Reading Rewards - reviews

Win with Miles Franklin!

No, you are not being asked to run a race.

Rather the Miles Franklin Award, Australia's most prestigious literary award, is inviting you to read one or more titles from the list of this year's nominees, for their Miles of Reading Challenge.
You are invited to submit your review on the Miles Franklin discussion forum to be in the chance to win a set of the Miles Franklin Awards' most famous books.

This year's long list is:

Romy Ash - Floundering
Lily Brett - Lola Bensky
Brian Castro - Street to street
Michelle de Kretser - Questions of Travel
Annah Faulkner - The Beloved
Tom Keneally - The Daughters of Mars
Drusilla Modjeska - The Mountain
M.L. Stedman - The Light Between Oceans
Carrie Tiffany - Mateship with Birds
Jacqueline Wright - Red Dirt Talking

Click on the link to place your hold at the library and get moving as reviews must be submitted to the discussion forum by 30th April 2013.  The winner will be announced 19th June, so not too long to wait until you find out whether you and the judges see eye-to-eye on this one. :)

~ Michelle

Jane Clifton


Only nine more sleeps to go …  
Come along for an evening with a genuine show business all-rounder: actress, singer, published crime novelist, and registered Marriage Celebrant [!] – JANE CLIFTON
Don’t miss this hugely entertaining evening 7-8pm Wednesday 17 April at Narre Warren Library.  NO COST - Book your place now at www.tinyurl.com/cclcevents or phone 9704 7696.

        The Address Book     A Hand in the Bush       Half Past Dead

Deb.

The Amber Amulet


From the cover:  "Dear Sir/Ma’am, 
Please find enclosed this Amber Amulet. That must sound unusual to a citizen, but you will have to trust me on this count because the science is too detailed for me to outline here. All you need to know is that the Amber Amulet will eliminate your unhappiness by counteracting it with Positive Energy. This should see you straight. Fear not, you’re in safe hands now. 
Take care. 
The Masked Avenger.

Meet twelve-year-old Liam McKenzie, who patrols his suburban neighbourhood as the Masked Avenger - a superhero with powers so potent not even he can fully comprehend their extent. Along with his sidekick, Richie the Power Beagle, he protects the people of Franklin Street from chaos, mayhem, evil and low tyre pressure - but can he save them from sadness?  This perfect jewel of a book by the award-winning author will hold all readers in its irresistible power. 

Narrated by Grant Cartwright, this e-Audiobook download was short but entertaining!  Diametrically opposed to the powerful Jasper Jones, one of the great Australian reads, Craig Silvey has gone left field with a heart-warming little novella that seems quite child-like but one that touches something inside that makes an adult reader sigh, nod their head, and take a trip down memory lane.  Jumping off the garage roof with an umbrella?  Wearing Mum’s tablecloth as a cape to track down baddies?  Been there, done that, and glad to have travelled that road again with Liam.
Deb.  

Summer Read Recommends

The Victorian Summer Read program has come to an end, even as our summer shows us one last blast.

Readers across the state enjoyed ten Victorian reads and as part of a competition, made suggestions for their favourite recommended reading.

So if you are looking for a great read, here are the top twenty recommendations from fellow Victorian readers, which you can borrow free from your local library.
~ Michelle

Author Event - Matthew Reilly

I admit I have not yet read a Matthew Reilly book, but that certainly didn’t stop me from attending his author event at the Cranbourne Community Theatre on Monday 4th March. The event was organised by the Cranbourne Library and well publicised both in the library and in the local media. I was only one of about 250 people who had flocked to see the popular writer of the Jack West Jr.  and the Scarecrow series.
 
Matthew Reilly is funny and friendly, and he does a great Sean Connery impression. He spent the time before the official event chatting with the early arrivals, his readers, his fans. They talked about movies and why the fifth Die Hard didn’t work, and the last Indiana Jones movie should never have been made. He shared with his fans, his own anger and frustration when his favourite books get butchered in film. We can all relate to that.
 
When the theatre was filled and the official event started there was a sudden hush where moments before there had been a cacophony of sound. Matthew began by reading to us some of his bad reviews. These were ‘really’ bad reviews. One in particular described his books as “light-weight adventure crap.” Ouch!
 
