Saturday, February 28, 2009

Breath by Tim Winton

Breath is a story about the wildness of youth - the lust for excitement and terror, the determination to be extraordinary, the wounds that heal and those that don't - and about learning to live with its passing.In his first novel for seven years, Tim Winton has achieved a new level of mastery. Breath confirms him as one of the world's finest storytellers, a writer of novels that are at the same time simple and profound, relentlessly gripping and deeply moving.

I hate being told I should read a book and I resisted reading this when it was first published last year because of all the hype surrounding its release. Quite frankly this book did not live up to all the press, reviews and hysteria that accompanied the book. I like Australian authors who have distinctive voices and there is no doubt that Winton is a masterful wordsmith but I really disliked most of the main characters in "Breath". I was more intrigued by some of the peripheral characters like Pikelet's father and his friend who drowned, the glamorous prostitute who plies her trade in Loonie's father' pub, Pikelet's first girlfriend. I was left feeling very unsatisfied. It was as though Winton was saving his creation of Sawyer and all its eccentricities for another novel, which I would imagine would be far more interesting than this effort!

Rating - I give this 3/5

Nothing Special

Get this from the library

Reviewed by Sarah @ Hamilton library

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans

"I lost my mother on Valentine's Day of 2006. After weeks of struggling with my grief, I decided I would write a story for her. As she loved Christmas, I chose to write a Christmas novel, my first sinceThe Christmas Box. Finding Noel is about how people come into our lives for a reason. It is a love story about Macy and Mark, two young people from different worlds. I'm sorry that this Christmas, for the first time since I became a writer, I won't be able to present my mother with a copy of my book. I think she would have enjoyed reading it. But, then again, I'm not certain that she hasn't. As you read Finding Noel, I hope that you enjoy the journey and feel the same powerful emotions I felt as the story came to me. Fondly, Richard Evans ." (Author's notes).

Murder mysteries and non-fiction of various types form the bulk of my reading, but I must confess to a soft spot for this little charmer of a book, which I read in one sitting. It's sweet, without being sickly, with some endearing characters and some you'll love to hate, or at least heartily dislike. A word of warning: have the hankies handy!

Rating - I give this 4/5 Not bad!

Get this from the library
Reviewed by Jan @ Ballarat branch

Maggie's Table by Maggie Beer

Maggie Beer is a long - time resident of South Australia's Barossa Valley. She is deeply involved in the food culture of the area as a producer, chef and enthusiastic champion of all the valley has to offer. Here are recipes and stories that capture the rich flavours and colours of Maggie's home. Season by season, we discover how she cooks with fresh, local produce for simple family dinners and large festive occasions. We travel with her to the local dairy for fresh cream to make ice-cream, to the butcher for smoked meats and to the neighbouring beekeeper for delicious honey. The large wood oven in the garden is lit for baked lemony chicken and potatoes, a picnic is prepared to take to the local pine forest to search for mushrooms, and we join Maggie's husband, Colin, on a crabbing expedition in order to make classic crab cakes in the electric frypan. Come sit at Maggie's Table to celebrate the art of country cooking and to share the generosity and joie de vivre of one of Australia's favourite cooks - the marvellous Maggie Beer. (Publisher's notes).

Maggie Beer is a star in our house; we love her on the telly sharing her culinary wisdom in such a friendly, generous way. She's no different in print, which makes this book a joy to read for the stories alone. Lavishly illustrated, Maggie's Table makes you want to spend time in the kitchen producing good food to share, whether it's a simple cake or vegetable dish or more complex recipes.

Rating - I give this 5/5 GREAT!!

