special 'reader-selected' awards. This year those awards were handed out for Sexiest Hero, Favourite Cover, and Favourite New Australian Romance Author. 

Drum roll please …


Paranormal Romance — Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh
Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance — Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
Short Category Romance — The Honeymoon Trap by Kelly Hunter
Historical Romance — The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie
Contemporary Romance — Play by Kylie Scott
Erotic Romance — Down and Dirty by Rhian Cahill, Lexxie Couper, Jess Dee and Sami Lee
Romantic Suspense — Safe Harbour by Helene Young
Continuing Romance Series — Stage Dive by Kylie Scott
Favourite Australian Romance Author for 2014 — Kylie Scott

Favourite Cover — Play by Kylie Scott
Sexiest Hero — Adam in Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns
Favourite New Romance Author 2014 — Alli Sinclair

Deb.

16.3.15

Midnight is a Lonely Place

Midnight is a Lonely Place by Barbara Erskine

From the cover:  After a broken love affair, biographer Kate Kennedy retires to a remote cottage on the wild Essex coast to work on her new book - until her landlord's daughter uncovers a Roman site nearby and long-buried passions are unleashed!  In her lonely cottage, Kate is terrorised by mysterious forces. What do these ghosts want? That the truth about the violent events of long ago be exposed or remain concealed? Kate must struggle for her life against earthbound spirits and ancient curses as hate, jealousy, revenge, and passion do battle across the centuries.

If you like a good dose of haunting with an accompanying history lesson, Barbara Erskine is always an excellent choice.  I’ve read quite a few of hers – House of Echoes, the wonderful Whispers in the Sand and its follow-on, The Sands of Time, and Daughters of Fire.  They are absorbing reads, very evocative and occasionally quite scary, but most suffer, as did this one, from being just too long and drawn out.  At 77 chapters, Midnight is a Lonely Place would’ve been tighter and a bit more enjoyable with 10 or so chapters less.  However, Erskine’s talent at winding love/hate/jealousy and history into a modern day tale of an English seaside cottage roiling with passions long gone is an entertaining read, one I found hard to put down.  It was well narrated by the talented Rula Lenska – my only beef being her pronunciation of the word ‘grimaced’ which she read as gri-maced [rhymes with raced].  
Deb. 



13.3.15

Vale Sir Terry Pratchett

Popular fantasy sci-fi author, Sir Terry Pratchett, passed away yesterday (March 12, 2015) has died aged 66, eight years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.


Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015) was an English author of fantasy novels, especially comical works. He is best known for his Discworld series of about 40 volumes. Pratchett's first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, and since his first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983, he wrote two books a year on average. His 2011 Discworld novel Snuff was at the time of its release the third-fastest-selling hardback adult-audience novel since records began in the UK, selling 55,000 copies in the first three days.

Pratchett was the UK's best-selling author of the 1990s, and has sold more than 85 million books worldwide in 37 languages. He is currently the second most-read writer in the UK, and seventh most-read non-US author in the US.

"The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds," said Transworld publisher Larry Finlay. He enriched the planet like few before him and through Discworld satirised the world with great skill, enormous humour and constant invention," said Mr Finlay. "Terry faced his Alzheimer's disease (an 'embuggerance', as he called it) publicly and bravely," said Mr Finlay.

"There was nobody like him,” added author Neil Gaiman.  "Over the last few years, it was his writing that sustained him. His legacy will endure for decades to come." 

The library has so many Terry Pratchett novels in various formats that it is too extensive to individually link here.  Please click on the author's name at the top of this post to browse our catalogue entries.

Deb.

12.3.15

Stella Prize Shortlist

The 2015 Stella Prize shortlist has just been released, with three of the titles being debut novels by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Emily Bitto and Ellen van Neerven:


Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke
The Strays by Emily Bitto
The Invisible History of the Human Race by Christine Kenneally
The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna
The Golden Age by Joan London
Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

The 2015 Stella Prize will be awarded in Melbourne on the evening of Tuesday 21 April. Stay tuned ...
Deb

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