Contest – his first stand-alone book – was initially self-published. Here’s the blurb from his wesite:
 
The New York State Library. A silent sanctuary of knowledge; a 100-year-old labyrinth of towering bookcases, narrow aisles and spiralling staircases. For Doctor Stephen Swain and his eight-year-old daughter, Holly, it is the site of a nightmare. For one night, the State Library is to be the venue for a contest. A contest in which Stephen Swain is to compete – whether he likes it or not. The rules are simple: seven contestants will enter, only one will leave. With his daughter in his arms, Swain is plunged into a terrifying fight for survival. The stakes are high, the odds brutal. He can choose to run, to hide or to fight – but if he wants to live, he has to win. Because in a contest like this, unless you leave as the victor, you do not leave at all.
 
One interesting piece of trivia is that for the US edition, the publishers asked that he change his imaginary ‘State’ library to the actual New York Public Library, which he did. He visited, took photos, drew up a floor plan and changed the scenes in the book to reflect the true layout. That’s dedication.
 
Matthew says his writing has evolved since his first book (first published in 1996 with a print run of just 1000 copies), and as a writer I know that the more you write the better you are at it. There’s more to it though. Matthew said that he feels he has to keep up with the audience, “the audience evolves, grows more sophisticated.” He needs to “up the ante.” In regard to Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves, he said “I wanted this book to be relentless in its relentlessness.”

“Your hero is only as good as your villains.”

Some critics have described Matthew’s books as formulaic. He said the only part of his writing that may follow a formula are the openings of the Scarecrow books. “They always start with Scarecrow zooming into danger.”

Matthew headed off one of the most common questions a writer is asked by telling us that he reads a lot of non-fiction and watches a lot of documentaries; both “fire his imagination”, he said. He wants his ideas and his stories to be “world changing.”

“The strangest things in the books are true.”

One of the questions from the audience was “Do you have to visit a place to write about it?” He said that although it’s not necessary, it does help. That said, he revealed that “about 85% of the stuff in Ice Station is true” and no, he hasn’t been to Antarctica; he researched the facts in his local library. The two best places he ‘has’ been in the world are Egypt and Easter Island in that order.

“Don’t antagonise your biggest fans.”

Matthew has long made it a habit to end his chapters on a cliff-hanger. While writing The Six Sacred Stones he decided he would end the whole book in the same way. “It was a good idea at the time,” he said. The trouble was, his fans read fast. They usually purchase his books the moment they hit the shelves and finish them within the first week. They then had to wait two years to learn the outcome of those final pages. To say they weren’t happy would be putting it mildly.

An audience member asked the question that many of Matthew’s fans would probably like to ask. “With the Jack West Jr. series will you continue to write them until you reach number one?” Matthew said he probably will, but with how long it takes him to write each book and the other projects he’ll be working on in between it may take a while.

“My head was exploding by the end of Temple.”

Temple, another of his stand-alone books, is a split story. It is the longest of his books and was also “the hardest to write.” Matthew said if his fans reread the description of character William Race, they would soon realise that it is an exact description of the author himself.

Hover Car Racer is a book you could give a ten year old to read. Matthew said, “It doesn’t have the violence or, let’s face it, the swearing of his other books.” He wanted Hover Car Racer to be fast, fun, and to contain some life lessons. The best message in the book is what Matthew referred to as the ‘Bradbury Principle’ – based on the 2002 Winter Olympic gold medal win by skater Steven Bradbury. Essentially this message boils down to:

“Never give up.
Never say die.
You are always in the race.”

Find out more about Matthew here http://www.matthewreilly.com/
Follow Matthew on Twitter https://twitter.com/Matthew_Reilly
Like his facebook page www.facebook.com/OfficialMatthewReilly

Book Chat from Emerald


Book Chat is a great time to get together over a cuppa and share what we've been reading.  Here is a snippet from Emerald Library's last get together - such wildly different books, but I shouldn't be amazed because we're all wonderfully different readers!

The Stories that Changed Australia: 50 years of Four Corners  Edited by Sally Neighbour
50 Years is a remarkable feat for a TV program and this book highlights a range of stories, many of them controversial, topical and often confronting. Highly recommended for those who love in-depth, brave journalism.
Ali.