Get this from the library

Reviewed by Jan@ Ballarat Library

Homecooked feasts: favourite celebratory recipes from Australian kitchens

"Everyone has a favourite recipe for a special occasion, whether handed down from generation to generation or discovered anew. In Homecooked Feasts, ABC Local Radio listeners share with you 150 of their favourite dishes and the heart-warming stories that surround them. Selected by Maggie Beer and Valli Little, this book contains great recipes from family feasts, including weddings, birthdays, christenings, anniversaries, Australia Day, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's and Father's Day, Halloween and Christmas. From Irish Spiced Beef to Nana's Shortbread, Chicken and Chorizo Casserole to Danish Cherry, Almond and Rice Christmas Pudding, this delightful treasury is both a celebration of Australian home-cooking, and a resource for cooks who want to make everyday meals special." (Publisher's notes).

I have heaps of recipe books at home, but there's always room for one more - and this book just might be it! The recipes are clearly set out and I loved the stories accompanying each one. Lack of photos might be an issue for those of us who like to see what our hard work should look like, but I can assure you the baked caramel pudding (p. 116) I made last night looked a picture.

Rating - I give this 5/5 GREAT!!

Link to the library catalogue

Reviewed by Jan @ Ballarat branch

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things -- and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a -- well, whatever.
There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get... interesting.
Magic. It can get a guy killed.

I read a blurb about this book and it said it was a cross between Harry Potter and Indiana Jones...two of my fave characters... I thought it was a book for young adults...but I soon learned that it wasn't. It was still a good read, and included magic and action. The main character, Harry Dresden is a wizard....and he helps the police solve crimes.... it wasn't what I expected when I started reading about a Vampiress who owned an escort agency and faeries who like to watch people through the bedroom window..... so not a book for young adults...but I must say, I did enjoy it!

Rating - I give this 4/5 GREAT!!

Get this from the library

Reviewed by Tara@ home

Monday, February 23, 2009

Clarice Bean spells trouble by Lauren Child

Clarice Bean seems to be in nonstop trouble these days, almost as much as Karl Wrenbury, who is the naughtiest boy at school. If only she could be more like her favorite book character, Ruby Redfort, girl detective, who is very good at getting out of trouble. The problem is, Mrs. Wilberton is planning a spelling bee, and just thinking about it gives Clarice a stomachache. The good news is that there is also going to be a class performance of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, and Clarice is exceptionordinarily keen on landing a starring role, so she can get discovered by someone who spots child talents and escape spelling-bee humiliation. But when Karl Wrenbury has a family problem and gets into really big trouble, Clarice does something utterly unexpected, altruistically proving Ruby Redfort's maxim "Never let a good pal down."

It was a fantastic book for girls aged 11-14! It helped me learn more about how you can be different in ways at school and that some people are awfully naughty sometimes!!!

Rating - I give this 5/5 GREAT!!

Get this from the library

Reviewed by Mikaylah @ home

A beautiful place to die by Malla Nunn

In 1950s South Africa, the colour of a killer's skin matters more than justice. When Captain Willem Pretorius, an Afrikaner police officer, is brutally murdered in the tiny backwater of Jacob's Rest, Detective Emmanuel Cooper is sent to investigate. The local Afrikaners and the dead man's prominent family view Cooper, an 'English' South African, with suspicion. Soon the powerful police Security Branch take over the investigation. But Cooper isn't interested in political expediency, or making friends in high places - he just wants the killer behind bars. As he pursues his own inquiry, he discovers the violence, secrets and desires behind the picture-perfect facade of Jacob's Rest. The more he digs, the more dangerous the investigation becomes. Cooper has secrets of his own. If he can survive long enough to learn the truth about Captain Pretorius, it might just save his life.
This was fantastic! I can't wait for her to write the next instalment. I enjoy lots of different crime novels but I really enjoy authors who create a flawed, realistic character and place them in an interesting setting. Thers's no forensic mumbo jumbo - just great writing and crime solving in an era of South African history that is not written about that much.

Rating - I give this 4/5 GREAT!!

