All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr

all the lightThis 2015 Pulitzer Prize Winning, historical, literary fiction novel is a wonderful read and is well deserving of the hype and critical acclaim it received.

Set in France and Germany during World War II, All the light we cannot see tells the parallel stories of Marie-Laure and Werner, two innocent children who are both caught up in, whilst being at opposite sides of, the horrors of World War II.

Marie-Laure, blind from the age of 6, lives with her father in Paris where he is the master locksmith at the Museum of Natural History. Marie-Laure’s’ father builds her a miniature wooden replica of her neighbourhood, which she memorizes and is then able to navigate her way around. When Marie-Laure is twelve, Paris is occupied by the Nazis.  Marie-Laure and her father flee to Saint-Malo to live with their reclusive Great Uncle and his powerful radio transmitter.

Meanwhile Werner, a brilliant and talented orphaned German boy, grows up dreaming of a world he can only imagine. One he can only connect with by hearing of it through the magic of a stolen radio. As a twelve-year-old, Werner, who possesses extraordinary electronic abilities, is chosen to attend an elite academy for the Hitler Youth.  Graduating far too young, Werner is sent, with a team of Nazi soldiers, to track down the resistance who are broadcasting through illegal radio transmissions.  Marie Laure and Werner’s paths cross in a way that is both sad and beautiful.

As the two stories of Marie-Laure and Werner are played out, there is sub-plot of the mystery of the “Sea of Flames”, a priceless jewel that prior to the outbreak of war was held in the Museum of National History.  Do Marie-Laure and her father have the diamond or just a decoy fake as they hide in Saint-Malo? Will the jewel be discovered? Stolen? Returned? Does it hold the power to redeem?

This is a beautiful and poignant novel, lyrical and descriptive in its writing style. The story is told in both time and setting shifts, which can be a little difficult to connect with at first. However, the novel is so rich and uplifting, it is well worth the effort.

All the light we cannot see is available to borrow or reserve in both hard copy and audio book formats from Wollondilly or Mobile Libraries.

George:)

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Australian Home Beautiful – staff pick

I have always loved flicking through the pages of glossy magazines for ideas for my home and Australian Home Beautiful is one of my favourites.
Australian Home Beautiful is filled with images of beautiful homes from hillside havens to chic seaside cottages. There are inspiring renovation ideas you can create yourself for every room from French flair to modern minimalistic makeovers. It even has your outdoor spaces covered from cosy corner settings to heavenly hedges. Australian Home Beautiful is filled with information and advice for helping you transform your home into the home you dream of.
It has been published for over 90 years and provides for the fun of decorating and empowers you to become your own decorator…well, here’s hoping for me! And with my passion for cooking, I love the easy entertaining ideas and recipes. It’s my friend’s birthday soon and I’m already excited to be making the blueberry crumble cake from the July 2016 issue.

cake

For me, reading a magazine presents an escape; it’s makes up part of my “me-time.”  And don’t we all deserve some “me-time”?

So why not borrow or reserve an issue of Australian Home Beautiful now at Wollondilly Library or from one of our mobile libraries?  Wollondilly Library also subscribes to other great home magazines including Better Homes and Gardens and Real Living.

hbbhgreal living

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope to see you at the newly refurbished Wollondilly Library soon,

Michelle:)

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Stillwater Creek by Alison Booth

Stillwater CreekAustralian historical fiction novel Stillwater Creek is set in 1957 in a small fictional town of Jingera on the South Coast of New South Wales. Stillwater Creek is Australian author Alison Booth’s debut novel.

Ilona and her daughter Zidra arrive in town for a fresh start after Ilona, who was born in Latvia, and has survived the horrors of a concentration camp and the death of her husband during World War II. Ilona is a pianist and wants to establish herself as a piano teacher and find a place for herself in her new community.  Stillwater Creek is told from the perspective of six local residents, including Ilona and Zidra. The others are the publican’s wife, the butcher and his son and a local farmer. Their stories weave in and out of the narrative and become intertwined as the book reaches a tumultuous climax.