Snow White Must Die by Nele Heuhaus A young man comes home to his small German town after serving ten years in prison for the murder of two teenage girls. He was convicted only by circumstantial evidence, the bodies have never been found. He and his family have been through hell in those years, and the trouble isn’t over yet; his presence is stirring up events from the past. There are so many clever twists and turns – just when you think you know what happened, you don’t! Absolutely brilliant! Dot.

Animal People by Charlotte Wood
As an ordinary day develops into an existential crisis, Stephen Connolly is at a loss. As he decides to break up with his girlfriend, he must also fend of his demanding family, deal with a near tragedy, endure another shift at his zoo job and attend a children’s birthday party. Masterfully told and beautifully written, Animal People is compassionate, sharply observed and humorous. It is with good reason the book was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, 2012. Just fantastic!
Ali

Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones
This is very good ‘faction’. The story of four sisters from Provence in the 13th century – Marguerite, Queen of France (Louis); Eleonore, Queen of England (Henry); Sanchia, Queen of Germany (Richard); and Beatrice, Queen of Sicily (Charles). There are politics aplenty, greed, murder, loneliness, family, and a monster mother-in-law. A fascinating look at the lives of these women – from birth to middle age, and the different ways they and their children influenced history.
Dot.

Emerald Library's next Book Chat is on May 31. Pick up a flyer for other 2013 dates.
Deb.

This Is Where I Leave You

From the cover: What would you do if you crept into your house on your wife’s birthday to find her in bed … Having sex with your boss? And what if you were holding a lighted birthday cake covered in hot melted wax? Well, what would you do?

Things only get worse for Judd Foxman when the death of his father brings his entire family together for the first time in years. They are reluctantly submitting to their father’s dying request, Shiva, spending seven days mourning together. In the same house. Like a real family. As the week spins out of control, grudges resurface, secrets are revealed and old passions reawakened. Judd tries to make sense of the mess his life has become while trying not to get sucked into the regressive dramas of his dysfunctional family.

I’m shaking my head at the end of this book wondering if I’ve stumbled through a Woody Allen movie! This Is Where I Leave You is one colourful, quirky, very adult story and the opening chapters set the tone. It’s bitingly acerbic, hilarious in parts and yet at times deeply moving.

There are some richly-drawn characters here, take Judd’s Mum for instance: “Mom is a shrink. Twenty-five years ago she wrote a book called Cradle and All: a mother’s guide to enlightened parenting. The book was a national phenomenon and turned my mother into something of a celebrity expert on parenting. Predictably, my siblings and I were screwed up beyond repair.” [No wonder, ‘Mom’ dresses like a 60 year old Hooker too!] Phillip, his younger brother, wanders aimlessly through life charming the pants off girls, smoking dope and doing as little as possible with such winning ways that people just love having him around. For a while. There’s a sister-in-law who’s desperate for kids, a sister who has too many kids and not enough husband, and a big brother with not just a mega-chip on his shoulder but mega-scars from saving Judd from a pitbull attack. Just to make life more interesting, there’s the twerpy kid they went to school with, nick-named Boner, who is now their serving Rabbi, presiding over Shiva, much to their chagrin. Throw in some sex, actually a whole lot of sex, to quote Judd: “… you need a GPS to follow the sex lives of this family”, and there you have it, one of the more interesting reads so far this year. There is some very intelligent writing in here and I really enjoyed the humour too, but I felt this book was just a tad too long. Dream sequences are boring at the best of times and didn’t add a thing to the story. I’d be interested in hearing other’s opinions … borrow the book soon and let’s hear from you!
Deb

Diagram Prize shortlist

It's that time of year again ... the Diagram Prize [UK] for the book with oddest title is now under consideration.  The shortlist is:

Was Hitler Ill? by Hans-Joachim Neumann and Henrik Eberle.
Lofts of North America: pigeon lofts by Jerry Gagne.
God's Doodle: the life and times of the penis by Tom Hickman.
Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop by Reginald Bakeley.
How Tea Cosies Changed the World by Loani Prior.
How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees.

Er, discuss!

   
As an aside, Loani Prior's book is a follow-up to Really Wild Tea Cosies.  The Noosa resident will be visiting Melbourne for the Craft and Quilt Fair in July.

Deb.

