Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Withering-by-Sea - A Stella Montgomery Intrigue by Judith Rossell

Judith Rossell is one of my favourite Junior Fiction authors. I read Withering-by-Sea when it first came out. When I saw she had written another “Stella Montgomery Intrigue” (Wormwood Mire) I was excited and eager to read it. However to refresh my memory and be part of the intrigue and anticipation, I re-read “Withering-by-Sea” and I was not disappointed. Both stories are full of adventure and captivating.

In Withering-by-Sea Stella, an 11 year old orphan, who has mysterious heritage full of secrecy and “possible scandal”, goes to live with her old maiden Aunts named Condolence, Temperance and Deliverance at the Hotel Majestic near the sea. A place where unwell people went to taste ancient spring waters “healing properties” and experience the baths while convalescing. Stella rebels against what a young girl should be doing and that is learning to be a “lady” by studying “Pianoforte, Deportment, Needlework and French” as they did in Victorian times. Stella has a curious and inquisitive mind that gets her into trouble on numerous occasions and meets with her Aunts disapproval, “Curiosity is vulgar, Silence is golden” (many of these Aunts sayings appear throughout the book).

I love what I consider, a play on words with the title of the book Withering-by-Sea. This is a feeling I sometimes get from Stella’s demeanour as she tries, on so many levels, to fight against her dull and depressing existence. Her only comfort was a tatty and slightly charred old Atlas that was full of new discoveries. She was often the only child, lonely and isolated. Her only sanctuary was the conservatory room made of glass, full of exotic plants.

At the conservatory one day, she noticed the new mysterious “foreign” gentleman Mr Filbert acting suspiciously, hiding an object in a plant pot. While she was there she witnessed a confrontation and a strange incident with another patron “The Professor” and an urchin boy (This boy befriends Stella and enlightens her that she is “special”). As Mr Filbert lay injured he told her to “Hide it and Keep it safe”. Now Stella was an unofficial custodian of this mysterious object.
Along the way, Stella finds answers to the questions of what this object is and why it is so important. Also during this time, she finds a photo of a lady standing with two babies in a pram outside mansion titled “Wormwood Mire”. Could this lady be her mother? Then why are there two babies in the photograph?
Which leads us nicely into the next “Stella Montgomery Intrigue” book - Wormwood Mire.
(Stay tuned for my next review).

Monday, 28 August 2017

Murder and magic - The zig zag girl by Elly Griffiths

The zig zag girl is told by Max Mephisto, a very famous, well-educated and wealthy magician. With his keen investigative mind and the help of an ex-war buddy turned policeman, they manage to solve mysterious murders.
The plot involves a group of magicians who are recruited into the British army during WW2 to form a shadowy unit called the Magic Men, to use their magical talents to confuse the enemy by any means possible along the coast between Britain and Europe.
Many years later in 1950 Brighton after the war, one of the magician’s former assistants is murdered in the same fashion as a magic trick ‘The Zig Zag’ that the Mighty Mephisto is famous for. Incensed by this murder he is now determined to find out who the murderer is.
The suspects are eliminated one by one and the murderer is finally revealed. I must admit the ending surprised me, let me know if you worked out who did it! However it was fun reading all the clues and trying solve the puzzles.
I really enjoyed reading The zig zag girl because of the Magicians aspect and the peculiar murder scenes.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The cat wants custard by Paul Crumble, illustrated by Lucinda Gifford

Kevin the cat decides that he wants to eat custard and that nothing else will suffice, including chicken in gravy or sardines. However his silly human can’t seem to get the message no matter what he does, what is a crafty kitty to do?
The cat wants custard is one of the funniest picture story books I have read in a while. It’s clever and embraces the cat stereotypes that have made them such a popular pet. When his human tries to pet him Kevin says that if they do they will not be getting their hand back in one piece (While looking like he wants a pet of course).

The pictures are simple but colourful, the dialogue is snarky and fun, so if your little one likes cats and you want a little giggle I recommend this picture book. I can see why it is a nominee for the Children's Book Council of Australia Early Childhood Notables 2017.
Lauren F.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The Unforgettable what’s his name by Paul Jennings, illustrated by Craig Smith

The Unforgettable what's his name is about a boy who is struggling to find his place in the world and figure out where he fits in, a struggle that is real to many young people.

Thanks to his “friend” Gertag he is known as “what’s his name”.

There is something special about this young boy though, as his emotions change, he gets scared or nervous, he has the ability to blend in with his surroundings which make this adventure an interesting one to say the least.
With bikies chasing him, monkeys escaping from the zoo you are sure to go on an epic adventure with some funny toilet humour to keep it interesting.
Craig Smith's illustrations are great and help you feel like you are in the story.

The Unforgettable what's his name has twists and turns to keep you guessing, but you will have to wait until the end of the book to find out the name of the unforgettable “what’s his name”.

