Reading Rewards - reviews

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!

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 
A 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! Dot

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!!
(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

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:
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. Deb. 


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.

<span style="font-family:

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…