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


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. 


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!  


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 ...



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.



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. 


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! 


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

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

03 8664 7099



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!




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.




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. 

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


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. 



Malicious Intent

Malicious Intent by Kathryn Fox.
From the cover:  Dr Anya Crichton, a pathologist and forensic physician, finds work is sparse for the only female freelancer in the field. Between paying child support, a mortgage and struggling to get her business off the ground, Anya can't yet afford to fight her ex-husband for custody of their three-year-old son, Ben. After her expert evidence helps win a high-profile court case, Anya is asked by lawyer Dan Brody to look into the seemingly innocent death of a teenage girl from a local Lebanese family. While investigating, Anya notices similarities between this girl's death and other cases she is working on with friend and colleague, Detective Sergeant Kate Farrer. All the victims went missing for a period of time, only to be found dead of apparent suicide in most unusual circumstances. As Anya delves deeper, the pathological findings point to the frightening possibility that the deaths are not only linked, but part of a sinister plot. Nothing can prepare her for the truth...

My track record for getting in on a series hasn’t been too good in the past, and for once [insert a cheer here] I’m actually in on the ground floor with Book 1 of the Dr Anya Chrichton series!   This first novel has a few things going for it: it’s Australian, set in Sydney; the character’s occupation, forensic physician, is unusual – like the tv shows it’s usually a forensic pathologist; and separated from her husband, it is he who got custody of their child, 3-year old Ben.   

The story can be quite confronting at times, both in a cultural and medical sense, but the characters are well-drawn and the plot moves at a good pace.  Our main protagonist, Anya, is engaging, and overall I think for Book 1 Kathryn Fox has  done well.  There’s a bit of a twist toward the end, but of course, the end is not the end in a series ... the door is wide open for the next one. 

I downloaded this title from our Bolinda site and it was expertly narrated by Jennifer Vuletic.  She stamped definitive personalities on Anya, Kate and Ben and handled the many accents and nuances with aplomb.  

If you enjoy forensic medicine/crime/detective-style novels, I'd recommend you reserve this one and jump aboard the series.  We have it in hard print, e-book, e-Audiobook, CD and MP3 formats.




Shot by Jenny Siler    

From the cover: 
When journalist Kevin Burns gets a call from former schoolmate Carl Greene, he's surprised. They weren't that close at school and the temperature cooled even more when Carl married Kevin's girl, Lucy.  Carl, a scientist, sounds anxious and afraid. They arrange to meet at a baseball game in Denver but Carl never makes it. Someone kills him first. Soon after, Lucy surprises a masked figure prowling Carl's study. Whatever her husband was working on, a lot of people want to get their hands on it. Some are clearly prepared to kill for it, though not the prowler who, it turns out, is a woman with quite a different agenda. 

Shot is a whodunit set in the world of biotechnology/germ warfare but on a domestic level, and it feels like it should be a tv movie rather than a suspense novel.  It’s just a tad too glib and lacked a little oomph I thought.  The two female characters were quite good though, and there is murder, blackmail, robbery and a cover-up to keep things moving along. 
As regular readers of this newsletter will know, listening to Humphrey Bower narrating a story is one of the great benefits of audio books – he’s such a talent!  With this book, however, he reads the whole thing in an American accent.  If you didn’t know it was him, I doubt you’d pick it as he does it so well.  
We have this title in all formats - hard print, CD, MP3, Playaway and e-Audiobook.


Lost and Found

This is another debut novel from an exciting new Australian author - Brooke Davis.  Lost and Found was recommended to me by a friend who gave it 5 stars and after reading it I now know why.  It’s a very quirky and different book to read, and the three main characters - Just Millie, Karl the Touch Typist and Agatha Pantha will make you laugh and cry.

Just Millie was abandoned in an Australian department store by her mother just after her father passes away, that’s why she calls herself Captain Funeral who has a record of dead things that she carries with her.  She sets out on a quest to find her mum aided by Karl the touch typist who has escaped from his nursing home, Manny the store mannequin, and Agatha Pantha who lives across the road from Just Millie and hasn't left her home since her husband died.  Millie is the eternal optimist and makes sure she leaves notes for her mum along the way, like – “I'm in here Mum” and “Be back soon Mum”.  In a trip that takes you across the Nullarbor by train, bus and car they journey together looking for Just Millie's mum and discover a lot about themselves too.