This book is one of the CBCA Notable Books for younger readers 2017


Monday, 21 August 2017

Winners of the CBCA Book of the Year awards

It's Children's Book Week and to kick it off the National Children's Book Council of Australia awards have been announced. The awards celebrate the best of Australian books for readers from early childhood up to young adult readers.
The winners are :

Picture Book of the year - Home in the rain Bob Graham
Book of the year : Younger Readers - Rockhopping Trace Balla
Book of the year : Early Childhood - Go home cheeky animals Johanna Bell, illustrated by Dion Beasley
Book of the year : Older Readers - One would think the deep Clair Zorn

This week our blog will feature reviews of Children's Book Council of Australia Notable Books.

See all the nominees on our Children's Book Week page and more information on the CBCA Awards Website

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The science of Stupid : the specials - DVD

The science of stupid: the specials is not your typical National Geographic production nor is it textbook science education. The novel element of comedy makes this DVD a delight to watch over and over again.

The format of the show is simple yet effective. Firstly, the viewer is presented with cute and humorous video clips of misguided animals and people performing various actions. Then with the help of simple animation, the footage is dissected for basic science concepts. Through this clever way of delivering information, you will quickly learn that for every one of those actions (call them painful stunts), there will be an equal and opposite reaction (uncontrolled laughter) on your part.

Among other fascinating facts, you will also learn why the Christmas period is sometime called the silly season, and the importance of centre of gravity and base of support when performing movements.

The science of stupid is not just for science buffs. It's creative and energetic delivery of science concepts has mass appeal. It is a fine example of guilt free viewing that entertains and enlightens. I strongly recommend it to young and old, particularly those people that can not resist cute animal video clips. Not only will you have a good laugh but you will also be reminded of the fundamental part science plays in our daily lives.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Two Days, One night - DVD

I will start with one critic's review of this film which says:
“No sex, no chases, no cyberterrorism. Just people interacting” (Peter Travers, American film critic). I totally agree.

Two days, one night is an emotionally resonant drama about one family in Europe. Sandra is a young working class wife and mother of two beautiful children. She works at a small company. Feeling better after time off coping with depression, she planned to return to work but her boss told her that the job she has been doing is no longer required. If she leaves, her workmates will receive bonuses, but if she keeps her job they have to give them up. She has 2 days and 1 night (one weekend) to find her colleagues and explain to them her dreadful situation.

Do they want to save Sandra’s employment and help her family in a difficult time?

Two days, one night is a drama that so many young families are familiar with, not just in Europe but around the modern global world. But behind this human tale is actually one warm, beautiful, loving family. Sandra, played by Academy Award-winner, the brilliant Marion Cotillard (from La Vie en Rose), with her husband’s support found the way at the end to understand what is really most important in their lives. Despite everything, “nada” (read : hope) for better days will prevail.

This DVD is available in our World DVD and French DVD collections (In French, with English subtitles).

If you like to watch a movie about people who struggle but never give up, then this is one for you.

Friday, 11 August 2017

What's new in August

Get in early for these new releases from popular authors like Harlen Coben, Anna Jacobs, Andy McNab and Lisa Scottoline

Scarred woman Jussi Adler-Olsen
New England affair Steven Carroll
Don't let go Harlan Coben
Damaged Martina Cole
Highland sisters Anne Douglas
Lover, wartime notebooks, practicalities Marguerite Duras
Fresh complaint Jeffrey Eugenides
First person Richard Flanagan
Enemy of the state Vince Flynn
Pulse Felix Francis
Dangerous language Sulari Gentill
Rooster bar John Grisham
Munich Robert Harris
Shadow play Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Rules of magic Alice Hoffman
Saffron lane Anna Jacobs
Sleeping beauties Stephen King
Any dream will do Debbie Macomber
After the fire Henning Mankell
Time of love and tartan Alexander McCall Smith

King Solomon's Curse Andy McDermott
Line of fire Andy McNabb
Need to know Fern Michaels
Sanctuary Judy Nunn
Red-haired woman Orhan Pamuk
Cull Tony Park
Haunted James Patterson
Twenty-one days Anne Perry
Playing to the gods Melanie Rawn
Exposed Lisa Scottoline
Tiger's prey Wilbur Smith
Other girl Erica Spindler
Fairytale Danielle Steel
A question of trust Penny Vincenzi
Last hours Minette Walters
Barely legal Stuart Woods
Destiny's conflict Janny Wurts

Simply click on your chosen title/s and you will be directed to The Vault, where you can place your holds. Want ideas for what to read next? Ask our friendly staff for a recommendation.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Blue light Yokohama by Nicolas Obregon

Blue Light Yokohama by new author Nicolas Obregon starts with a bang - a disturbing and violent incident on a cable car in Japan. Fast forward 15 years and two detectives are hired to investigate the murder of a family in their own home. The killer left behind no traces, only a black sun symbol painted on the wall and evidence of some strange rituals. He apparently ate ice cream, surfed the net and left the house in broad daylight after the killings.
Detectives Kosuke Iwate, a troubled soul with a tragic past, and Noriko Sakai, a hardened, enigmatic young police officer come together to try and solve the mystery of the murders.
Iwate and Sakai travel around the country, following up different leads and the story goes back in time where we learn about Iwate's difficult childhood and troubled homelife with his wife. As another murder occurs, many threads are woven into the story, and the significance of the first incident in the cable car comes to light. Slowly the pieces of the story start to come together.
Taken off the case as corrupt cops frame an innocent man, Iwate risks his reputation and his life to pursue his own investigation as he believes he will find the killer, and needs to, as he knows who the next victim will be.

