Reading Rewards - reviews

The Great Race

The Great Race: the race between the English and the French to complete the map of Australia by David Hill.  This was a Bolinda Audiobook narrated by Paul English, but we have many formats in our catalogue.  Click here.

From the cover: On the afternoon of
8 April 1802, in the remote southern ocean, two explorers had a remarkable chance encounter. Englishman Matthew Flinders and Frenchman Nicolas Baudin had been sent by their governments on the same quest: to explore the uncharted coast of the great south land and find out whether the west and east coasts, four thousand kilometres apart, were part of the same island. And so began the three-year race to compile the definitive map of Australia. Written from diaries and other first-hand accounts, this is the thrilling story of men whose skill and determination enabled Terra Australis Incognita to become Australia.


I admit it, I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for Matthew Flinders.  Two reasons: as an ex-Mornington resident, I often spent time either in Mornington Park or Schnapper Point where there are many references relevant to Matthew Flinders' explorations.

“Matthew Flinders entered the heads of Port Phillip Bay on the 26th April 1802 and landed near Mornington on the 28th April. On Schnapper Point above the Mornington pier is a memorial to Matthew Flinders engraved on a granite obelisk which rises thirty feet in the shape of a giant fin, to a man of destiny, “the most generous, most learned and most modest of all the Australian explorers.”  The settlement at Schnapper Point developed into the township of Mornington.”     from http://morningtonchamber.com.au/our-history/
 
And the other reason?  I really enjoyed Bryce Courtenay’s Matthew Flinders’ Cat!

I think the title of this book, however, is a bit misleading.  The ‘race’ seems to be about who published what first, not necessarily about who discovered what first.  Both protagonists were unaware the other was on the way to the same place; both languished thither and yon for quite some time not ‘making haste’, and bumped into each other from time to time with no great alacrity to resume the high seas.  No matter, the book itself is absorbing.  Initially there’s a fair bit about ‘who did what’ before Flinders and Baudin – even back to the 1600s with Dutch explorers like Dampier, Abel Tasman, the revolting saga of the Batavia, the Portuguese Torres, French D’Entrecasteau et al, but stick with it, we’re soon off with the protagonists, plus Flinders’ cat Trim, who cracks a minor mention.  It’s a hair raising ride indeed due to wars, the ever-present scurvy and later, dysentery, storms and wrecks, burials at sea, the first settlements, Flinders’ outrageous imprisonment on the Mauritius for 6 ½ years, and the trials and tribulations of exploring, surveying and mapping in the 1800s.  Today’s well-known names crop up – the French cartographer Freycinet – gorgeous place in Tassie; Bass Strait after George Bass who eventually goes missing at sea; Botany Bay, Port Jackson/Sydney, Benelong, King Island, Flinders Island, Kangaroo Island, Rottnest, the Great Barrier Reef and much more.  A fascinating book and well recommended.  
Deb.

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Mark Billingham, Lisa Unger, John Connolly, Mary Higgins Clark and Val McDermid are some of my favourite crime authors. When I heard that they had all released a book this month I was immediately confronted with the decision of “Who should I read first?!?!”.

Thankfully the decision was made for me, as they all released the same book!  These five authors, along with fifteen other well-known crime writers, have joined together to produce the serial novel “Inherit the dead”.

“Inherit the dead” tells the story of private investigator Perry Christo as he tries to track down a missing heiress. While on the trail, Perry finds that he too has become a target. Each author has written a chapter (not surprisingly there are 20 chapters in the novel), so every chapter has a slightly different style, but this does not detract from the flow of the story.

I found that the female authors were more descriptive with clothing and movement, tossing words like “languidly” and “draped” about, however this was appropriate, as they seemed to have the chapters revolving around female characters.

All authors contributing to the book have donated their time and effort, with all proceeds going to “Safe Horizon” which is the largest victims’ support charity in the United States.