I agree with my friend’s rating, this was a very good read!


Miracle Cure

Miracle Cure by Harlan Coben

From the cover:  Sara Lowell and Michael Silverman are the ideal celebrity couple: she’s TV’s most popular journalist and he’s New York’s hottest basketball star.  Their lives would soon be shattered by Dr. Harvey Riker’s clinic and the miracle cure that millions seek.  One-by-one his patients are getting well.  One-by-one they are targeted by a serial killer more fatal than their disease.

Harlan Coben has a huge following, his books are always mega sellers and he is published on a global scale.  How come I find them quite hard going?!  They always seem way too long, dragging in the middle.  
I also am not a fan of violence just for the hell of it, with which this book was dealt in spades.  And, even though this Playaway was very well narrated by Eric Meyers, Aids, homosexuality, politics and religion are definitely not my favourite topics to listen to every day.  Coben does, however, come up with some good, twisting storylines – I didn’t start to pick up where we were headed till quite close to the end; and I do appreciate an epilogue.  Would I recommend this book to a friend?  No, sorry, but fans will probably lap it up. We've got it in hardcover, paperback, Large Print, audio CD and Playaway formats.  Click on the title if you'd like to borrow. 



Rescue by Anita Shreve

From the cover:  Peter Webster, a rookie paramedic, pulls a young woman from her wrecked car.  Sheila Arsenault is a gorgeous enigma – streetwise and tough-talking, with haunted eyes and fierce desires.  Soon Sheila and Peter are embroiled in an intense love affair.  Eighteen years later and Peter is raising their teenage daughter, Rowan, alone.  But Rowan is veering dangerously off track, and for the first time in their ordered existence together, Webster fears for her future. He seeks out the only person who may be able to help her.

Anita Shreve is known for her emotional intensity and occasionally confronting material.  In her latest, The Pilot’s Wife, it’s a husband’s plane crash and the invasive media interest in the pilot.  In Light on Snow, it’s a new mother’s anguish and abandoning a baby. In Rescue, it’s alcoholism that tears apart a family.  Shreve’s stories are not a joy to read, they’re all serious with barely a grin to be had, but her characters are very human and the quality of how she writes propels us to want to stay till the end.  A lot of the cases that Webster and his sidekick paramedic are called out to seem to be a bit of padding, but that’s a minor criticism. If you enjoy character-driven books, she’s a good author to sink your literary teeth into.
Deb.    PS – despite the name, narrator Laurence Bouvard is female and she does a reasonable job with all the voices in this Playaway format, both male and female and at different ages in the story.


Paperback Hero

Paperback Hero by Antony J. Bowman

From the cover:
Jack Willis seems like any ordinary outback trucker – but in secret he's a romance novelist. And he's about to become very successful. But real men don't write romance novels and so Jack's been writing under the name of his friend, Ruby Vale. The only problem is, Ruby doesn't know. When glamorous publisher Ziggy Keane arrives to do business with 'Ruby Vale', Jack must do some fancy footwork in order to keep his writing career afloat. Jack hatches a scheme, but will he be able to get Ruby to go along with it? What about her plans to marry the local vet? And, more importantly, what about Jack's growing attraction to Ziggy? In this entertaining comedy of errors, does Jack have what it takes to be a true romantic hero?

Narrated by the inimitable Humphrey Bower, this light-hearted Aussie tale that I downloaded from our Bolinda e-audiobook site is a very entertaining read.

You can almost taste the dust and feel the heat in what is essentially a romantic comedy but with a good original storyline and memorable characters  – an Aussie guy who writes romance novels and a chick who loves flying her crop-dusting plane.  Now there’s a pairing you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere!  The story rolls along at good pace, with casual ease and laconic style, so if you’re looking for something not too taxing, this is a good choice.  Since finishing the book, I subsequently found out that it’s a movie starring Hugh Jackman and Claudia Karvan.  Sounds like good casting to me! 


