Alison’s Best Reads for 2016.

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My best-of list for this year has an all-Australian cast – hardly surprising. Australian literature is astonishingly good, and varied, and shows us our country. I read a lot of Australian writing: this is a small but enjoyable selection.

The Natural Way of Things, Charlotte Wood’s dystopian novel set somewhere in outback Australia: a disparate group of women, and an enemy.

Ransacking Paris: a year with Montaigne and friends. Patti Miller spent a year living and writing in Paris, and this is the charming result. Clarity, truth and imagination characterise her prose.

One life: my mother’s story. Kate Grenville tells her mother’s life, a captivating biography of a strong woman.

The Last Days of Ava Langdon, Mark O’Flynn’s re-imagining of the life of an eccentric writer, loosely based on Eve Langley, who wrote The Pea Pickers and who lived in Katoomba. Mark is also a poet, and it shows.

The Dressmaker, by Rosalie Ham. An amusing story of revenge, involving the deft use of a sewing machine.

Truly Madly Guilty. Liane Moriarty is an accomplished storyteller, there is edge-of-seat suspense here, as well as keenly-observed suburban psychology.

The Mud House. Richard Glover, and his family and friends, built a house of mud brick, in the sticks. He learned to build as he went. This is the very engaging story of that journey.

Everywhere I Look. The unique Helen Garner offers us her set of essays about – well, life. Everywhere she looks there is something singular and interesting to ponder over. She’s a national treasure.

The Boy behind the Curtain. Tim Winton is possessed of a depth of perception, a wisdom, that is a little eerie. His prose is strong and beautiful, as always, in this autobiographical memoir. He’s clearly a national treasure too.

Community Giving Tree

The Giving Tree at Springwood Library

The Giving Tree at Springwood Library

Christmas is fast approaching and most young people are looking forward to the celebrations. However, not everyone is so fortunate. To help improve this situation, the Blue Mountains Youth Council is running the Community Christmas ‘Giving Tree’ again.

Blue Mountains Youth Councillor Delilah Scott said, “The Community Christmas ‘Giving Tree’ empowers our community to come together and give to those in need.”

Everyone needs support at times,” added Youth Councillor Benjamin McGrory, “and we hope you can help by donating gifts to help lift the spirits of young people doing it tough.”

The Community Christmas ‘Giving Tree’ is located in Springwood Library. Residents, local businesses and organisations are invited to donate a gift by Friday 16 December. Those who donate may also like to add their names to a gift tag, which will be used to decorate the tree. Donations can also be delivered to Council’s headquarters in Katoomba.

All donations received will go to the Platform Youth Services organisation, who support young people between the ages of 12-25, and will distribute the gifts to vulnerable young people, in the Blue Mountains, Penrith and Hawkesbury areas.

Teenager-friendly Christmas gifts include music items such as iTunes vouchers or headphones; movie ticket vouchers; accessories like hair clips; or clothes such as t-shirts.

Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, said, “The Blue Mountains Youth Council’s ‘Giving Tree’ is a good reminder about the true spirit of Christmas. Ours is a generous and caring community and I encourage you to help young people in need to have a happier Christmas.”

For further information, please contact Anita Kazis, Council’s Youth Services Development Officer on 4780 5680 or akazis@bmcc.nsw.gov.au. Or visit www.facebook.com/bluemountainsyouthcouncil or www.bluemountainshaveyoursay.com.au/youthcouncil

 

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This year Springwood Library will also act as a donation point for monetary donations to the Springwood Neighbourhood Centre’s Emergency Food Fund when the Centre, located on the ground floor of the Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub is closed.

Monetary donations should be in a sealed envelope.

 

#joyread, the Read Watch Play theme for December 2016

Christmas #1 Kevin Dooloey

 

#joyread

indexThe act of reading is a particularly joyful one for many people, regardless of what is being read, and is the perfect way to achieve or enhance the joyfulness expected at this time of year. Joy may, for you, be watching the Dr Who Christmas special, playing board games with the family, or cooking up a storm using cookbooks released in time for the giving season.

Share your love of reading with children over some beautifully illustrated picture books, discuss the books that bring you the most joy with your book club, or at your office Christmas party, where cheesy eighties’ music plays.

Feel the joy with Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel, and laugh at others’ expense with cat shaming. Continue laughing with P. G. Wodehouse or David Sedaris. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, pull out the pencils and start colouring, or get crafty in any way that takes your fancy.