Not only is this book a great collaborative effort, it’s also a great read.
~ Leanne

Vale Tom Clancy


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Thomas Leo "Tom" Clancy, Jr. (April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013) was an American author best known for his technically detailed espionage and military science storylines set in and around the aftermath of the Cold War. Seventeen of his novels were best-sellers, with over 100 million copies in print. His name was also a brand for similar movie scripts written by ghost writers; many series of non-fiction books on military subjects; merged biographies of key leaders; and video games. 


Dubbed the inventor of the techno-thriller, his novels The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears have been transformed into blockbuster films starring Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford.  Ben Affleck played his most famous fictional character, Jack Ryan, in 2002.

Clancy died October 1, 2013, after a brief illness at Johns Hopkins Hospital, near his Baltimore USA home. No cause of death was released. Deb

The Fault in our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Hazel, a stage IV thyroid cancer patient, participated in a tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, but Hazel has never been anything but terminal. When a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters, who is recovering from osteosarcoma, suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, it forces Hazel to re-examine her perspective on love, loss, and life.

Forget that the book has YA (Young Adult) on the cover – this is for anyone who enjoys being swept along by a story.  This book has reviews everywhere, and because of that, I avoided it … until it was added to our Teen Book Group for reading and discussion.  I thought I’d better check out what the hoo-ha is about, hoping that it wouldn’t be a real downer peppered with platitudes, pity and pathos. I couldn’t have been further from the truth – this book sings with love, laughter and wonder.  Told from Hazel’s point of view, it has an infectious banter that bewitches you; it’s funny, intelligent, irreverent and thoughtful.  Augustus and Hazel’s connection is so heart-achingly right that they join my list of  ‘Memorable Couples in Books’ – like Henry and Claire in the Time Traveller’s Wife and  Sam and Molly in Ghost.
We have this book in many formats and the audio version is brilliantly narrated by Kate Rudd who gives life to all the characters - so much so you feel you do actually know them!  The Fault in Our Stars won the 2013 Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production and rightly so. 
Deb.   PS - stock up on the tissues.

Mad men, bad girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute

Mad men, bad girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute by Maggie Goff

If you like Kerry Greenwood you'll love Maggie Goff. This is a great zany, light-hearted read. 

The descriptions of Byron Bay and the Gold Coast are absolutely spot on, thoroughly recognizable even from 15 years ago. 

I would wholeheartedly recommend this for a fun read to get away from all the dour news of the day. 

With many thanks to one of our Library users -  Edwina Vaughan, for this review!

~ Michelle

Clifton Chronicles

It has been many years since I have read anything by this well-known author, and now I am wondering why I waited so long? I came across this series of books known as the CliftonChronicles - 3 titles - by Jeffrey Archer - Only time will tell, The Sins of the Father and Best Kept Secret, which I am led to believe are the first three books in a 5 book series. 

The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, from the docks of working-class England to the bustling streets of 1940 New York City, they take the reader on a journey through to future volumes, which will bring to life one hundred years of recent history to reveal a story of two families that are forever entwined. 

Book 1 - "Only Time will Tell" is about two boys who meet in school, one from a wealthy family, and one from a poorer family who become great friends The epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, Harry never knew his father, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he’s left school. But then an unexpected gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys’ school, and his life will never be the same again. As he enters into adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth only leads him to question, was he even his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who spent his whole life on the docks, or the firstborn son of his friend Giles Barrington's father of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line? 

Book 2 - "The Sins of the Father" continues the story only days before Britain declares war on Germany, Harry Clifton, hoping to escape the consequences of long-buried family secrets, and forced to accept that his desire to marry Emma Barrington will never be fulfilled, has joined the Merchant Navy. But his ship is sunk in the Atlantic by a German U-boat, drowning almost the entire crew. An American cruise liner, the SS Kansas Star, rescues a handful of sailors, among them Harry and the third officer, an American named Tom Bradshaw. When Bradshaw dies in the night, Harry seizes on the chance to escape his tangled past and assumes his identity with unbelievable consequences. 


