Reading Rewards - reviews

Our Fave Reads of 2015

It's time for everyone's favourite post of the year - the most enjoyed books read by our RR blog staff. And without further ado ... drum roll please ...

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I loved My Brilliant Friend for its themes of female friendship and beautiful lyricism. This wonderful book is classic yet contemporary and totally compelling!  This is the first in the four part Neapolitan novels written by  Elena Ferrante - one of  Italy's most acclaimed authors. Book four was released this year.

This was also Pru's favourite for the year.  She said: "My fave read of the year would have to be Elena Ferrante’s brilliant Neapolitan series – thanks to Mem Fox for highly recommending My Brilliant Friend to me! Turned out to be Volume 1 in a series of four titles which, like her, I couldn’t put down! These powerful novels explore the long friendship and life stories of two girls as they grow into women in the tough neighbourhood of Naples; throughout the series their relationship is volatile- close and supportive at times, distant and strained at others. The people and relationships around them merge in and out of their lives along with the politics of the times and the various places they experience.  Vol 2 - The Story of a New Name is followed by Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay with the fourth installment The Story of the Lost Child.  Now in their 40s, this remarkable story of friendship surrounded by the raw reality of the gritty characters in the neighbourhood of struggling Naples, takes a tragic turn. I loved this evocative series, the sense of place and extended relationships makes compelling reading. The series would be great for a luscious read over a lovely long summer break!" 

I couldn't split my top two picks for the year - both Australian authors. Who could go past the lovely Rachael John’s book The Patterson Girls, a story of four sisters returning home from all over the country/world to help sort out their late mother’s things.   Each sister has her own issues to deal with and this is a journey of discovery for them all.  This will appeal to lovers of Womens Fiction or “life lit” as Rachael describes it.  A great holiday read!
The other was a debut young adult (YA) novel called Risk by Australian author Fleur Ferris which tackles the subject of cyber safety.  Although this is classed as YA, it will appeal to readers of all ages and shows how easily a person can be lured into the deep web of the internet and the consequences thereof.  Gripping!!

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
Although I used to read a lot of fantasy fiction, in the last decade or so I have been reading mainly mystery.  I knew Jim Butcher from the Dresden files so when I saw this new series, I had to give it a try. And it was well worth the long read!  With its combination of well-written characters, amazing action sequences, flying ships, magical creatures and fighting against the odds, this was a book that I just couldn't put down. 

The Wrong Man by Kate White. 
I love a story with a brave, strong female and this is one of them. I loved the story-line, it was easy to read, and was truly intriguing! Although not as well known as some authors, White provided a true page-turner with many twists, teasers and a villain that will totally surprise and shock.

The Secret River by Kate Grenville
This book is not usually my genre, but after the tv series I decided to read The Secret River. I have always been fascinated to know what it would be like to for Australia's' first people when they first encountered Europeans and this book is an excellent perspective from both sides. I was also captivated by the description of life in Colonial Sydney and the discovery of the Hawkesbury river - some Australian History that I knew nothing about.  Kate Grenville writes about the Australian bush with colour and warmth, you can almost smell it. The Secret River is interesting, uplifting but ultimately tragic... A beautiful read.

The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman
The publisher's blurb sounded like this was going to be an upsetting read but it didn’t say how funny and clever it would be.  Nor did it indicate how well the author presents a genuine understanding of a marriage where husband and wife truly share a deep love; nor what an eye opener it is into Early Onset Alzheimer’s.  This book is heart-achingly wonderful.  Yes you will cry, and yes, you will laugh, and at the end of it, you will quite possibly want to make a memory book of your own for your family.   

Happy Holiday Reading everyone!

The promise

The Promise is the latest by Robert Crais and brings together a range of characters from various novels, into one storyline.  As a fan of all his novels and of all his characters, I was interested to see how this was all going to work out.

"Loyalty, commitment, the fight against injustice--these are the things that have always driven Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. If they make a promise, they keep it. Even if it could get them killed. When Elvis Cole is hired to locate a woman who may have disappeared with a stranger she met online, it seems like an ordinary case--until Elvis learns the missing woman worked for a defense contractor and was being blackmailed to supply explosives components for a person or persons unknown. Meanwhile, in another part of the city, LAPD officer Scott James and his patrol dog, Maggie, enter an abandoned building to locate an armed and dangerous thief, only to discover far more than they expected: The fugitive is dead, the building is filled with explosives, and Scott and Maggie are assaulted by a hidden man who escapes in the chaos, all as a bloodied Joe Pike watches from the shadows. Soon, Scott and Maggie find themselves targeted by that man, and, as their case intertwines with Elvis and Joe's, joining forces to follow the trail of the missing woman as well. From inner-city drug traffickers to a shadowy group of Afghan war veterans with ties to a terrorist cell, the people they encounter on that trail add up to ever-increasing odds, and soon the four of them are fighting to find the woman not only before she is killed . . . but before the same fate happens to one of them." 