Get back to nature, out on a bushwalk or watching David Attenborough documentaries, or explore non-fiction books about joy, happiness and motivation.

Don’t feel the need to conform to light and sweet, however, if horror brings you joy, then go for it! That goes for dark humour, too. How are you going to read, watch and play with joy this month?

Twitter logo for RWPchat postsA date for your diary : There will be a twitter discussion on 20th December (no-one will remember on the 27th!)  starting at 11am and 8.00pm Australian Eastern Daylight Savings (Summer) Time.  6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 12.00 noon Central European Summer Time, 9am – 11am; 2pm – 4pm; 6pm – 8pm BST.  Note this is a staggered discussion.

Use the tags  #joyread and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of  #joyread, so others can join in the conversation too.

What Library Staff are Reading – November 2016

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Jacarandah time – my favourite!  Sit yourself under those beautiful blossoms with some of these :

  • Dying: a memoir by Cory Taylor – Written in the last few months of her life Cory Taylor has produced an unflinching work of clarity, kindness and strength. Reflecting on her life, her decisions and the death of her parents Taylor writes to make sense of both her life and her dying. A beautiful and honest memoir of dying. 4/5
  • Shanghai Diary by Ursula Bacon -This is a captivating story about a piece of the World War II I didn’t know about. Eleven year old Ursula and her Jewish family escape Nazi Germany and arrive at “the armpit of world”, Shanghai. For the next eight years her family lives in the squalor, chaos and inexplicable customs of Shanghai. Ursula’s descriptions paint a vivid picture of daily life and the community they form tells a story of struggle and triumph in the face of fear and uncertainty. 4/5
  • Disclaimer by Renee Knight – this was recommended by a colleague who had in turn had it recommended by a customer. A successful woman receives a book, begins reading it and realises that the story, not at all flattering, is all about her. She has no idea who wrote it and who is trying to expose her secrets.  We are fed the story from the points of view of more than one character and the plot unfolds bit by intriguing bit.  3 stars
  • The Course of Love by Alain de Botton – A story about two people who meet, then eventually fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. Or not.  Novel interspersed with psychology as one might expect from Botton. It was an easy read. 3 ½ stars
  • The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George – a book group read which had me hooked from the start (I was in the minority at our meeting though!)  Mr Perdu, literary apothecary, goes looking for lost love and picks up some unusual travelling companions as he goes. I followed them all the way from Paris on Google Earth. A delightful story, if somewhat implausible. 4 stars
  • The Good People by Hannah Kent – I think those that read and loved Kent’s Burial Rites will also enjoy this novel. Set in Ireland in the early 1800s, in a small rural community full of Gaelic superstitions and folklore, the novel is about three women and an awful crime.  It’s based on a real case of murder.  You know from the start, as in Burial Rites, that a murder took place but Kent manages to build up the suspense and keep the pages turning although I found it a bit slow going through the first 100 pages or so as she uses a fair bit of the gaelic and there is no glossary.  I had to stop and look up words and note their meanings all the time. For your reference, I found WordHippo and Forvo were helpful with the vocabulary and pronunciation –  4 stars
  • Hades by Candice Fox – Candice Fox was a speaker at the Crime Writers’ Forum in October and I was intrigued enough to give her a go. The first in a trilogy and a page turner all right. 3 ½ stars
  • This is where I am by Karen Campbell – the story of Deborah, a lonely Scottish widow who volunteers as a mentor at the Scottish Refugee Council, and Abdi, a Somalian refugee who has been sent with his small daughter to Glasgow while he awaits a decision on his future. In alternating chapters we learn of both characters’ pasts and how they give each other hope for the future.  Such an interesting, poignant and heart-warming book. 4 stars
  • An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris – another book group choice about the Dreyfus Affair which polarised France in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  I had heard of the scandal but didn’t know the details so I found this intriguing.  And Harris does go into a lot of detail. I didn’t understand all of the legal points being made but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment.  You’ll be horrified at the treatment of Alfred Dreyfus and encouraged by the bravery of Georges Picquart who leads the investigation into a miscarriage of justice. 4 stars