Get this from the library

Reviewed by Sarah @ Hamilton library

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ice Station by Matthew Reilly

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE GLOBE, Anarctica is the last unconquered continent, a murderous expanse of howling winds, blinding whiteouts and deadly crevasses. On one edge of Antarctica is Wilkes Station. Beneath Wilkes Station is the gate to hell itself... IN THE COLDEST PLACE ON EARTH, A team of U.S. divers, exploring three thousand feet beneath the ice shelf has vanished. Sending out an SOS, Wilkes draws a rapid deployment team of Marines-and someone else... THE HEAT IS ON... First comes a horrific firefight. Then comes a plunge into a drowning pool filled with killer whales. Next comes the hard part, as a handful of survivors begin an electrifying, red-hot, non-stop battle of survival across the continent and against wave after wave of elite military assassins-who've all come for one thing: a secret buried deep beneath the ice...
This was the second book I read from Matthew Reilly, and his books are simply action from the first page. It is a Hollywood action movie disguised as a book. If you like a fast paced book full of suspense, and even an element of conspiracy, then give this one a go.
Rating - I give this 4.5/5 GREAT!!

Reviewed by Michelle@ library admin

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A House in Fez by Suzanna Clarke

When Suzanna Clarke and her husband Sandy McCutcheon bought a dilapidated house in the Fez Medina, their friends in Australia thought they were mad. Located in a maze of donkey-trod alleyways, the house – an Arab-style riad – was beautiful but in desperate need of repair. Walls were in danger of collapse, the plumbing non-existent. While neither Suzanna nor Sandy spoke Arabic and had only a smattering of French, they were determined to restore the house to its original splendour, using traditional craftsmen and handmade materials. So began a remarkable experience that veered between frustration, hilarity and moments of pure exhilaration.

But restoring the house was only part of their immersion in the rich and colourful life of this ancient city. A House In Fez is a journey into Moroccan culture – into it's day-to-day rhythms, its customs and festivals. Into its history, Islam, and Sufi rituals. Into the lore of djinns and spirits. And above all, into the lives of all of the people – warm, friendly, hospitable to a fault.

A gorgeous book to hold and read. I am torn between jealousy and a feeling of thank goodness that's not my renovation!
Rating - I give this 5/5 GREAT!!

Get this from the library

Reviewed by Sarah @ Hamilton library

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The gentle art of domesticity, by Jane Brocket

Jane Brocket delights in domesticity. Lively, curious and creative, she takes inspiration from her surroundings, from art, literature and nature and, through the gentle arts of knitting, baking and sewing, enhances her family life. From angora cushions to gingerbread houses, from crochet blankets to geometric quilts, she injects her home with colour, beauty and fun. The result is a gorgeous, unusual and inspirational commonplace book, full of wit, whimsy and stunning photographs. Jane's fresh and thoughtful take on life will make you look at the world with new eyes. Whether you want to emulate her hand-knitted socks and colourful cupcakes or simply share her pleasure in life's small details, you will delight in the glorious synthesis of craft, style and intellectual pleasures. The Gentle Art of Domesticity is a heavenly feast, celebrating everything that is wonderful about life.

This book deserves all of the above superlatives - I love it! Forget the housework, curl up with this book and indulge in its celebration of all that's warm and fuzzy and wonderful about home life, when time allows and inspiration strikes. Multi-talented Jane (she's a quilter and knitter as well as a writer) invites readers into her home and her life as friends, shares some great stories and recipes and spices it all up with zingy colour and superb photographs. A wonderful book about small pleasures that are so often taken for granted.

Rating - I give this 5/5 GREAT!!

Get this from the library

Reviewed by Jan @ Ballarat Library

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rosewater and soda bread by Marsha Mehran

This delightful novel from the internationally bestselling author of Pomegranate Soup follows the heartwarming adventures of three Iranian sisters in a tiny Irish village.A year ago, the beautiful Aminpour sisters, Marjan, Bahar and Layla, sought refuge in Ballinacroagh, winning over the townsfolk with their café serving delectable Persian cuisine. A mysterious young girl has literally washed onto Ballinacroagh's shores, and though she won't talk, it soon becomes apparent that she has a dark secret that alienates much of the strict Catholic town. But the girl has a distinct impact on the sisters, particularly as each sister goes through her own transformation - Marjan trying to love again, Bahar taking on a new religious commitment, and Layla maturing into a young woman.Marsha Mehran infuses this new tale with mouthwatering recipes, charming details of life in Ireland, and, above all, the lyrical warmth that the Aminpour family radiates to the whole of Ballinacroagh.