I loved the way the whole story came together and how Crais managed to twist it so the 'bad girl', is maybe not so bad after all.  The different perspectives are easily recognised with the headings indicating whose view you are reading from in that chapter.  It was even interesting to read Maggie's perspective - getting into the mind of a police dog is a novelty and quite an eye-opener.  And having chapters from the perspective of the real 'bad guy' you might think would give the storyline away - and you would be mistaken.

Although it took a bit to adjust to the different character views, it was useful in that it gave me perspectives on the story which would have been harder to get if the story stuck strictly to one character.

My only criticism would be that book was promoted as An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel, but Joe was more of a background character in this one.  Crais has written novels on him alone, so I would have liked to see more of Joe - he didn't even have a chapter of his perspective here, but there were a few from a colleague of his who helps the case.

And even if not everything works out exactly as you would hope at the end, it does have a very satisfactory ending for one character in particular.

~ Michelle

The Chemistry of Death

The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett

Three years ago, David Hunter moved to rural Norfolk to escape his life in London, his gritty work in forensics, and a tragedy that nearly destroyed him. Working as a simple country doctor, seeing his lost wife and daughter only in his dreams, David struggles to remain uninvolved when the corpse of a woman is found in the woods, a macabre sign from her killer decorating her body. 

The village of Manham is tight-knit, far from the beaten path. As a newcomer, Dr. Hunter is immediately a suspect. Once an expert in analyzing human remains, he reluctantly joins the police investigation - and when another woman disappears, it soon becomes personal. Because this time she is someone David knows, someone who has managed to penetrate the icy barrier around his heart. 

With a killer's bizarre and twisted methods screaming out to him, with a brooding countryside beset with suspicion, David can feel the darkness gathering around him. For as the clock ticks down on a young woman's life, David must follow a macabre trail of clues - all the way to its final, horrifying conclusion.

This was a recommended read and always keeping an eye peeled for a decent thriller, I promptly reserved it.  Overall it lives up to the recommendation.  There’s some clever writing here, more so in the construction of the novel as when you think you’ve worked out ‘whodunit’, you begin to question yourself later on.  

The author also is adept at suspense, adroitly avoiding the occasional detail which sends the mind trotting down the proverbial wrong track. I also enjoyed the nitty-gritty forensic details.  A bit Tess Gerritsen in parts, but I like the scientific side of pathology, it’s good brain food (pardon the pun).   Yes, it is a good read, but frustratingly I found the ending just a bit too pat!


Prime Minister's Literary Awards 2015

And the winner is!

The winner's of the 2015 Australian Prime Minister's Literary Awards were announced Monday evening, 14th December.  Congratulations to all the worthy winners.

The winners for 2015 are:

FICTIONThe Golden Age by Joan London POETRYPoems 1957-2013 by Geoffrey Lehmann (UWA Publishing)PRIZE FOR AUSTRALIAN HISTORY – JOINT WINNERSCharles Bean by Ross Coulthart The Spy Catchers –The Official History of ASIO Vol 1 by David Horner NON-FICTION – JOINT WINNERSJohn Olsen: An Artist’s Life by Darleen Bungey (ABC Books, Harper Collins Publishers)Wild Bleak Bohemia: Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall by Michael Wilding (Australian Scholarly Publishing)YOUNG ADULT FICTIONThe Protected by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)CHILDREN’S FICTIONOne Minute’s Silence by David Metzenthen and illustrated by Michael Camilleri (Allen & Unwin)Find out more about the 2015 award winners.~ Michelle

Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

"Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”  

In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo — Mongol emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts his host with stories of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and designs, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, trading cities, hidden cities. As Marco Polo unspools his tales, the emperor detects these fantastic places are more than they appear.

This is a beautifully written imaginative fable – every time he returns from his travels, Marco Polo is invited by Kublai Khan to describe the cities he’s visited.  