This is a book filled with many underlying themes. All the characters have secrets and the issues of unhappy childhoods and of displacement are particularly explored.  Stillwater Creek is a relaxing read because of being set around a creek, lagoon and surf beach. It is a heart-warming story whose characters and setting create a strong sense of place. The engaging writing style makes it difficult to put down, assisted by a suspenseful plotline, making the reader eager know what will happen next.  Many readers will identify with the immigrant experience explored within this novel. The small coastal town culture that Booth generates in Stillwater Creek will be familiar to, and resonate with, many readers also.

Stillwater Creek was published in 2010 and received critical acclaim. Alison Booth has since written Indigo Sky and A Distant Land which completes the Jingera trilogy. Stillwater Creek is available to borrow or reserve from Picton or Mobile Libraries.

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Penguin Bloom

I can remember my grandfather sitting on the back steps, bare-footed, in shorts and white bonds singlet – feeding scraps of meat to ‘Jacky’ a tame and bold magpie. I still have a soft-spot for magpies – the larrikin of the bird family. Each summer I turn on the sprinkler, sit back and wait for a magpie family to arrive like excitable toddlers – warbling away, fluffed up and dashing in and out of the water with pure abandoned joy.
It was this fondness that drew me to ‘Penguin Bloom’, the beautiful story of an odd little bird and the love and strength she gives to a family torn apart by a split second occurrence that changed their lives forever.
Penguin was just a small wobbly-headed magpie chick, one wing hanging limply by her side when she was rescued by the Bloom family after falling from her nest, high up in a Norfolk Pine onto cold asphalt. Her story mirrored the families own recent tragedy – when Sam, the mother of three young boys fell from a building when on holiday, suffering horrendous injuries – severe head trauma, the loss of her sense of smell and taste – almost every organ of her body battered and a prognosis that she would not walk again.
It was seven months before Sam was released from the spinal ward – glad to be home with her family and desperately trying to maintain some positivity at a very bleak time in her life.
And then Penguin arrived…
“Penguin and Sam became inseparable. One was always looking after the other. When Penguin was weak and sickly, Sam would lovingly nurse her back to health. And when Sam found it hard to get moving, Penguin would sing her energy back up.”
Penguin Bloom is a beautiful and inspiring story – a poignant reminder to take each day as a blessing. But equally as uplifting are the stunning photographs that accompany this triumphant story. From the bedraggled little bird who “often resembled a manic fluff-ball with a beak” to the “airborne goddess she was destined to become”, Penguin’s journey is captured with humour, love and an immense feeling of thankfulness that she came into the Bloom family.
I hope you enjoy this touching story of courage and resilience and that you too will come to love magpies as the funny and lovable characters that they are.

Penguin Bloom

“Hope is the thing with feathers” Emily Dickinson

Lisa

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

perksThe Perks of Being a Wallflower is an epistolary novel about a freshman named Charlie, who very much struggles in social settings. And by no means does it help him that he struggles with anxiety and depression.

A rather shy and introspective boy who is trying to fit in and find himself in this burdensome world (or how he may think of the world anyway) tells his story to a ‘friend’; one that can be trusted, but also one that we do not know. We can interpret this ‘friend’ to be anyone we feel fitting, and that is one of the many reasons in why this book is gripping, and appealing to a young adult audience. I think most high school students can confidently say that they would enjoy having a friend through their schooling years in whom they can talk to about the stuff that goes on in their mind. Charlie has this, even though this ‘friend’ may or may not be real, Charlie writes to them for a year, whether this is days or months at a time, signing off with ‘Love always, Charlie’.

It’s a mildly dark novel with reflections from Charlie’s past family life in which we can see why Charlie’s character is the way it is. The drama of a teenage life is one that correlates to the ugly truth of life’s mishaps. The Perks of Being a Wallflower provides a safe and warm place for anyone who doesn’t understand, or isn’t understood, and that’s what makes this epistolary novel so captivating and special.