Top 20 Vintage Classics

Ah, you’ve gotta love a good list!  Random House has just released the Top 20 bestselling Vintage Classics of 2012.  It incorporates both Vintage Classics and Vintage Classic Children’s Collection.  Drum roll please …

20.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
19.  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
18.  The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier 17.  Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie 
16.  The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
15.  A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
14.  Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
13.  All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
12.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
11.  Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
10.  Catch 22: 50th anniversary edition by Joseph Heller
  9.  The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
  8.  The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  7.  The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway 
  6.  The Complete Fairy Tales by Grimm Brothers






   
  
  5.  Catch 22 by Joseph Heller   4.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald   3.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  2.  The Quiet American by Graham Greene   1.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

Click on the titles above to reserve yourself some classic reads! 
Deb.

The Summer Read

Only a couple of weeks left to get your entry into The Summer Read prize draw!
Simply name a book you've read from this year's Summer Read list, and recommend any another book you've enjoyed.
The Summer Read list and all the details, including an entry form to download, can be found at:
http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/summer-read   Competition closes 3 March.  Good luck and happy reading!
Deb.

Suspect


Robert Crais is a favourite author of mine, I really enjoy reading the stories he creates around his "Elvis Cole" and "Joe Pike" characters.  In "Suspect" he introduces us to new characters, totally unrelated to this, but as richly created and intriguing.

Scott James is a LAPD copy who was seriously injured in a late-night shooting, in which his partner is killed. He should have been retired, but opts instead to try the K-9 unit. Here he chooses to partner with Maggie, a German Shepherd and another survivor - this one from injuries sustained in Afghanistan, where she lost her handler to an IED.

Together, they are each other's last chance, one that is taken and pushed to its extreme.

Its not easy, they are both damaged and Scott is determined to solve who and why his partner was murdered. He has to fight against the system and to determined individuals, both within and outside the department, who want to see him and his partner retired. Permanently would be the preference for some.

Scott is a tortured man, both physically and mentally, but one who is determined to find justice for his partner and maybe some peace for himself. As he investigates the case and builds his relationship with his new partner Maggie, he finds more and more of what he needs to see it through.

Crais brings most of the story from Scott's point of view, but breaks it up with smaller sections from Maggie's eyes.  Its interesting to see what a dog is getting up to and thinking when we are not aware. Perspectives are brought in from other characters as well to fill any gaps. These varying perspectives contribute well to the story and are clearly marked so as to avoid confusion.

I really enjoyed Suspect. Crais writes wonderful characters and I really felt for both Scott and Maggie with all that they went through and wanted them to succeed as a partnership - saving each other. The way the story unfolds is well-placed and very well done. With the fresh perspectives that come from partnering with Maggie, Scott is able to find new directions for the investigation and everything is brought to a successful conclusion - both for the solving of the crime and for the relationships between the differing characters.

You don't have to be a dog lover to enjoy this book. If you like mysteries, well-crafted characters, believable stories, intrigue and satisfying conclusions, then you will be well satisfied with Suspect.


Urn Burial: Phryne Fisher


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Urn Burial  by Kerry Greenwood
Book 8 in the series sees the redoubtable Phryne Fisher holidaying at Cave House, a Gothic mansion in the heart of the Victorian mountain country. But the peaceful country surroundings mask danger. Her host is receiving death threats, lethal traps are set without explanation and the parlourmaid is found strangled to death.
What with the reappearance of mysterious funerary urns, a pair of young lovers, an extremely eccentric swagman, an angry outcast heir, and the luscious Lin Chung, Phryne's attention has definitely been caught. Phryne's search for answers takes her deep into the dungeons of the house and of the limestone Buchan caves. But what will she find this time? 