Goodreads Choice Awards

The only major US book awards decided by readers, the Goodreads Choice Awards have 20 categories.  The most popular reads of the year in the adult section are:

Fiction:  Go Set A Watchman by Harper LeeMystery & Thriller:  The Girl On The Train by Paula HawkinsHistorical Fiction:  The Nightingale by Kristin HannahFantasy:  Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman Romance: Confess by Colleen HooverScience Fiction:  Golden Son by Pierce BrownHorror:  Saint Odd by Dean KoontzHumour:  Why Not Me? by Mindy KalingNon-fiction:  Modern Romance by Aziz AnsariMemoir & Autobiography: A Work in Progress by Connor FrantaHistory & Biography: Dead Wake: the last crossing of the Lusitania by Erik LarsonScience & Technology:  Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, Seaworld and the truth beyond Blackfish by John HargroveFood & Cookbooks: The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime by Ree DrummondPoetry: The Dogs I Have Kissed by Trista MateerDebut Goodreads Author: Victoria Aveyard for Red Queen.

Gut: the inside story ...

Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organs by Giulia Enders
Our gut is almost as important to us as our brain or our heart, yet we know very little about how it works. In Gut, Giulia Enders shows that rather than the utilitarian and - let's be honest - somewhat embarrassing body part we imagine it to be, it is one of the most complex, important, and even miraculous parts of our anatomy. And scientists are only just discovering quite how much it has to offer; new research shows that gut bacteria can play a role in everything from obesity and allergies to Alzheimer's. Beginning with the personal experience of illness that inspired her research, and going on to explain everything from the basics of nutrient absorption to the latest science linking bowel bacteria with depression, Enders has written an entertaining, informative health handbook. Gut definitely shows that we can all benefit from getting to know the wondrous world of our inner workings. In this charming book, young scientist Giulia Enders takes us on a fascinating tour of our insides. Her message is simple - if we treat our gut well, it will treat us well in return. But how do we do that? And why do we need to? Find out in this surprising, and surprisingly funny, exploration of the least understood of our organs.
This is a book which explores our bodily functions at length, in particular the goings-on in our gut. Now this may sound a bit uninteresting, however I can assure you that Giulia Enders has managed to make the subject kind of riveting! In fact the book has sold millions of copies worldwide. She clearly is an expert in her field, but not only that, she knows how to communicate in a warm and humorous fashion. Coupled with her sister’s cute diagrams this makes for a very informative read.  With the “gut-brain connection” now becoming the latest health issue this little book will enlighten you about what’s normal, what’s not normal, and tips about what you can do about it. 
Note: Upcoming event - 
GUT HEALTH with Health Coach Elise RobertsThursday 9 February, 6.00-7.00pm @ Emerald Library. Pick up a flyer from your local CCLC library for all the details. 

Tallowood Bound

Tallowood Bound by Karly Lane

When Erin Macalister leaves the city she's relieved to be escaping the remnants of her broken marriage.
Arriving in the small rural community she grew up in, Erin finds nothing much has changed - including Jamie McBride, who is still as ridiculously good looking as he was when they were seventeen and madly in love.
Leafing through old photo albums evokes vivid memories for her grandmother of a soldier she once loved. Erin's curiosity about this mysterious soldier deepens when she finds an engagement ring he once gave her grandmother.

This is the first book I have read by popular Australian author Karly Lane. I loved the fact that her Gran’s (Evelyn) former life drew upon WWII and the American soldiers in Townsville, which is based on fact. She uses resources available to her to discover a whole branch of her family that she didn't know existed in America. I’m sure there are many stories like this one that actually happened in the war years.

Although this is classed as Rural Romance, it will appeal to all readers of Women's contemporary fiction and was a very easy read, perfect for summer.


So You've Been Publicly Shamed

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

For the past three years, Jon Ronson has been immersing himself in the world of modern-day public shaming--meeting famous shamers and shamees, and bystanders who have been impacted. This is the perfect time for a modern-day Scarlet Letter - a radically empathetic book about public shaming, and about shaming as a form of social control. It has become such a big part of our lives it has begun to feel weird and empty when there isn't anyone to be furious about. Whole careers are being ruined by one mistake. A transgression is revealed. Our collective outrage at it has the force of a hurricane. Then we all quickly forget about it and move on to the next one, and it doesn't cross our minds to wonder if the shamed person is okay or in ruins. What's it doing to them? What's it doing to us?

