Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The woman who stole my life by Marian Keyes

Despite the blurb giving very little of the story away, I am always intrigued to see what Marian Keyes comes up with. The woman who stole my life did not disappoint.

The narrative jumps between several points in time - before and after the central character's rise to fame and fortune. Stella Sweeney has a pretty decent life, before one day everything she has come to know, love, and take for granted is snuffed out with a particularly nasty bout of Guillain-Barre syndrome (known more commonly as 'locked-in syndrome'). Her recovery is long and difficult, aided by a neurologist who she can't decide how she feels about.

Post-recovery, Stella finds herself the author of a successful self-help book, moving to New York to capitalise on its success and write her next bestseller. But she's blocked. And she's tired. And she's fed up with the demanding schedule of book promotion. Before her eyes, her life unravels once more and she winds up back in Dublin, poor and still unable to write. Her journey to recovery (a second time) is a joy to read.

There are a very small number of authors that can make me laugh out loud, and Marian Keyes is one of them. As usual, the strengths of this novel lie in the dialogue, and in the supporting characters that Keyes has crafted - Stella's oddball teenage son, her artistically-unfulfilled ex-husband, and her bitter best friend, Zoe.

For an easy, clever, and incredibly funny read, give The woman who stole my life a try (and Marian Keyes backlist while you're at it!).


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Monday, 23 February 2015

I want my hat back by Jon Klassen

A darkly comic picture book with a broad appeal to both children and adults. It can at once be read as a bear’s quest to retrieve his stolen hat and simultaneously as an exploration of desire, possession and retribution.

Jon Klassen has achieved a brilliant effect with minimal words and spare illustrations that manage to convey the urgency of the bear’s desperate attempt to find his beloved hat. The pictures are stylised and characteristically earthy in tone which makes the use of the colour red all the more effective and symbolic in both illustration and text. That Klassen chooses to tell the story with animals further heightens the psychological and ethical themes that he explores and the final pages where the bear manages to retrieve his hat but with considerable lateral damage is skilfully expressed.

I want my hat back is a humorous but poignant treat for all readers.


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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Impulse Society by Paul Roberts

It is a bleak picture painted by Paul Roberts in his book, The Impulse Society. A social order centred on individualism, short-term gain and self-gratification. And it’s a system that can only lead to failure, if our focus is not significantly altered. In Roberts’ analysis, the status quo is one slavishly devoted to free unregulated markets and efficiency at all costs. The consequences of such a model have already been demonstrated via the global financial crisis, and more ominous, the knowledge that since then there has been no systemic changes to avoid a repetition of previous events.

Exploring the various decades of American economic and political history, Roberts expands on his views, with a more in-depth examination of the global financial crisis, its driving forces and the consequences. While the focus of the book is on the economy, the attitudes dominating the financial world also impact on personal lives. But before the reader can fall into helpless despair, Roberts offers hope in the form of change, again at an individual level as well as through community action.

Despite addressing only American society, recent events in global economics have shown that what happens in one country, particularly one as influential as America, affects the rest of the world. And when an entire society is operating under a deeply individual ‘me-first’ mentality, how can this not fail to impact the global community?


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Monday, 16 February 2015

Zinio Magazine of the Month: Gardening Australia

Australia’s number one monthly gardening resource, ABC Gardening Australia magazine is packed with step-by-step advice and stunning design ideas from its popular team of experts. Whether you are a novice gardener or have a green thumb and years of experience, you’ll find the advice you need.

February’s edition of Gardening Australia includes ‘easy sneezy’ tips for low allergy gardening, as well as numerous ideas for new garden designs for you to choose from. Plus, discover new ways to display your dahlias as a stunning feature in your garden. February’s issue announces their young gardener of the year and includes plenty of interesting articles such as ‘how to grow a productive hedge,’ ‘tasty green bean recipes to try’ and many more!

To download this magazine FREE from Zinio, simply click on the magazine cover. Click here to view our entire Zinio collection. If you need further assistance with creating an account, please don’t hesitate to contact library staff for additional help.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Jesus out to sea: stories by James Lee Burke

'Jesus out to sea: stories collects 11 of James Lee Burke’s short stories published over the last decade and makes a powerful case for the author’s versatility and depth. Like Burke’s beloved Dave Robicheaux novels, these stories are as varied in their complexity as they are poignant and haunting. While “Jesus Out to Sea” and “Mist” are piercing responses to Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war, other stories unfold in the 40s and 50s and draw from Burke’s experiences growing up on the Texas-Louisiana gulf coast. Running throughout are the themes that have defined Burke’s fiction over the last three decades: the confrontation of evil by ordinary folk, the juxtaposition of natural beauty and human violence, the poetic distillation of working class life in the American South.’ James Lee Burke

I’m mostly a novel reader myself. Occasionally I come across a short story collection that hits that sweet note of satisfaction that comes at the end of a good tale. This is one of those collections.

There are two factors that make up a good collection that ‘sings’ in just the right way, and James Lee Burke accomplishes this: he makes you care about the characters, and slices a period of time out of the character’s lives that is moving, takes you into the heart of that person’s life.

The effect is that you’re left with no questions, just a feeling of shared humanity. As can be expected from the setting, there is a bleakness in the character’s tales. The writing brings to mind the sweet sadness of a bluegrass song: bad things happen to all kinds of people, and sometimes all you can do is sing it out. In doing that alchemic magic that is the artist’s craft, there the beauty comes.