Book 3 - "Best Kept Secret" - The vote in the House of Lords as to who should inherit the Barrington family fortune has ended in a tie. The Lord Chancellor's deciding vote will cast a long shadow on the lives of Harry Clifton and Giles Barrington. Harry returns to America to promote his latest novel, while his beloved Emma goes in search of the little girl who was found abandoned in her father's office on the night he was killed. When the general election is called, Giles Barrington has to defend his seat in the House of Commons and is horrified to discover who the Conservatives select to stand against him. But it is Sebastian Clifton, Harry and Emma's son, who ultimately influences his uncle's fate. 

I literally couldn't put these books down!!! They are a classic family saga, and I am devastated that Mr Archer's fourth book is not due out until March 2014! The great but frustrating part is that each books ends in a cliff-hanger!! In the classic words of Molly Meldrum - 'do yourselves a favour' and borrow these, you won't be disappointed. You can also download the e-book through Bolinda on the library website.

~ Janine

Man Booker Shortlist

The six books on the just-announced 2013 Man Booker Shortlist could not be more diverse! They are from novelists from New Zealand, England, Canada, Ireland and Zimbabwe – each with its own highly distinctive taste. They range in size from the 832 pages of Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries to the 104-page The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín. The times represented stretch from the biblical Middle East (Tóibín) to contemporary Zimbabwe (NoViolet Bulawayo) by way of 19th-century New Zealand (Catton), 1960s India (Jumpha Lahiri), 18th-century rural England (Crace) and modern Tokyo (Ruth Ozeki).

 

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Harvest by Jim Crace
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri.  To be published in Australia in October 2013
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín


The Winner will be announced on 15 October, 2013.  
Deb.

Ned Kelly Awards

The Neddies, as they are popularly known, are awarded annually by the Australian Crime Writers' Association for the best debut fiction, best overall fiction and best true crime book.  The Best Debut Fiction award went to Zane Lovitt for The Midnight Promise.  
Geoffrey McGeachin's second novel featuring detective and ex-WWII bomber pilot, Charlie Berlin, Blackwattle Creek, took the gong for Best Crime Fiction; and Robin de Crespigny's The People Smuggler won the true crime category.  
To read a review we posted back in May this year of Blackwattle Creek, click here.
Deb. 

Get Reading!

In September each year, Get Reading! runs a month-long, nation-wide campaign focused on inspiring more Australians to discover or rediscover the pleasure of reading.
The 2013 Top 50 Books You Can’t Put Down again delivers a wide range of books for everyone to find their next favourite read. Hand-picked and curated by a panel of industry experts, the guide guarantees you will find a great read, no matter your personal taste.

From authors who are all Australian, the list contains something for everyone, from picture books to history, memoirs to popular fiction, award-winners, classics and more.  The guide is available on the Get Reading! website [click HERE] (desktop, tablet and mobile optimized). It is also available to download as an interactive PDF, and for the first time, as a multi-touch  book for the iPad, available on the iBookstore. 

Pop into your local library soon and pick up some great reads at our Get Reading! displays.  Even better, why not write a review of your Get Reading! great read and send it in to us - we'll publish a select few here on our blog during this Get Reading! month!  Email your review to admin@cclc.vic.gov.au with Reading Rewards in the Subject field.
Deb

Man vs. Child

I'm always interested to read books by an author I haven't heard of, especially if they are Australian. Man vs child is written by Dominic Knight who is an Australian comedy writer best known as a member of The Chasers.

 Dan McIntyre is thirty-three and single. He produces a radio show he’d rather not be publicly associated with and is also working on improving his stand-up comedy set and finds plenty of material in the new attitudes and habits of his old friends. A chance meeting with his high-school crush, Penny, at his local coffee shop prompts him to revisit his toddler tolerance levels, because Penny has separated from her husband and has moved to a nearby apartment with her one-year-old son Lloyd. If there is a sliver of a chance with Penny, Dan is determined to take it, and in spending time with Lloyd, Dan revisits this crush and sees whether his former dislike of babies is still alive within himself.