Miles Franklin winner

Author Evie Wyld has beaten some of the country's most lauded writers to win this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award with her book All The Birds, Singing.

Our highest literary honour - with $60,000 in prize money - celebrates Australian literature that features aspects of Australian life.

Who or what is watching Jake Whyte from the woods? Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It's just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep - every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags. It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake's unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back. Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of how one woman's present comes from a terrible past. 

All the Birds, Singing is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice.  


Die for You

Die For You by Lisa Unger  

From the cover:  Isabel and Marcus Raines are the perfect couple. She is a well-known novelist: he is a brilliant high-tech game inventor.  One morning, Marcus disappears. Isabel dials his mobile phone for hours, but when she finally receives a call in return, it's more disturbing than she could have imagined - only the sound of a man screaming pitifully. The police are no use. It could have been a television show, they tell her. Grown men just don't disappear.  His office is ransacked, staff killed, and her money - all their money - is missing from their accounts. But the final blow comes when she learns from the police that Marcus Raines is in fact a dead man. He has been using somebody's identity for years. Isabel was married to someone she never knew. And now the chase is on, because Isabel will not rest until she finds the truth.

This was good, but not as good as some other titles from the Unger pen.  There was too much sidestepping away from the main story, too much internalising from the main character, Isabel, and way too much airy-fairy musing about motherhood.  A good editor could have made a much tighter, and therefore more enjoyable, novel as it has a good storyline to start with.  

I downloaded the Bolinda e-audiobook narrated by Ann Marie Lee, but we have this title in hard print, large print, CD and MP3 formats as well.


The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison.

The feel-good novel of 2013 and winner, Australian Book Industry Awards, Book of the Year, 2014,  The Rosie Project is a classic screwball romance.

From the cover:  Don Tillman is getting married. He just doesn’t know who to yet. But he has designed the Wife Project, using a sixteen-page questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent and beautiful. And on a quest of her own to find her biological father—a search that Don, a professor of genetics, might just be able to help her with.

The Wife Project teaches Don some unexpected things. Why earlobe length is an inadequate predictor of sexual attraction. Why quick-dry clothes aren’t appropriate attire in New York. Why he’s never been on a second date. And why, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love: love finds you.

This debut novel by Melbourne man Graeme Simsion is a delightful feel-good rom com with a twist. The hero of the novel Don Tillman is an odd socially challenged genetics professor who has never been on a second date. He embarks on a “wife project” in which he uses an evidenced based orderly survey to find the “ideal” wife…but then along comes Rosie…


Miracle Cure

Miracle Cure by Harlan Coben

From the cover:  Sara Lowell and Michael Silverman are the ideal celebrity couple: she’s TV’s most popular journalist and he’s New York’s hottest basketball star.  Their lives would soon be shattered by Dr. Harvey Riker’s clinic and the miracle cure that millions seek.  One-by-one his patients are getting well.  One-by-one they are targeted by a serial killer more fatal than their disease.

Harlan Coben has a huge following, his books are always mega sellers, and he’s published on a global scale.  How come I find them quite hard going?!  They always seem way too long, dragging in the middle.  

I also am not a fan of violence just for the hell of it, with which this book was dealt in spades.  And, even though this was very well narrated by Eric Meyers, Aids, homosexuality, politics and religion are definitely not my favourite topics to listen to every day.  Coben does, however, come up with some good, twisting storylines – I didn’t start to pick up where we were headed till quite close to the end; and I do appreciate an epilogue.  Would I recommend this book to a friend?  No, sorry, but fans will probably lap it up. We've got it in Hardcover, paperback, Large Print, audio CD and Playaway formats.  Click on the title if you'd like to borrow. 