With an old country house trapping guests by rising river water, a bullying army major, an old lady that crochets, a butler and maids, a spiffing tennis court, rose gardens, ground staff, stables and a bridle path, you could be easily excused thinking Kerry Greenwood is channelling Agatha Christie!  The plot is as equally convoluted as the Dame’s, however, in typical Phryne style, there’s a lot more sex than Agatha would consider proper [too many lovers in the boathouse for my taste as well!].  But, stone the crows, it’s as Aussie as all get out – we’ve got cups of tea around the clock, a swaggie - Dingo Harry, roads cut by floodwaters and the ‘you beaut’ Buchan Caves:  all “very entertaining indeed” said in my best Stephanie Daniel pronunciation.  
I listened to this book via a Bolinda e-audiobook and it struck me how the wonderful Essie Davis in the TV series sounds very similar to Stephanie Daniel who narrates all the audiobooks in Greenwood’s popular series.  This is a delight for those who have read Phryne’s escapades and have the character firmly painted in their minds; that kind of continuity seamlessly cements the two images together so it’s been no great upheaval to engage with the screen character. 
Overall, it’s a wonderful series (only two out of the 10 or so I have read [18 to date in the series] have caused gritting of my teeth) so if you haven’t yet dipped a metaphoric toe into the delectable world of 1920s Melbourne Private Investigator, the Hon. Phryne Fisher, then jump aboard soon for a delicious ride.
Deb 

Consider the Fork

From the birth of the fork in Italy as it discovered pasta, to culture wars over spoons in Restoration England, and tests for how to choose the perfect pan, Consider the Fork opens our eyes to the incredible creations that have shaped how and what we cook.  Encompassing inventors, scientists, cooks and chefs, this is the previously unsung history of our kitchens.
You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy Consider the Fork: a history of invention in the kitchen by Bee Wilson.  It’s a pick up/put down kind of read, which is great as it doesn’t soak up hours of your time when perhaps you should be making dinner!  It’s chock-a-block full of fascinating facts, histories, and things you never think of.  Take for example the wooden spoon. “Is yours oval or round?  Slotted or solid?  Does it have an extra-long handle to give your hand a place of greater safety from a hot skillet?  Or a pointy bit at one side to get the bits in the corner of the pan?”
From the first tools 10,000 years ago, like the mortar and pestle, to sous-vide machines, centrifuges, foam canisters, dehydrators and the like used at techno-restaurants today, everything in between has a history – and as it says in this book “in many ways, the history of food is the history of technology”.   From fire onwards, there is a technology behind everything we eat whether we recognise it or not.  
Interestingly kitchen tools do not emerge in isolation, but in clusters.  Take for instance the microwave which gave rise to microwave-proof dishes and microwaveable clingfilm.  Freezers – ice cube trays, ice picks and tongs and dishes that don’t crack under the low temperatures.  Non-stick pans need non-scratch spatulas etc.  But it did make me laugh to read after the first canning factory opened in London in 1813, it was some 50 years before someone invented the can opener!  
And don’t we all know someone who has that one drawer or cupboard in the kitchen that is chokkers with fiddly gadgets that are nonsensical to use, or hard to clean, or just more trouble than they are worth!  
I could waffle on [pun intended] and quote all sorts of juicy little snippets from this book, but better you reserve a copy for yourself and get lost in the amazing stories of how things came to be in your kitchen.  It’s fascinating!
Deb.

Eureka

From the cover:  In 1854, Victorian miners fought a deadly battle under the flag of the Southern Cross at the Eureka Stockade. Though brief and doomed to fail, the battle is legend in both our history and in the Australian mind. Henry Lawson wrote poems about it, its symbolic flag is still raised, and even the nineteenth-century visitor Mark Twain called it: "a strike for liberty".  Was this rebellion a fledgling nation’s first attempt to assert its independence under colonial rule? Or was it merely rabble-rousing by unruly miners determined not to pay their taxes?

After recent listening forays with Mr FitzSimons’ Mawson [fascinating] and Batavia [an incredible story], Eureka: the unfinished revolution came as no surprise.  The author has a distinct style – as mentioned in previous reviews he ‘breathes life into tales that have either been long forgotten, or told and retold a hundred times’.
In the case of Eureka, this falls into the ‘long forgotten’ category.  Aside from learning about the Eureka Stockade in school, I would imagine not many people would have since revisited this watershed tale in Australian history.  Although suffering from detail overload at times, this was an absorbing story, particularly the epilogue where we find out how the heroes and scoundrels lived out their lives after the whole sorry episode faded into the history books.
I listened to this book as a downloadable e-Audiobook, and very well done it was too, but we have many formats in which you can enjoy the book - simply click the title [above] to reserve a copy.   
Deb.

The Women in Black

Who remembers buying a black nylon nightie, size SSW?