Have you ever hit the "Like" button on Facebook under an article calling for "justice" over somebody's misdemeanor? In So You've Been Publicly Shamed the very funny gonzo journalist Jon Ronson examines what happens to people who have been the targets of public internet shaming. Is the vitriol justified? Who's joining in and what are the consequences? In one case a respected journalist made a silly error of of tweeting a not very funny joke just before boarding a flight. By the time her plane lands Twitter has been on hyperdrive, her career is in ruins and yet she is unaware of it!  This is a unique, fearless and insightful expose about why we are mercilessly finding each other's faults under the disguise of the net. 


Killing Me Softly

Killing Me Softly by Nicci French

Is there anything we wouldn't sacrifice for true love? Alice Loudon is a young woman who seems to have it all; friends, a loving boyfriend, a successful career. Then one day she meets a stranger and - impulsively - gives up her safe life for a passionate affair. It leads her into deception and a secret realm of experience that both entices and alarms her. Gradually Alice learns about Adam's tormented past, entering into a world of risk and adventure. Her initial curiosity soon turns into an obsession that threatens everything: her marriage, her sanity and finally, her life.

This prolific writing team (married couple Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) have produced almost 20 novels, virtually one a year, in the psychological thriller genre.  Some have been quite gripping, like Beautiful Lies or to a lesser extent, Die For You; some have been puerile; I reckon this one falls in the bottom third.  Rescuing it somewhat is that the lead characters are (a) a mountaineer, and (b) a research scientist designing a new IUD contraceptive – not a combination you’re likely to read anywhere else!  Some of the mountain-climbing scenarios are fascinating.  On the other hand, it’s also not often, thankfully, that you read about obsessive love where asphyxiation, belting your beloved with the buckle-end of a belt or violent rape is a way of adoring your wife.  This is a sordid murder story that features a supposedly intelligent woman doing some incredibly stupid things, so much so that you feel like slapping some sense into her yourself!  You do get a sense of fear, but it’s hardly gripping; and the ending is unsatisfactory, but just somehow, inexplicably, you will get there without having tossed the book out the window. 

This Bolinda audio download was well narrated by Lisa Coleman and we also have it in print, e-book, MP3 and CD formats.


Australia's Top 100

Everyone loves a list, and there's never a better time of year to present one that offers some great holiday reads!  Around 5000 people responded to Better Reading’s quest to find out Australia’s favourite 100 novels and in order, here's the top dozen.  You can check out the full list by clicking HERE.

1.  The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
2.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
3.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
4.  Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
5.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
6.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
7.  The Potato Factory by Bryce Courtenay
8.  The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
9.  Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
10. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
11. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
12. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent 


The Summer Read

Summer is the perfect time to pick up a book and read. It doesn’t matter if you’re at home or away on holidays, you can take a break anywhere with a great Victorian book. 

The Summer Read program for adults is presented by the State Library of Victoria and Victorian public libraries, running from 1 December 2015 to 15 February 2016. Choose from a list of ten great books written by Victorian authors or telling Victorian stories. There’s crime, popular and literary fiction, auto biography, biography and memoir – something for everyone!

Visit your local CCLC library after 1 December to browse the books and borrow your favourites.  Recommend 
another great read and you'll be in the running to win prizes to the total value of $4,000!   For details check our website or visit


Flesh wounds

I can't remember where I found out about "Flesh wounds", the autobiography of Richard Glover, but I was intrigued to discover more about the story which is described as being "for anyone whose family was not what they ordered".

For those who think the name sounds familiar, Richard Glover is an author (and I am planning to read more of his books), writes a column for the Sydney Morning Herald and presents the comedy program "Thank God it's Friday" on ABC Local Radio.  In a case of serendipity, his book was also covered on The Book Club on ABC TV this Tuesday night just gone.

So what is it all about?

A mother who invented her past, a father who was often absent, a son who wondered if this could really be his family. Richard Glover's favourite dinner party game is called 'Who's Got the Weirdest Parents?'. It's a game he always thinks he'll win. There was his mother, a deluded snob, who made up large swathes of her past and who ran away with Richard's English teacher, a Tolkien devotee, nudist and stuffed-toy collector. There was his father, a distant alcoholic, who ran through a gamut of wives, yachts and failed dreams. And there was Richard himself, a confused teenager, vulnerable to strange men, trying to find a family he could belong to. As he eventually accepted, the only way to make sense of the present was to go back to the past - but beware of what you might find there. Truth can leave wounds - even if they are only flesh wounds. Part poignant family memoir, part rollicking venture into a 1970s Australia, this is a book for anyone who's wondered if their family is the oddest one on the planet. The answer: 'No'. There is always something stranger out there.