Dan is a like-able character, floating through life with seemingly no ambition and few cares. His parents both worry about and support him, and his friends indulge and are infuriated by him in equal measure.

Most people have at least one friend like Dan – lovely and a little bit hopeless – and the book does well to reflect on life on the other side of the fence.

However, apart from sharing its name with the book, the stand-up routine and his work on a morning breakfast show does not add much value to the story. I found that parts of this book just didn't come together for me and although other reviewers have rated it well, it was a little bit lost on me. It's written from a male perspective, which is unusual, I suppose it would be called "man-lit"?

~ Janine

Sisters in Crime Awards

Melbourne crime writer Kerry Greenwood won Sisters in Crime’s Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award at its 13th Davitt Awards for Australian women’s crime writing.  The Davitts are named in honour of Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865.  Kerry was also presented with the Davitt Award - Readers’ Choice for her true crime book, Tamam Shud: The Somerton Man mystery.

Maggie Groff, from Banora Point in northern News South Wales, took out two Davitts - Best Adult Novel and Best Debut Book for Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute.

Canberra lawyer and writer, Pamela Burton, won the Best True Crime Davitt for The Waterlow Killings: a portrait of a family tragedy.



Deb


The Rosie project

Meet Don Tillman, He’s looking for a wife. Preferably someone just like him. Life however doesn’t accept preferences…

There are three things about Don Tillman you should know. First he is a oddly charming and socially inept genetics professor. Second he’s going to get married, to who he doesn't know yet but that’s what the wife project is for; a sixteen page questionnaire to find the perfect non-barmaid, non-drinker, non-smoker nor later-arriver out there. Rosie Jarman is none of these things; she is simply a damaged girl on the hunt for her biological father, something a genetics professor may be able to help with. So begins the Rosie project a moving and hilarious journey for two polar opposite on the verge of discovery what true love and being different is really about.

The Rosie project, its characters, its plot, and its delivery basically everything about this book is simply sublime. Don, who is most likely autistic, is so endearing he can observe the world around him with perfect clarity but not understand it. His view of the events around him is so simplistic yet it hard not to be swayed by his logic. Rosie on the other hand is a feisty take no crap and damaged girl who perhaps enters the picture to change Don but ends up changing herself. This tale is a wonderful blend of sweetness, madness, humour and mayhem that one cannot help but become hooked. It’s a romance story at heart but also a reflection on the human condition; we are all set in our ways but just as capable of enacting change when the right trigger comes along. Don is a relatable character because despite his quirks; who doesn't have an obsession about one thing or another, at his very core he is just like everyone else, looking for someone just like him to love and be loved by. The Rosie project is chick lit in reverse, a wonderfully funny and heart warming read. Don’t pass this one by.

Courtney :)

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I placed a hold request for The cuckoo's calling the morning the media revealed that the author, "Robert Galbraith", was none other than famous author J.K Rowling.

I have loved all the Harry Potter novels, but did not think much of "Casual Vacancy" and stand firm in my belief that "Casual Vacancy" would never have been published if had been by an unknown author.

Enter The cuckoo's calling, published by a "first time author", but written by J.K Rowling. You may be able to imagine my trepidation when I began the first chapter. Two days and 449 pages later, I finished reading and can happily announce that I am once again a J.K Rowling fan (or in this case a Robert Galbraith fan).

The cuckoo's calling is a fast paced "whodunnit" mystery, that has you wondering for much of the book if any crime has even been committed. With less than 30 pages to go I still had a few suspects on my list. In the second last chapter, when the main character, private investigator Cormoran Strike, faced the guilty party, my head was left spinning; that person was way down on my list of suspects, but it all tied in nicely and was a fitting result.

