Monday, 27 February 2017

The boy I love (audio book) by Lynda Bellingham

The talking book The Boy I Love is set in a time when theatres were at the heart of every town. The book is something that I would not normally have listened to. The audio was offered to me by another staff member and I found it most enjoyable.

In Lynda Bellingham's beguiling new novel, we follow the lives and fortunes of a cast of characters performing in the beautiful Victorian theatre in Crewe. Sally Thomas prepares to leave her job at the British Drama League in London and heads off to the North of England for her very first season in repertory as an Assistant Stage Manager. We witness how relationships are formed and broken in equal measure between these intense and committed actors. The royal box with its unique view of the stage is the most privileged place in the theatre itself, harbouring the deepest and darkest secrets of cast, crew and audience alike.

Flung into this new world, Sally soon finds her feet, thanks to her own steady, unspoilt nature and to the company of her best friend, Jeremy. One of the first lessons she learns is that the other actors barely need tuition in the art of stage-fighting, since they are quite adept at stabbing each other in the back. When her best friend Jeremy falls suddenly and dangerously in love, Sally needs to grow up - fast. A shadow is falling over the theatre, sparing no one, and a tragedy is gathering pace in the darkness behind the stage.

The Boy I Love is a beautiful novel from a naturally gifted storyteller, actress Lynda Bellingham. Her acting career spans forty years, with appearances on Strictly Come Dancing, Loose Women and Calendar Girls. It is a superb evocation of theatre and real life that will stay with you long after you have read it. Be warned: it may just break your heart.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

A walk on the wild side - Wild Island by Jennifer Livett

I recently re-read an old favourite, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. So I was interested when I saw the book Wild Island, which was subtitled “a novel of Jane Eyre and Van Diemen’s Land”.
Set in the 1830’s the novel is a mix of the fictional characters of Jane Eyre, with the historical characters of early Tasmania (or Van Diemen’s Land as it was known then), and the fledgling settlements at Hobart and Port Arthur. It follows the fortunes of Harriet Adair, a painter and young widow, who embarks upon the long and treacherous journey from England to Van Diemen’s Land with her mistress Jane Eyre, Mr Edward Rochester and Anna (Charlotte Bronte’s Bertha), Edward’s estranged and ill first wife.
What follows is a complex and intriguing tale of Harriet’s adventures in the new colony. As Jane Eyre never quite makes it to Van Diemen’s Land (you’ll have to read why in the book) Harriet is charged with looking after Anna, who is recovering from years of being imprisoned at Thornfield Hall, and uncovering the mystery that surrounds her. There is talk that Anna was married to Edward Rochester’s older brother Rowland, and that Rowland is not dead as was thought, but alive and well and living in the new colony.
As Harriet forges a new life, makes friends and tends to Anna, the mystery of what happened to Rowland Rochester slowly emerges and many more details of the politics and challenges of the new colony and the convict transportation system are explored.
The cast of characters in Wild Island is vast, and can be somewhat confusing to keep up with (a list at the front of the book helps to keep track of them). It includes historical figures such as Charles O’Hara Booth, Commandant of Port Arthur Penal Station and John and Eliza Gould (famous for their works identifying Australian birds).
The book is and written in a confident and engaging style. It’s not a fast paced story, but delves deeply in to the historical setting and the lives of its characters, especially Booth and Lady Jane Franklin, the wife of Governor Sir John Franklin. I found the exploration of women’s roles very interesting, and how many were influential in the shaping of society in their new land. Author Jennifer Livett worked on the book for almost 40 years, and has meticulously researched the historical details and drawn on her own experience growing up in Tasmania as an English immigrant in the 1950’s.
Fans of historical fiction, Australian history and Jane Eyre will enjoy this fascinating tale.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Working class boy by Jimmy Barnes

Growing up a Cold Chisel fan and now a Jimmy Barnes fan in his solo career, I couldn’t wait to read his biography.
Working class boy is the first book in his two-book memoir and what I thought would be his story and how the band came to be, turned out to be an honest, powerful reflection on the traumatic and violent life of James Dixon Swan before his Cold Chisel days. The second book, due to be released in 2018 will tell his story with Cold Chisel.
Working class boy starts with Jimmy’s birth in Dennistoun, one of the poorer suburbs of Glasgow and growing up in Cowcaddens, an inner-city slum where violence, drinking and fighting were the norm.
He grew up as one of six kids to an alcoholic father, Jim, and unhappy, nagging mother, Dot, living in absolute poverty in a violent home. His house was not only full of domestic violence but of poverty and neglect too and Jimmy describes the fear when his parents fought and of running away outside or hiding in a cupboard crying with his siblings until the fighting was over. The children grew up neglected and scared, always hungry, cold and surrounded by drunken adults as his parents had constant parties that turned violent with drunken friends. His home and the town he grew up in was filled with a lot of despair with an ever-present threat of pain.
What came through strongly was his love for his siblings and how they supported each other through these tough times and his idolisation of his older brother, John Swan, who became involved in the music industry from an early age.
The family immigrated to Australia hoping for a better life under the Assisted Passage Immigration Scheme, arriving in South Australia in January 1962. The family were first housed in the Finsbury Hostel in what they called a Nissan hut – a curved piece of corrugated iron with a door in it. They moved several times and in late 1963 settled in a barren, tough northern suburb of Adelaide called Elizabeth. During this time his parents started their fighting again as they despaired of their new life which caused the gambling and drinking to start again. As his parents were too caught up in their own stuff the children had to learn to tend to themselves.
Jimmy’s life spiraled even more downhill when his mother left them when he was about nine years old as their drunken father became even more depressed and wasn’t around unless he’d run out of money, needed to get clothes or to sleep off his drinking. This was when the starvation and neglect reached its lowest point and Jimmy recalls his feelings of shame. His mother did come back to collect the children after the Child Welfare Agency threatened to make the children wards of the state and moved them into a new home she shared with a man called Reg Barnes, who Jimmy describes as the “angel in his life” who helped add some stability to his life and be a ‘real’ father figure to the family.
Working class boy is a heart wrenching story that gives you the background to the excess and recklessness that would define but almost destroy the rock and roll legend in his music career.
It’s burning with the frustration and frenetic energy of teenage sex, drugs, violence and ambition for wanting more than what you have, a tale of a boy’s dream to escape the misery and the shame of his childhood and teenage years.
This was an easy to read page turner that I couldn’t put down and I’m looking forward to the next instalment, life in a rock and roll band.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