Most of us will have stories to tell about our families - the unusual, the funny and the plain weird. Richard's story helped me to see that there are many definitions of normal when it comes to family and that as a child (or even as an adult) if you can't have the family you wanted for yourself, you can make the family you want for your children.

It is funny, fascinating, amazing, revealing and a very open insight into the strange family circumstances of an Australian media personality.  It was very easy to read and left me both amused and intrigued about why people are the way they are.  It also brought home the importance of knowing where you come from, for so many reasons - many of which Glover covers well.

If you enjoy a good read, a well written biography or just want to play the game of "Who's got the weirdest parents?", then you have to read "Flesh wounds".

~ Michelle

The Japanese Lover

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis and the world goes to war, young Alma Belasco's parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There she meets Ichimei Fukuda, the son of the family's Japanese gardener, and between them a tender love blossoms. 

Following Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart when Ichimei and his family - like thousands of Japanese Americans - are declared enemies by the US government and relocated to internment camps. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love they are forever forced to hide from the world. 

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the older woman and her grandson, Seth, at Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, and learn about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

Why we love it: Best known for her epic family saga, The House of Spirits, Isabel Allende is back with a poignant, uplifting and beautiful story of enduring love and family secrets.

from The Team at Better Reading

Hyacinth Girls

Hyacinth Girls: a novel by Lauren Frankel 

From the cover:  When thirteen-year-old Callie is accused of bullying at school, Rebecca is sure that the gentle girl she’s raised must be innocent. Rebecca has been caring for Callie ever since her mother died years earlier, and she admires Callie’s kindness and her easy intimacy among her giddy, adoring friends.
After Callie is exonerated, she begins to receive threatening notes from the girl who accused her, and as these notes become desperate, Rebecca feels compelled to intervene. As she struggles to protect the girl who is like a daughter to her, Rebecca remembers her own intense friendships as a teenager, when her failure to understand Callie’s mother led to tragedy. She’ll do anything to make this story end differently. But the secrets she and Callie are keeping leave them both vulnerable, and now Callie is in terrible danger.

This raw and beautiful story about the intimacy of adolescent emotions and the complex identity of a teenage girl looks unflinchingly at how cruelty exists in all of us, and how our worst impulses can estrange us from ourselves – or even save us.

This is a debut novel for Lauren Frankel. It is a story that explores schoolyard and cyber bullying. This book is so relevant in today’s times where cyber bullying is prevalent. Also a time when the bully can become the bullied within the touch of a few buttons! It is sad and yet thought-provoking. A teenager on the brink; and a carer trying to find out the truth before it is too late. Frankel really develops her characters well and the reader is taken on a journey of desperation and desolation.

~ Narelle

The Pentagon's Brain

The Pentagon’s Brain: an uncensored history of DARPA, America’s top secret military research agency by Annie Jacobsen

The Pentagon’s brain begins in 1954 with defence scientists who worked on the hydrogen bomb and ends in 2015 with defence scientists who work on robots, cyborgs, and bio hybrids. 

Since its inception in 1958, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has grown to become the Defence Department's most secret, most powerful, and most controversial military science research and development agency. Created by President Eisenhower to prevent another Sputnik, and to focus primarily on defensive programs against nuclear weapons, the agency - and its imagination and scope - has expanded enormously with each passing year. From Agent Orange in Vietnam to insect-sized drones in use today, from the earliest networked computers and the Internet to smart rockets and war zones under 24-hour video surveillance, DARPA is responsible for innovations that have changed the course of war, national security, and strategic planning at the highest levels. But it has also been responsible for Agent Orange and the birth of government mass surveillance programs like PRISM, exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013.

Annie Jacobsen exposes both sides of the DARPA coin: the fantastic technological advances from which we all benefit, and the darker side drawn up in a race for military supremacy. This is a fascinating, yet scary story, and it is far from completed. Where to next for DARPA?


The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine

The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst

Thomas Cleary is a struggling young journalist from a working class background. When he’s sent to dig up quotes for the obituary of a legendary film producer, the man’s eccentric antique-dealer daughter, Lily Goldman, invites him to dinner with friends.

Lily’s friends hale from the very upper echelons of Hollywood society: a studio head, a record-label owner, a glamorous actress. We loved the acutely observed quirks of these wealthy characters.

Thomas is quickly given access to elite events and influential connections and his career begins to take off. The group are generous to a fault. But what is it they expect of him?