This is not the type of book I would normally read, but I enjoyed the Japanese setting of the book, and the pace was not too frenetic, enough to keep the story going, but not non stop action. It is a poetically written, intriguing story of the darker side of Tokyo society, cults, police corruption, loneliness in the big city and how the past shapes our lives. The title Blue Light Yokohama refers to a song, the lyrics of which are repeated throughout the story, a constant reminder of past events in Iwate's life.

Monday, 7 August 2017

U.S.A. adventure - Billy Connolly's Route 66

Billy Connolly is a Scottish stand-up comedian, actor, television presenter, musician, and author. Route 66 is about his journey on a three-wheeled motorbike along the historic United States road route. He also made this journey into a television series. These days Route 66 has been mostly replaced as the main travel route by newer interstate highways. However it is still popular with tourists.
I chose to read this book because I have enjoyed some of Connolly’s other work. I chose to review it because I enjoyed the book and thought it might appeal to people who enjoy travel writing.
One of the things I liked was Connolly’s enthusiasm. He admires positive achievements of human beings, such as great buildings, bridges and sculptures. He is also enthusiastic about people he meets along the way, such as a man who lives in an Amish community, and a Native American medicine man. Generally he finds that people are friendly and treat him well.
Another thing I liked was learning about the history and culture of the United States. Connolly mentions associations dedicated to preserving Route 66. He also talks about the civil war, racism, slavery, migration, prohibition, religion, engineering, Native Americans, Abraham Lincoln, railways, the wild west (which he first learnt about from cowboy movies), and music, including the song ‘Route 66’ by Bobby Troup which first inspired Connolly to take the trip.
Overall Route 66 is a good read for those who like armchair travel and who dream of going to the United States. Have you gone on a journey that you have enjoyed? Please send us your comments.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made by Fiona Katauskas

Do you have young children? Are they starting to ask you all sorts of things about the birds and the bees? Well if so, The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made is a wonderfully honest and factual story explaining how babies are made, how babies are born and what happens shortly after a baby is born.
The story begins by showing that all animals and humans make babies and explores the theories that children might hear about how babies are made. It then continues to explain how little boys and little girls may look the same but have very important biological differences. These biological differences are then described in further detail as the story moves from little boys and girls and their development as they grow into adults.

The story then informs the reader about the physical act of how two adults get together to make a baby and how that baby is created inside a woman’s body. A thoughtful inclusion in the story at this point is how some adults need a little help from a doctor to make a baby. In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is explained in simple terms using helpful illustrations to provide clarification.
The following part of the story tells the reader that a baby takes a long time to grow big enough before it is ready to be born. The experience of labour and birth is expressed using accurate words and illustrations and also explains that babies can be delivered naturally or via caesarean.
What happens to a baby after birth and the care a mother can provide is the final part to the story which ends with reminding the reader how amazing human bodies are and the amazing things they can do.

Some illustrations in this book are very confronting and I would encourage any adult to read this book themselves before they decide to show this book to their child. All children reading this book will be educated with the facts in a considerate and sensitive manner. The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made is a wonderful tool for adults to explain the birds and the bees to their child with no birds and bees in sight!
Amanda C.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Eating ourselves sick by Louise Stephen

There are an increasing amount of books and documentaries out there expanding on the dangers of our modern day diet, a diet that is largely influenced by government standards. These standards are supposedly built upon the knowledgeable guidance of scientific experts, whose primary concern is the health and wellbeing of society. Except it’s not that simple. Experts are often recipients of generous funding by agricultural and food industry groups. As is the case with so many things, money plays a role in the ‘expert’ dietary advice filtering down through the media to the people. So Australian author Louise Stephen posits in her book, Eating ourselves sick.

Drawing on research around the world, Louise takes an in-depth look at the history of government dietary advice, food pyramids and industry standards. It’s not a pretty picture, with the almighty dollar governing what we are advised to eat. Big pharmacological, medical and food industries all bring their weight to bear, resulting in a society plagued by diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
What this book is not is a diet book. Only in the final chapter does she touch on methods readers can employ to eat right and take control of their health. But if you are interested in finding out more about the behind-the-scenes machinations of the food industry, Eating ourselves sick is a good place to start.