“But even in the middle of a summer's day, when the sugarcane is beaten with purple and gold light in the fields and the sun is both warm and cool on your skin at the same time, when I know that the earth is a fine place after all, I have to mourn just a moment for those people of years ago who lived lives they did not choose, who carried burdens that were not their own, whose invisible scars were as private as the scarlet beads of Sister Roberta's rosary wrapped across the back of her small hand...” - Texas City, 1947


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Monday, 9 February 2015

Crazy love you by Lisa Unger

Love hurts. Sometimes it even kills.

Darkness has a way of creeping up when Ian is with Priss. Even when they were kids, playing in the woods of their small Upstate New York town, he could feel it. Still, Priss was his best friend, his salvation from the bullies who called him "loser" and "fatboy"...and from his family's deadly secrets.

Now that they've both escaped to New York City, Ian no longer inhabits the tortured shell of his childhood. He is a talented and successful graphic novelist, and Priss...Priss is still trouble. The booze, the drugs, the sex--Ian is growing tired of late nights together trying to keep the past at bay. Especially now that he's met sweet, beautiful Megan, whose love makes him want to change for the better. But Priss doesn't like change. Change makes her angry. And when Priss is angry, terrible things begin to happen...

Lisa Unger certainly knows how to write a twisted tale. Crazy love you will have you turning the pages faster and faster while you try to work out what is real and what is not. You will constantly be questioning whether Priss is real, or whether she is a figment of Ian’s imagination brought on by a traumatic childhood and his adult drug abuse. The story line constantly warps back and forward in time, adding to the confusion.

While I didn’t love this book as much as her previous book In the blood (which kept me guessing right until the end) I was so caught up in the story that I lost a whole Saturday devouring it.


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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

New fiction titles for February

February is here and it’s the shortest month of the year. How many of these new titles can you squeeze into your reading list this month?

Alphabet house Jussi Adler-Olsen
Twelve days Alex Berenson
Patriot threat Steve Berry
Melody lingers on Mary Higgins Clark
Stranger Harlan Coben
Song of shadows John Connolly
Deadly election Lindsey Davis
Inside the O’Briens Lisa Genova
Wild wood Posie Graeme-Evans
Ghost fields Elly Griffiths
Blaze away Bill James
Paper daisies Kim Kelly
Dreaming spies Laurie R King
Falling in love Donna Leon
Dexter is dead Jeff Lindsay
Hush hush Laura Lippman
Last one home Debbie Macomber
Last dance Fiona McIntosh
Madness in Solidar L E Modesitt Jr
Blood on snow Jo Nesbo
NYPD red 3 James Patterson
Miracle at Augusta James Patterson
One summer in Venice Nicky Pellegrino
Liar Nora Roberts
Sleeping on Jupiter Anuradha Roy
Vengeance of the iron dwarf R.A. Salvatore
Novel habits of happiness Alexander McCall Smith
Boy who could see death Salley Vickers
Ocean of time David Wingrove

To place free holds simply click on your chosen title. You will then be transported to The Vault. Here you can place holds, browse our extensive new book and AV collections, download eBooks and eAudio and read magazines and newspapers, all at the click of a button.


Monday, 2 February 2015

The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness

Although touted as a Young Adult series, this series takes us on a profound journey of survival, identity, loss, gendered relationships and information overload, that is highly recommended for any age seeking these themes. Rather than go into any serious detail about the series, this will be a general overview, as too much information in advance can spoil the narrative (if the first book is sufficiently engaging, you will need to read the others). Our tale begins in Prentistown, a village, of only men, reminiscent of the burgeoning days of colonialism in Australia or the Wild West in the US. There is an immediate implication of a sinister history and the mystery of it enthralled me within a few pages. Where are the women? Why has no one ventured beyond Prentistown? And why does everything emit Noise?

What really intrigued me was this unique form of expression, The Noise, in addition to normal forms of communication, such as talking. The Noise is continuously broadcast and is a form of communication using manifested images of inner thoughts and emotions that all can see and hear. To be alive is to be constantly bombarded by these images and sounds. How this appears in the book is appropriately disjointing, depending on the individual emitting it, can be chaotic scrawls and scribbles that cover the pages or highly ordered thoughts that appear just as any other text, but still out of place. The writing is fast-paced, keeping me constantly reading to discover the next answer only to be rewarded with further questions that keep you glued. Each book ends on a cliff-hanger, with the next beginning exactly where the last finished, throwing you right back into the action. One last but amazing technique used throughout the series is that the first book has only one character as the ‘voice’ of the book, but the 2nd and 3rd both add an extra ‘voice’ using alternating chapters (and fonts) to illustrate the change in perspective.

In the first novel, The Knife of Never Letting Go, our focus is on Todd, the last ‘child’ in Prentistown, as he prepares for his coming of age. With Todd’s entire reality informed by disillusioned or corrupt males, he takes it upon himself to discover further truths about his society. All he’s been told so far is that an old war with another species destroyed all the women and half the men when he was only an infant, leaving those alive with The Noise. It doesn’t help that at 12 years old he still hasn’t been taught to read and the only memento of his parents is his mother’s journal, which no one will read to him. So while going on solitary adventures with his dog, his friends since having ‘grown up’, Todd encounters a gap in The Noise, an entirely unheard of experience and one that shatters his small world view. Taking us from this small dilapidated town, to a race for survival through unforgiving and unfamiliar wilderness, to the foundation of a new civilisation, the series opens up in much the same way our lives do as we make the transition from child to adult. Here we also see the negotiation between invader and settled, men and women, pacifists and warriors, dictators and revolutionaries and that no one is clearly as defined as these labels try to assume. Utilising aspects of the history of western civilisation, The Chaos Walking trilogy speculates on the future of humanity bringing to mind the old quote: “Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it”. Yet this series goes one step further, that I will sum up by saying there are those who are aware of the doom of history, yet repeat it for the ignorance it creates.


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