 I look forward to reading more by "Robert Galbraith" in the future and can't wait to find out more about Cormoran Strike.

~ Leanne

Stay Close

 Stay Close by Harlan Coben  e-Audiobook narrated by Nick Landrum
Megan is a suburban Mum who once walked on the wild side.  Now she’s got two kids, a husband, and a growing sense of dissatisfaction.  Ray used to be a talented photographer, but at forty he finds himself in a dead-end job.  Jack is a detective who can’t let got of a cold case from seventeen years ago.  Three people living lives they never wanted, hiding secrets that no-one would ever suspect, will find that the past doesn’t recede. 
 
People have been harping on to me about Harlan Coben suspense novels for a few years now, but this is my first ‘dip a toe in the water’.   The best-selling author has produced the Mickey Bolitar series, the Myron Bolitar series and around a dozen stand-alone novels, of which this is one, released in 2012.  

Suspense thrillers are one my favourite genres and although this is good, it’s not a stand out. Admittedly, it does have some strong and memorable characters and the obligatory twists and turns, but the Ken and Barbie characters I could’ve done without – torture is not something I want in my mental space.  That said, narration was good, the ending was apt, and overall it’s given me enough to want to try another.  His new book, Six Years, has just been released.
Deb.  

PM's Literary Awards

The winners of the Prime Minister's Literary Awards have at last been announced!  The $80,000 first prize goes to Michelle de Kretser, author of Questions of Travel which won the Miles Franklin earlier this year. 

Questions of Travel charts two very different lives.  
Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events. Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories - from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.  Wonderfully written, Questions of Travel is an extraordinary work of imagination - a transformative, very funny and intensely moving novel.
 
The winners of the literary awards were chosen from a shortlist of 29 books spanning six categories.

Journalist George Megalogenis won the non-fiction category for The Australian Moment, while Ross McMullin's book, Farewell, Dear People, won the prize for Australian history.  John Kinsella took out the poetry category with his work Jam Tree Gully.
Deb.

History's Greatest Mysteries

History's Greatest Mysteries: and the secrets behind them by Bill Price

From the cover:  “… In reality, the world is full of grey areas and enigmas, of unsolved mysteries and unresolved stories, one which can fascinate, intrigue and occasionally annoy us in equal measure.  This book delves into these grey areas to examine the imponderable and sometimes unlikely stories of actual events and real people.

This book looks at 50 separate events and starts each chapter with a short column, “Unexplained Event, Unknown Purpose, Fact or Fiction?, Real or Fake?, Missing Person, Unknown People and Unsolved Crime.  One of these will be highlighted and underneath this are three sub-headings: what the mystery was, who are the protagonists and what is the outcome.  It is here, in this short half page that heads each chapter, I was alerted to the fact that this book is definitely not a serious read!  It’s actually not even a fascinating read despite the 50 topics which include the lost continent of Atlantis, Stonehenge, The Ark of the Covenant, The Shroud of Turin, Easter Island statues, the Yeti, the Mary Celeste, Jack the Ripper, Butch and Sundance, Loch Ness Monster, Glen Miller, Roswell, Harold Holt, Lord Lucan and, sigh, The Dingo Baby case.

The language is flippant, even derogatory in parts, and although some chapters whet the “oooh, I want to know more” appetite, the delivery is abject at best.  For example, the very first chapter, The First Australians, under the Outcome heading it says: “an earlier date for the invention of the barbecue than previously thought”.  OR … the Loch Ness Monster.  Outcome: “In recent years, sightings have become less frequent, perhaps reflecting the fact that the drinking and driving laws are now more strictly enforced in the Highlands than they used to be.”  OR … the Shroud of Turin.  Outcome: “Your guess is as good as mine”.  
And on it goes.   Good for a quick flip but not much else.
Deb

Ned Kelly Awards

The shortlist for the 2013 Ned Kelly Awards for excellence in Australian crime writing has been released, with category winners to be announced at the Brisbane Writers festival on 7 September.
 