Fictitious Dishes

Fictitious Dishes: an album of literature’s most memorable meals by Dinah Fried

From the cover:  Fictitious Dishes serves up a delectable assortment of photographic interpretations of culinary moments from contemporary and classic literature. Showcasing famous meals such as the madcap tea party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the watery gruel from Oliver Twist, the lavish chicken breakfast from To Kill a Mockingbird, etc., the unique volume pairs each place setting with the text from the book that inspired its creation.  Interesting food facts and entertaining anecdotes about the authors, their work, and their culinary predilections complete this charming book, which is sure to whet the appetites of lovers of great literature and delicious dishes.

In the introduction, the author explains how she was at the Rhode Island School of Design where the idea struck her to cook, style, and photograph memorable meals she had read about in novels.  After taking first photos – Oliver Twist, The Catcher in the Rye, Moby-Dick, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – she became completely hooked on the process.  “So many books, so many more meals”, she said.  “I had to keep going, and I did, long past the assignment’s due date.”  

This is the result and what a whimsical delight this little volume is!  I became totally absorbed in the introduction – don’t flip past it, it’s integral to appreciating the detail – and thoroughly enjoyed the trivia snippets that accompanied each title and paragraph.  The full-page photos are a treat, I loved The Great Gatsby one; there is just so much work in creating all those dishes and getting the props organised! Highly recommended for a light and entertaining read and bonus, you really don’t need to be a literary buff or culinary whizz. Just enjoy it for what it is.

The author says: “Reading and eating are natural companions, and they’ve got a lot in common.  Reading is consumption.  Eating is consumption.  Both are comforting, nourishing, restorative, relaxing and mostly enjoyable.” 


Seriously... I'm Kidding

Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
While this book is a Biography, you almost forget it is because of the large amount of topics covered and I found that while reading this book I could almost hear the words in Ellen’s voice, like a stand-up routine.
It’s a very uplifting read, very well written, and Ellen seems to be such a positive person. You do find out quite a bit about her but not in the way that other Biographies lay it out. This book is more about her thoughts and feelings on certain topics such as finding out that she doesn’t like clutter, her wife Portia hoards lotion, Ellen doesn’t believe in judging people and she likes being unique. Ellen also writes about her time as a judge on American Idol and there is a chapter titled “Labels” where she writes about the stereotypes associated with being gay.

It’s a very positive, funny read and it tackles some difficult subjects, but Ellen does it in her own way which is hilarious and puts a lot of things into perspective. 


Nineteen Eighty-Four

In most stories, we are presented with a hero. In the George Orwell novel 1984, the prime example of dystopian science fiction, there are no heroes.

Oceania, one of the three superstates that emerged following the end of the Second World War. Posters adorn the walls reading “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.” Large futuristic pyramids which house the Ministry of Love, Ministry of Plenty, Ministry of Truth, and Ministry of Peace dot the cityscape. Across every government building, the slogans “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH” adorn each and every wall.  Telescreens, acting as microphones and CCTV Cameras, observe every moment of every corner of London, chief city of Airstrip One. However, there is one alcove in one cheap government flat in which a man known as Winston Smith writes “Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death.”

Winston Smith, an ageing Outer Party member living in London. Winston is the chief editor of the Historical Revisionism Department of the Ministry of Truth. He works at his desk, erasing “unpersons,” which are executed thoughtcriminals, from photographs and newspapers. Even at the Ministry of Truth, the Thought Police watch for any sign of dissent, any grimace of disgust or flash of righteous anger at Big Brother. The Thought Police work behind the scenes, kidnapping suspected dissenters, or thoughtcriminals, and torturing them in the Ministry of Love.

Winston, in his Alcove, writes various phrases in a journal. The slogans disparage Big Brother, and as such Winston would be put to death if he was found to possess it. The Slogans range from the above quote about thoughtcrime, to the brazen act of thoughtcrime possible, which is to think the phrase “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER.”

Through his secret dissent and attempts to hide his opinions, he comes into contact with a young girl named Julia, a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League.  She hands him a note reading the phrase “I LOVE YOU.” The novel then follows the story of Winston and Julia attempting to hide their dissent and continue their illegal love affair. They are also contacted by O'Brien, a member of a dissident organisation known as The Brotherhood. Threatened with capture by the omnipresent Thought Police, torture in the Ministry of Love, and the all-consuming hunger for power possessed by Big Brother, Winston, Julia and O'Brien must also contend with their ever-diminishing trust of each other.