I had high hopes for this book, but it unfortunately didn't grab me at all. I found it very slow to get going and the characters weren't interesting enough to provoke my interest. I had hoped for more.

Rating - I give this 2/5 Nothing Special

Get this from the library

Reviewed by julie @ Wendouree Library

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer

It's 1946 in London. Juliet Ashton is a journalist who spent the war writing witty and amusing columns for the press. Now she wants to put the trauma of the Blitz behind her. Unexpectedly, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a resident of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. He has a book that once belonged to her and they begin a correspondence based on their mutual love of literature. Dawsey tells Juliet of the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society and of the way the Society helped them survive the German Occupation. Juliet begins to correspond with other members of the Society and through the exchange of letters, friendships develop that change Juliet's life forever.
This was a 'can't put it down' read. The characters are wonderfully drawn and diverse and book describes the traumatic experience of a community under occupation using a delicate balance of humour, sadness and even a touch of romance.

The author, Mary Ann Shaffer began writing this book at the age of 70. She became ill in the final stages of the manuscript and sadly, did not live to see her book published. The manuscript was finished by her niece. If only she had begun her writing career earlier - such a talent! Highly recommended.

Rating - I give this 4/5 GREAT!!

Get this from the library

Reviewed by Julie @ Wendouree Library

Wanting by Richard Flanagan

It is 1839. A young Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, is running through the long wet grass of an island at the end of the world to get help for her dying father, an Aboriginal chieftain. Twenty years later, on an island at the centre of the world, the most famous novelist of the day, Charles Dickens, realises he is about to abandon his wife, risk his name and forever after be altered because of his inability any longer to control his intense passion. Inspired by historical events, WANTING is a novel about art, love, and the way in which life is finally determined never by reason, but only ever by wanting.
Flanagan writes with a a wonderful masculine Australian voice that is as much a part of the story as the landscape and historiacal imaginings. An engaging and unusual book.

Rating - I give this 4/5


Get this from the library
Reviewed by Sarah @ Hamilton library

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Knife of never letting go by Patrick Ness

The blurb on the back cover of The Knife of Never Letting Go, includes a statement by Frank Cottrell Boyce whic says, the new Patrick Ness novel has one of the best first sentences he has ever read "and a book that lives up to it."

The first sentence is: "The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing to say."

And the rest of the book does live up to it. It took me a little while to get into it, I think you have to be in the right mood, but after about 50 pages, I just couldn't put it down. I was hanging onto every word on every page and also reading as quickly as possible so I could get to the end to find out what was going to happen. There was a devastating moment towards the end which left me feeling empty but it is the first in a series and I am now hanging out for book two!
(from the publisher) Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown. But Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.
Or are there?
Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.
Which is impossible.
Prentisstown has been lying to him.
And now he's going to have to run...

Rating - I give this 4/5 GREAT!!
Reviewed by Tara @ library admin

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Girl who played with fire by Steig Larsson

The second volume in the bestselling Millennium Trilogy... Lisbeth Salander is a wanted woman. Two Millennium journalists about to expose the truth about the sex trafficking trade are murdered and Salander's prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and vengeful behaviour makes her an official danger to society - but no-one can find her. Mikael Blomkvist, editor-in-chief of Millennium, does not believe the police. Using all his magazine staff and resources to prove Salander's innocence, Blomkvist also uncovers her terrible past, spent in criminally corrupt institutions. Yet Salander is more avenging angel than helpless victim. She may be an expert at staying out of sight - but she has ways of tracking down her most elusive enemies. (from the publisher)
This book was FANTASTIC. I read it in 24 hours, and not just because I had to bring the library book back. I couldn't put it down and would definately recommend it to others.

Rating - I give this 5/5 GREAT!
Get this from the library

Reviewed by library admin