Then Thomas meets Matilda Duplaine. Brilliantly clever, but child-like Matilda has never left the lush Bel-Air estate where she lives. Thomas is enchanted and they quickly begin a love affair. But how will Matilda react to the outside world? Who exactly is she, and what’s the secret behind her cloistered life? Thomas can’t resist investigating, although in doing so he runs the risk of destroying everything.

Why we love it: Romantic and moody, this tale of love and privilege takes us into the world of the Hollywood establishment, and has a wonderfully intriguing mystery at its centre. We were completely transported by Alex Brunkhorst’s evocative descriptions of the opulent Los Angeles estates where much of the book is set. And she should know: when she’s not writing, she's a real estate agent specialising in multimillion-dollar estates for Los Angeles’ wealthiest professionals!

From the Team at Better Reading

Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars: The thousand-dollar tan line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

From Rob Thomas, the creator of the groundbreaking television series and movie Veronica Mars, comes the first book in a thrilling new mystery series.

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is no simple missing person’s case. The house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

Picking up where the Veronica Mars movie left off, this book follows Veronica Mars as she takes on her first big case since leaving her career in law behind and resuming work at her father’s detective agency. Although I would highly recommend watching the TV series/movie before undertaking this book, it’s not mandatory as the story is self-contained. 

If you are familiar with the TV series, then you won’t find any surprises here. Rob Thomas has flawlessly imbued the same wit and humour you’ve come to expect from these characters. My only complaint was that the book focused largely on the murder case and less on the development and evolution of the characters. At times it felt that supporting characters were merely making a cameo appearance rather than being integral to the storyline. However, this wasn’t entirely surprising given that the book is structured to be a self-contained case, rather than being in the more open ended style of the TV series. This is something I hope changes in future additions to the series.

Overall, as a fan of Veronica Mars, I really enjoyed revisiting these characters and I would recommend this book to other fans of the TV series.

~ Cassie
Industry placement student at Endeavour Hills Library

Forensics: the anatomy of crime

Forensics: the anatomy of crime by Val McDermid  

From the cover: The dead talk.  To the right listener, they tell us all about themselves: how they lived, how they died – and who killed them.  Val McDermid uncovers the secrets of forensic medicine with ground-breaking research and her own experience.  

In the course of researching her bestselling novels McDermid has become familiar with every branch of forensics, and now she uncovers the history of this science, real-world murders and the people who must solve them.

Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces. 'Forensics: the anatomy of crime' draws on interviews with some of these top-level professionals, ground-breaking research, and McDermid’s own original interviews and firsthand experience on scene with top forensic scientists. 

The chapters cover a wide breadth of subjects; fire scene investigation, entomology, pathology, toxicology, fingerprinting, blood spatter, DNA, anthropology, facial reconstruction, digital forensics, forensic psychology and finally how these techniques are drawn on during the final legal process to gain a conviction.

Although the plethora of CSI et al shows in this day and age have pretty much portrayed the finer points of forensics, this does not detract from what is an interesting book.  I borrowed the Playaway brilliantly narrated by Sarah Barron.  She reads it in McDermid’s Scottish burr, then switches during conversations to bring an Irish, or American, London, Liverpool, or Cornish accent to answer, all totally without pause or seemingly forethought.  Amazing.  Not for the queasy or faint-hearted, this book bares all the bones of who dunnit, how, where, when and sometimes even why.  Highly recommended. 


PM's Literary Awards shortlist

The Prime Minister's Literary Awards 2015 recognise and reward excellence in Australian literature and history. Award Categories are fiction, poetry, non-fiction, Australian history, young adult fiction and children's fiction.

These Awards play an important role in celebrating the outstanding literary talent in Australia and the valuable contribution Australian literature and history makes to the nation's cultural and intellectual life.

The Prime Minister's Literary Awards provide prizes of $80,000 in each of the six categories for winning titles and $5,000 each for the shortlisted.

Adult Fiction:

Amnesia by Peter Carey
Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett 
In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower 
The Golden Age by Joan London
To Name Those Lost by Rohan Wilson 

Adult Non-fiction:

Encountering the Pacific: In the Age of Enlightenment by John Gascoigne 
John Olsen: An Artist's Life by Darleen Bungey
Private Bill by Barrie Cassidy 
This House of Grief: The Story of a Murder Trial by Helen Garner
Wild Bleak Bohemia: Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall by Michael Wilding

Australian History:

Charles Bean by Ross Coulthart
Descent into Hell by Peter Brune 
Menzies at War by Anne Henderson 
The Europeans in Australia Volume Three: Nation by Alan Atkinson 
The Spy Catchers - The Official History of ASIO Volume 1 by David Horner