The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John. 
From the cover:  Sydney in the late 1950s.  At F.G. Goode’s department store, the women in black are run off their feet, what with the Christmas rush and the summer sales that follow. On the second floor of the famous department store, in Ladies' Cocktail Frocks, Lisa is the new Sales Assistant (Temporary). Across the floor and beyond the arch, she is about to meet the glamorous Continental refugee, Magda, guardian of the rose-pink cave of Model Gowns. But there’s still just enough time left on a hot and frantic day to dream and scheme …

I listened to this book in Playaway format but if you click on the link here, you can also borrow it in hard copy, Large Print, CD and MP3 formats as well.  The audio book was narrated beautifully by Deidre Rubinstein who brings much colour to the extroverted Magda and some perfect Aussie strine to Patty, Joy, Dawn, Faye, Lisa/Lesley, Mrs. Crown and their cohorts.


Some say this book should be an Australian classic but I think that’s going a bit over the top. However, it does capture, quite succinctly, that distinct and now long-lost era when ‘frocks’ and ‘gowns’ were de rigeur, when girls were encouraged to leave school to marry and become homemakers (‘Doing the Leaving Certificate is enough. University? What on earth for?”), and post-WW II migrants were something to avoid while turning your nose up at their ‘weird’ habits and food.  It’s a light, frothy read, but still a delightful trip down memory lane to those days of the ‘ 6 o’clock swill’, having ‘a nice lamb chop’ for tea “as soon as your father comes in”, and buying a black nylon nightie, size SSW.
Deb. 

Art of racing in the rain


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It's very to come across a book where the story is told from the perspective of the family dog. After listening to this book, I will have to go hunting out some more! 

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs, he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals. 

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. 

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life...as only a dog could tell it. I listened to this book on CD and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves animal stories or just wants a good summer read. 

~ Janine

Summer Read 2013

Your Library invites you to participate in the Summer Read 2013.

The program, delivered in partnership with the State Library of Victoria, is based on 10 selected books, fiction and non-fiction, written by Victorians or set in Victoria. This adult reader-engagement program takes place over summer, when many Victorians have time to enjoy reading.

The ten selected books will appeal to readers with a broad range of tastes – crime, humour, popular and literary fiction, biography and memoir.

After the often hectic pace of life throughout the year, the Summer Read encourages us all to relax and recharge – and the best way to do that is with a terrific book.

Readers also have the chance to win fantastic prizes by filling out an entry form at your local library.

The 2013 Summer Read books are:
The Summer Read competition will run from 2 January to 3 March 2013.

Silver linings

Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Since being made into a major motion picture starring  Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence,The Silver-linings Playbook has received much attention for its portrayal of mental illness and American's behaviour to those affected by it.

Author Matthew Quick handles the issue with humour and irreverent honesty. Main character, Pat Quick, has come home to his parent's house after spending 4 or 5 years in a mental institution after he and his wife, Nikki call a break on their marriage. Pat is desperately trying to 'be kind' and improve himself for Nikki who everyone else tells him is never coming back.

We meet an assortment of characters, Pat's kind and unhappy mother, his angry and emotionally-crippled father who doesn't speak to Pat unless their baseball team is winning, a brother who has gotten married whilst Pat was in hospital, his unconventional therapist Cliff who becomes a friend, and Tiffany, the sister-in-law of Pat's best friend who lost her husband in a car crash and subsequently 'slept around' with any man who was willing. Tiffany and Pat form an unusual friendship based on lies, healing and a mutual need to make sense of themselves through daily exercise.

This is a fantastic read, one I simply could not put down and found myself up at 2am Boxing Day finishing off after picking it up after Christmas lunch. Recommended to those who enjoy personal stories told with a light touch and who believe in silver linings.

Emma

Our Best Reads 2012

As this year draws to a close, what would you do without the annual Best Reads for the Year list from your RR Team!  So ... without further ado:



Monique: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
This Young Adult title is one I listened to as a Bolinda e-Audiobook and have really enjoyed the series (Wolves of Mercy Falls).  After a  close encounter with the wolves as a child,  Grace is obsessed with the wolves that are ever present in the forest near her house during winter. After discovering their secrets, she tries to find a way to keep her love, Sam, and her friends human for the winter and possibly forever.