Best Fiction:
The Holiday Murders - Robert Gott
Web of Deceit - Katherine Howell
Blackwattle Creek - Geoff McGeachin
I Hear the Sirens in the Street - Adrian McKinty
Silent Valley - Malla Nunn

Best First Fiction:
The Marmalade Files - Steve Lewis & Chris Uhlmann
The Midnight Promise - Zane Lovitt
The Robbers - Paul Anderson
Murder with the Lot - Sue Williams
The Richmond Conspiracy - Andrew Grimes

Best True Crime:
The People Smuggler - Robin De Crespigny
Every Parent's Nightmare - Belinda Hawkins
The Devil's Cinema - Steve Lillebuen
Dead by Friday - Derek Pedley
Eugenia - Mark Tedeschi QC

Deb.

Phryne Fisher news

And now for something a little different ... Attention Phryne Fisher fans!

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) is holding a Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries Costume Exhibition at Rippon Lea House in Melbourne from 7 September to 27 October, 2013.

There will be costumes from Series 1 and a selection of upcoming costumes from Series 2!

Events surrounding the exhibition include an Author's talk with Kerry Greenwood and a 1920s inspired Tea Dance with a five-piece band! Bookings can be made via the National Trust website and for more announcements regarding these events head to their Facebook page.
Deb.

Hitmaker - The man and his music

Hitmaker: the man and his music by Tommy Mottola

Anybody who loves music will enjoy this book. Tommy Mottola was a kid who grew up in the Bronx and was a college dropout, he went on to become one of the music industry's most creative and controversial CEO's of the Sony Music Corporation.

I was amazed to read just how many recording stars he was responsible for - Hall & Oates (who I love), Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, George Michael, Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, Carly Simon, Michael Bolton but to name a few, and of course Michael Jackson. He also was credited with discovering (and marrying) Mariah Carey even though he was a generation older than her. In fact, he has been married three times and changed religions each time!

The stories of these artists are fascinating especially Michael Jackson, who surrounded himself with people who said "yes" simply to be around him or because they were cashing his cheques. That put Tommy Mottola in somewhat of a unique position, he was in charge of Sony Music and Sony was writing Michael's cheques, but might have been the only person in the world who was able to say "I don't think that's right" to Michael Jackson, and from the beginning, part of him resented that, but mostly respected that. This part of the book is quite interesting to read and confirms a lot of the controversial stories surrounding Michael Jackson.

He was also present when the classic "We are the world" featuring many of his artists was filmed 28 years ago (I found that hard to believe that it was so long ago).

This book is also interesting describing the progression of recording media from vinyl, to cassette, to compact disc, to MP3's to the modern era reflecting on downloading and piracy.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with a love of music for a trip down memory lane.

~ Janine

Man Booker Longlist

The longlist for the 2013 Man Booker prize for fiction, announced today (24 July 2013), has a diverse and international flavour with authors from the UK, Ireland, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Canada. Three Irish writers have been selected, including Colum McCann, Donal Ryan, and Colm Tóibín whose novels have been shortlisted twice before. The best known of the four British authors is Jim Crace, 67, who has announced that his shortlisted novel, Harvest, will be his last.

The longlist will be cut down to six in September and the eventual winner, announced in October, will receive £50,000.

Five Star Billionaire Tash Aw
We Need New Names NoViolet Bulawayo
The Luminaries Eleanor Catton
Harvest Jim Crace
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman Eve Harris
The Kills Richard House
The Lowland Jhumpa Lahiri
Unexploded Alison MacLeod
TransAtlantic Colum McCann
Almost English Charlotte Mendelson
A Tale for the Time Being Ruth Ozeki
The Spinning Heart Donal Ryan
The Testament of Mary Colm Tóibín
Deb.

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