My scientology movie (DVD) by Louis Theroux

Some of you may be familiar with T.V. documentary presenter, Louis Theroux. For example, his documentary “Miami Mega Jail” which is currently being aired on ABC2TV. I have found his documentaries to be thought-provoking and compelling, and his My Scientology movie is no exception to the high quality of his presentations.
In this made-for-movie documentary, Theroux explores the 20th Century religion of Scientology, its’ origins with Science Fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, and exposes some of the strange initiation rituals such as bull-baiting and suppression. New members undergo “audits” as they are connected to a sensor to answer delving personal questions and rate their degree of anxiety.
Theroux presents much of the film as a mock-up dramatization of true Scientology events. Watch out for ingenious impersonations of Scientology “poster-boy” Tom Cruise in several scenes. Theroux points out the hypocrisy of this Hollywood-based religion as members pay more and more money to achieve higher status in the organization.
Louis Theroux presents a humorous and curious look at Scientology and left me questioning the authenticity of the organization and how it has grown in Australia. Anyone interested in religions and cults would like this movie, and Theroux fans will not be disappointed.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children by Ransom Riggs

Once again the good old and tried expression that books are always better than the movies proves to be right. Having seen and enjoyed the film, I wanted to read the book to see how they compared. Well they don’t. The characters and the storylines in the book of Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children are so much more vivid and complex.
The storyline is based on a collection of old, and some very odd, photos that the author has found himself and that have been donated to him. He spins a fantastical story of these peculiar children and all their various talents that are stuck in a time loop of their guardian’s making. The story mainly revolves around the 16 year old Jacob who finds himself in the middle of his grandfather’s bedtime stories of an orphanage he grew up in, and all the special children who lived there and were looked after by a matron who could turn into a bird. He is thrown into an adventure he’s dreamed of his whole life, while finding the truth in his grandfather’s stories, and for the first time discovering true friendships, love and facing your worst nightmares in a shape of murderous monsters.
I highly enjoyed Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children as it is much darker and the world is so much richer than the movie. While I understand some creative liberties when it comes to turning books into movies, I still very much prefer the books themselves and wish the movies would stick to the plot more accurately.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

New fiction for February

Love to read? Check out these forthcoming titles.
Other countries Jo Bannister
Lost order Steve Berry
A game of ghosts John Connolly
The third Nero Lindsey Davis
Bound together Christine Feehan
Shadow district Arnaldur Indridason
Born of vengence Sherrilyn Kenyon
Prussian blue Philip Kerr
Earthly remains Donna Leon
Fatal John Lescroart
Best laid plans Kathy Lette
Missing pieces of us Fleur McDonald
House of four Barbara Nadel
Die last Tony Parsons
Humans, bow down James Patterson
New York 2140 Kim Stanley Robinson
One perfect lie Lisa Scottoline
Distant view of everything Alexander McCall Smith
House of names Colm Toibin
Witchwood crown Tad Williams
Master of time David Wingrove

Simply click on your chosen title/s and you will be directed to The Vault, where you can place your holds. Can't see anything you like? Our staff can help you find your next great read.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Classic English literature - rediscover some old favourites

Remember when your summer holidays were spent reading your English books for the coming year (or reading your children’s books so you could be involved)?
The VCE English text list has included many classic works over the years. There’s good reason why these books get chosen. They allow readers to explore classic themes, raise issues and present some challenging ideas for thought and discussion. I remember reading The grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck, a story of family survival as they migrate from Oklahoma to California during the depression years of the 1920’s. Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a play about pride, destiny and a man corrupted by the promise of power and The Leopard , a richly described tale of the last days of the aristocracy in 19th Century Italy (Making a comeback on the 2017 English Literature text list).

More recently, the list has included Brooklyn, the story of a young girl in 1950’s Ireland who makes a big move to New York hoping for a job and a better future. She falls in love and is about to embark on a new stage of her life when a family tragedy brings her back to Ireland, where she finds herself torn between her new and old countries and the love of two different men.

Jane Eyre has made many appearances, Charlotte Bronte’s story of the orphaned governess who falls for her brooding master, only to find he has a dark secret.
Classics such as, Catcher in the rye, Animal farm, and The Great Gatsby, have all been on the list. So rediscover some old favourites, or find some new ones in our catalogue The Vault.

Greater Dandenong Libraries will be trialling a support collection of VCE English and English Literature resources in 2017, focusing on texts being studied by our local secondary schools. Look out for this special collection at the Dandenong and Springvale Libraries and on The Vault.