  • Death’s End (Three body trilogy book 3) by Cixin Liu 5/5 – Probably the best book in one of the best series I have ever read. Describing how awesome this book is seems daunting and I am not sure if I could do it justice. I will just take the easy road and throw out some comparisons. The Trisolarans remind me of Vonnegut’s Tralfamadorians, maybe it is just the name? There is a definite nod to 2001 with the appearance of a monolith and some of the science that plays a major part in the final chapter of the novel could very easily explain some of the more abstract parts of that film. The best kudos I can offer is that it invokes such vast ideas of the life and evolution of a universe that it reminds me directly of Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First men & Star Maker, which just happen to be two of my all-time favourite science fiction novels. A fantastic book and trilogy that deserves all the praise and rewards it has received.
  • Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society by Adam Gorightly 4/5 -Before the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and before the Church of the Subgenius there was the Discordian Society. Parodying religion whilst being highly entertaining and thought provoking. This is a history of the society and its founders and reprints many early communications including the first edition of the Principia Discordia in its entirety. This book would only be of interest to those interested in the Discordian Society or perhaps Robert Anton Wilson. A must have book for any Discordian Pope. Hail Eris.
  • Descender Volume 1 & 2 by Jeff Lemire 4/5 – A graphic novel space opera focusing on AI and its uses and abuses. An enjoyable series that reminds me of Saga but more serious with no comic relief. I look forward to the continuation of this series.
  • Crashing Heaven by Al Robertson 4/5
  • Talking To My Country by Stan Grant 4/5
  • Theft of Swords & Rise of Empire (Riyria Revelation #1&2) – Michael J. Sullivan -I listened to both of these on audio book and really enjoyed Tim Gerard Reynolds narration. The story follows Royce, an expert thief and Hadrian, a skilled mercenary who make a profitable living as agents-for-hire until someone sets them up and blames them for murdering the king. However, whoever framed them chose the wrong men to set up! It may be too light hearted for fans of epic fantasy, however the characters and plot twists are really what makes these books a fantastic read. Can’t wait to read the final instalment! – 4 stars
  • Red Rising & Golden Son (Red Rising Trilogy #1&2) – Pierce Brown – A favourite author of mine gave this trilogy a good review so I thought I’d give it a go… and I wasn’t disappointed. Set in a dystopian future, Darrow a miner in the interior of Mars thinks he is working for the future survival of the human race by mining precious minerals which can terraform Mars. However he finds out that humans have been living on the surface of Mars for more than 700 years and his people are nothing but slaves to a ruling elite. The series then follows his struggle to win freedom for his people.  I’d say these books are like The Hunger Games or Enders Game, but for adults. I couldn’t put these books down – there were more plot twists than a neurotic pretzel! – 5 stars
  • Age of Myth – Michael J. Sullivan – This is Michael J Sullivan’s newest offering is and set thousands of years before his previous series (Riyira Chronicles/Revelations). What’s great is seeing the little easter eggs and connections to his other books and the best thing is knowing that Sullivan has already written the rest of the series so there won’t be a massive hiatus between instalments (I’m looking at you George R. Martin!!). Really enjoyed the world building and characters – 4 stars
  • The Four Legendary Kingdoms (eAudio Book) –Matthew Reilly – I won’t say much, because I’d give too much away, but let’s just say this book delivers everything a Matthew Reilly fan could want and more. – 4 stars
  • Churchill’s secret – Jonathan Smith – 3
  • The High Mountains of Portugal – Yan Martel – 3
SCORING
1 ~ I hated it / Don’t bother / It felt more like homework than reading for pleasure
2 ~ I didn’t like it / Not for me but worth trying / This book needed something different to make me like it
3 ~ I liked it / Recommended / This book was good. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.
4 ~ I really liked it / One of the best books I’ve read this year / I’m glad I read it
5 ~ I loved it / One of the best books I’ve ever read / I will probably read it again

Don’t forget – Mini Book Sale at Blaxland Library this weekend! Bargains galore!

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Aboriginal ANZAC WWI Diggers from the Blue Mountains and Windsor areas

 

A vibrant and interesting exhibition is running in Springwood Library on Aboriginal ANZAC WWI diggers from the Blue Mountains and Windsor areas.

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A joint project between the Mountains Outreach Community Service, BM People for Reconciliation and ANTaR, the exhibition focuses on the WWI service of the descendants of Maria (daughter of Darug elder, Yarramundi) and Robert Lock (convict). The project received funding from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs ANZAC Centenary Local Grants Program.

The exhibition consists of photographs and short biographies of 11 members of the wider Lock(e) family.  Come and learn more about this prominent Blue Mountains family.

Can you can solve the mystery of the identity of the soldier turning heads on Katoomba Street, Katoomba in one of the photographs?

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The exhibition is on at Springwood Library from 23rd November to 2nd December before moving to Hawkesbury Library, Windsor.

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