The world created by Orwell is a depressingly dark dystopian nightmare, in which simple dissenting opinions are punished with torture and death, the new language of Newspeak threatening to make dissent or disagreement impossible, each and every person lives  a repressed, aggression filled life, and all pleasure other than love for Big Brother having been exterminated. It is particularly relevant to the world today, as our ever increasing surveillance state, cyberpunk-like repression of human rights, and political instability threaten to topple the real world into Oceania.

1984 is a highly important and well written book. The prose is suitably dry and depressing; the story pulls no punches with regards to life in a totalitarian state and accurately portrays the psychological and emotional effects of total repression and submission to an overlord figure such as Big Brother. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in politics, psychology, dystopian fiction or simply trying to find a window into our potential future.

Matthew Costella. Narre Warren Library Work Experience.

The Empty Bed

The Empty Bed by Paul Thomas  

From the cover:  Do you believe in love? Do you trust your partner? Nick Souter did, he and Anne had something special, up until when Nick discovers a love note written to Anne.  After investigating on his own, he is convinced that Anne is having an affair.  A few weeks later Anne is found murdered in her bed and suddenly Nick has gone from being estranged husband to the prime, and only, suspect. It quickly becomes apparent that it is up to him not only to prove his innocence but also to find the real killer.

More than halfway into the story when Anne is murdered, the meter changes from what was an interesting character study of a marriage under duress, to a psychological suspense/mystery/whodunit.  The ending came rather abruptly I thought, and was not one that I was expecting!   This New Zealand author of four previous mystery/suspense novels and former Ned Kelly winner, has penned an eventually gripping tale which is very well-narrated by the talented David Tredinnick.  
I downloaded this from our Bolinda audio site but we have this title in print and CD format too, so click here to check the catalogue.


Pillars of the Earth

Author Ken Follett surprised me with his long list of novels, starting in 1976 with The Modligiani Scandal, a novel where art forgers, masterpiece hunters and thieves collide.  He then moved on to a 'whodunit' in 1977, and later turned his talents to a WWII/MI5/enemy agent book.  He then surprised readers by radically changing course with The Pillars of the Earth, a novel about building a cathedral in the Middle Ages.

Published in September 1989 to rave reviews, it was on the New York Times bestseller list for eighteen weeks. It also reached the No. 1 position on lists in Canada, Great Britain and Italy, and was on the German bestseller list for six years. 

In 2004, it was voted the third greatest book ever written by 250,000 viewers of a German television station, beaten only by The Lord of the Rings and the Bible. When The Times of London asked its readers to vote for the 60 greatest novels of the last 60 years, The Pillars of the Earth was placed at No.2 (the sequel, World Without End, was No.23 on the same list), after To Kill a Mockingbird.  In November 2007 'Pillars' became the most popular-ever choice of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, returning to No.1 on the New York Times bestseller list. 

And of course, the mini-series in 2010 produced by Ridley Scott and starring Ian McShane and Matthew Macfadyen.  The eight-part TV miniseries debuted in the U.S. and Canada in July of that year, with the UK premier in October.  The series was nominated for 3 Golden Globes, including Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, Ian McShane for Best Actor and Hayley Atwell for Best Actress at the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

I found the above information when helping someone find information on author Ken Follett and just had to read the book.  Not my usual fare I must say but I became totally immersed in it. At a daunting 973 pages, this tome is not one to carry in your handbag [go the e-version!]  In what could be an almighty boring story of church construction, which is the idea that fuelled the novel, it is very well written with memorable characters and interwoven storylines.

Set in 12th Century England, Philip, a devout and resourceful monk, is driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known. It’s also the story of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect; the elusive Lady Aliena; Jack, brought up in the forest by his mother, Ellen, an accused witch; and a struggle between good and evil that turns church against state, and brother against brother.

Classic movie material indeed and an excellent book to lose yourself in.


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