I decided to read this book because it was one that more than a few fellow peers have raved about. A coming of age story with a boy, who is trying to find himself, quickly attracted my attention considering I am one who is also riding the emotions of growing up. This book allows you to have a joke and make you laugh, and realise that it’s okay to cry when things get overwhelming.

If you have read and enjoyed the book Its kind of a funny story, you will be sure to enjoy The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower book and movie are available to borrow or reserve from Picton or Mobile Libraries.

Thanks
Sarah K.

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The Light On The Water

Light on the waterI was unfamiliar with this author, Olga Lorenzo, even though she has been shortlisted for various literary awards and ‘The Light on the Water’ is her 4th book.  I was immediately captivated by her theme.

A little girl goes missing in the Australian bush whilst vacationing with her mother, never to be seen again.  The mother is eventually charged with her daughter’s murder.

Sound familiar? Immediately Lindy Chamberlain and her daughter Azaria spring to my mind.  No person living in Australia at the time of Azaria’s disappearance could have avoided the media attention and consequently the public opinion that surrounded this case.

Olga Lorenzo is Cuban born and moved to Australia from America at 22. Because of her own family’s history of assimilation she wanted to explore the idea of “how we all want to belong to a group, be part of a group and how it would feel if that group shuts you out”. She wanted to write a novel that “…. explores the worst aspects of family life a story which asks the difficult questions about our society, the media and our rush to judge”.

We are introduced to Anne Forster 2 years after her daughter Aida’s disappearance. She is charged with her daughter’s murder and is on bail and awaiting trial. She is still tormented by remorse and grief. Mourning her daughter she tries to reconstruct the last hours with her.

Recently divorced, Anne had taken 6yr old Aida who has autism on an overnight bushwalk in some fairly remote Australian bushland. Aida wanders off and disappears and Anne returns alone. Her story is immediately doubted by the emergency trackers.  She is stalked by the media and shunned by friends, former colleagues and neighbours.

It is hard not to draw parallels to Lindy Chamberlain.

Maybe because I am a mother and the thought of losing one of my own children is just so incomprehensible, that I found the book provoking, thoughtful and compassionate. It is an intense and evocative read, empathetically written, exploring myriad themes of motherhood, grief, guilt and love.

Beth

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Before I go to Sleep – The Movie

I started watching this movie on a rare day off from my usually hurried life. As soon as I read the blurb I realised it was reminiscent of the comedy “50 first dates” where actress Drew Barrymore has a rare form of amnesia. However, “Before I go to sleep” isn’t a comedy; it is a psychological thriller. Directed by Rowan Joffe the movie encapsulates the author, S.J Watson’s vision of the book. There were only a few changes made by the director with Watson on set quite regularly to view the making of the film.

ChristiBefore-I-Go-to-Sleepne Lucas (Nicole Kidman) awakens in her bed with a strange man next to her. This happens day in and day out. Christine has a rare form of amnesia due to a traumatic incident, so everything she does during the day is erased from her memory by the time she wakes up the next morning. Her loving husband Ben (Colin Firth) has photos and stories of Christine’s life on the walls of the bathroom, bedroom and kitchen so when she awakens she can immediately see herself and the life she has. Dr Nash (Mark Strong) is Christine’s therapist and believes there is hope for Christine’s memory to return. It is crucial for Christine’s memory to return because it is not known how the incident occurred.

The movie is gripping and had me on the edge of my seat for most of it, hands and teeth clenched, not helped at all by the suspenseful music that builds anticipation throughout the movie too. Nicole and Colin are superb actors and undoubtedly play their roles to a very high and believable standard. There are twists and turns throughout the plot which lead you thinking a certain way only to pull you back in the other direction when you least expect it. Definitely worth the time it will take to watch the movie or read the book.

Helen

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