Michelle couldn't split her top two:
Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – because it was an intriguing light mystery, meshing technology and mysticism in a engaging manner.  And The Boy Who Fell to Earth by Kathy Lette – because of its humour which made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions, between all the insightful issues of life with someone with Asperger Syndrome.

A fiction and a non-fiction from Teresa:
Annabel by Kathleen Winter.  A truly poignant story of a hermaphrodite baby born in a remote coastal town of Labrador, Canada. This tale, told from the points of view of first the mother, then the father and finally of the child (by then a teenager) him/herself, is tragic, disturbing but ultimately liberating. The reader is challenged by themes of personal identity, sexuality, parenthood and the multitude of forms love can take. This book touched me in ways few others have for many years.

The Golden Door: letters to America, by A.A. Gill
Gill's wonderful book is a witty, non-judgmental celebration of the craziness of the American people today. Gill travelled for a year around the not so well known locations of the USA – small towns populated by “average” citizens of the nation which, despite all its present day problems, still occupies a position of great power and influence on the world stage. He highlights their bigotry, religious fanaticism and patriotism, along with their generosity, courage and spirit of optimism. A gem of a read.

Cenza:  My favourite book of 2013 is the Young Adult title, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It's not often that you finish a book and have a feeling that you just had an amazing experience.  The main character, 16-year old Hazel, is living with terminal cancer and meets Augustus at the Kids with Cancer support group.  Having experienced life and death with a terminal cancer sufferer I found the characters to be so realistic - when facing death there is no right or wrong way to behave - and in this book the characters tackle life, death and love in differing ways. The title, taken from Shakespeare's  Julius Caesar: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings" leads to the lifelong questions of  How will I be remembered? Does my life, and will my death, have meaning? These questions are all tackled by the characters in how they live and love, how they live in the shadow of death and how that shadow effects their relationships with their families and each other. I was deeply moved by this book, as was my teenage daughter.

Lisa:  I read so many wonderful novels in 2012 that I can't chose just one, so I'm choosing a non-fiction title instead - Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King by Lisa Rogak. As a fan, I've read many other Stephen King biographies, but this was the most enjoyable. It was a comprehensive cataloguing of his life (as the title suggests) as well as an insight into the stories behind the stories.  As a writer, it's always fascinating to learn where the "seeds" of another writer's stories first germinated. This title is a must-read for every Stephen King fan.

Pru:  The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman.  This mesmerizing Australian novel has been a bestselling book around the world, and Hollywood movie rights were recently snapped up by Dreamworks, with David Heyman (Harry Potter) set to produce. A debut novel full of atmosphere - love can take you to strange places. A story of right and wrong and how sometimes they look the same.  This is an atmospheric debut novel steeped in history but one where love leaves the sting of the salt spray and lashes from the wind.

Deb also offers her best fiction and non-fiction:
Kindling by Darren Groth.  From the cover:  A father – Nate, doing the best he can to honour his wife’s memory and his child’s future.  An autistic son – Kieran, learning to make his way in a world he’d rather not engage with.  Two lives burned by the past and redefined on a smoke-filled summer afternoon when a young boy attempts to make amends.
Stock up on the tissues ... Kindling is the heart-wrenching attempts of grandfather, father and son to understand each other. It’s a poignant and achingly beautiful novel; it's Australian; and just pips The Light Between Oceans as my favourite read of the year.

For non-fiction, Harry Potter: Page to Screen - the complete filmmaking journey by Bob MCabe was brilliant! This huge book opens the doors to Hogwarts castle and the wizarding world of Harry Potter to reveal the complete behind-the-scenes secrets, techniques, and over-the-top artistry that brought J.K. Rowling's acclaimed novels to cinematic life. I made sure I read all the text, as it was too easy to wander aimlessly in the hundreds of stunning photos, some super-large fold out ones. A totally absorbing and dare I say it, magical book!

Happy Holiday Reading everyone!
Deb & The Team at RR.

Bulwer-Lytton Award

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is dedicated to finding the worst opening sentence to a novel.  The name of the contest is after Edward George Bulwer-Lytton who wrote the iconic opening line, "It was a dark and stormy night".
 
Cathy Bryant of Manchester, England, has earned the dubious honour of being selected as the 2012 winner with this:
"As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny demodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting."
Good grief! - Deb.

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