Autumn is lingering, but it might be time to head to the library and get your winter reading sorted. Here are some suggestions of what to look out for (and what to avoid) from your library staff.
Everybody died, so I got a dog by Emily Dean – British writer and radio presenter Emily Dean’s hilariously heartbreaking memoir about her glamourously dysfunctional family and what happened when they all died. Spoiler alert: the clue’s in the title. PS If you enjoy the memoir, have a listen to the delightful podcast Walking the Dog in which Dean interviews special (human) guests (usually comedians) whilst walking dogs in the park. 5 stars
A few right thinking men and A decline in prophets by Sulari Gentill (eAudiobook on BorrowBox read by Rupert Degas) – These are the first couple in the Rowland Sinclair mystery series set in 1930s Sydney. Rowland is the youngest son of a wealthy and influential farming family. He lives in a magnificent mansion pursuing a life as an artist with his like-minded artistic friends. When his uncle of the same name is found murdered, Rowland and his friends are drawn into the dark and nefarious world of the New Guard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Guard), a monarchist, anti-communist, fascist paramilitary organisation active from 1931. The real historical events and people behind the stories are ones I had not heard of before and I found it absolutely fascinating. They are an easy read and if you enjoy Maisie Dobbs or Phrynne Fisher I’m sure this series will suit you too. 4 stars
I also listened to The Deathwatch journal by Ian Rankin via BorrowBox. This is a story written for BBC Radio 4 about a prison officer on death watch over a man accused of killing his wife. So authentic sounding I tried finding the story! 4 stars
Queen Victoria : daughter, wife, mother, widow by Lucy Worsley – Dr Worsley has taken a different approach to this much written about monarch’s life. Instead of a chronological journey through Victoria’s life, she concentrates on 24 significant dates – her birth, her ascension date, wedding, death of Prince Albert etc.
All over the map: a cartographic odyssey by Betsy Mason & Greg Miller – a big beautiful coffee table book about maps and map making – historical, fantasitcal, conflict and crisis, waterways, movement of peoples, industry, sub oceanic, poverty and affluence. Just awesome – 5 stars
More DI Tony McLean in Written in bones by James Oswald – this one had a particularly gruesome murder with a body falling out of the sky and landing in a tree in The Meadows a large park south of the University of Edinburgh’s George Square campus (my old stomping ground). 4 stars
Katherine Howard: a Tudor conspiracy by Joanna Denny – this is an old book I bought at a Library book sale, first published in 2005. Some of the things Ms Denny states as fact are now disputed so it was a bit jarring to read at times. 3 stars
Murder at the Book Club by Betsy Reavley (eaudiobook on RBDigital) – If you’ve ever thought about joining a book club, this cosy crime eaudiobook might put you off forever. I didn’t love the narrator’s voice, but the story has plenty of suspects to keep you guessing to the end. 3 stars
I so enjoyed the mind-boggling book of Tara Westover. She was only in her 30s when she wrote Educated, a Memoir, the story of growing up with her doomsday parents who “home-schooled” her and her siblings using the bible and Mormon teachings. She helped her mother make tinctures and her father in his junk yard. OH & S didn’t exist. Not only did Westover set out on a quest to get an education without ever being in a classroom but, in spite of huge ignorance, she managed to get to both Harvard and Cambridge and to obtain a PhD. 4.5 stars
Vintage girl by Hester Browne, and read by Cathleen McCarron – A light, enjoyable, romantic eAudiobook, complete with Scottish reeling and potentially dodgy antiques. 4/5
The Arsonist: a mind on fireby Chloe Hooper – A gripping true crime book about Black Saturday in Victoria. The book is broken into three parts – the detectives, the lawyers, and the courtroom – covering the experience of the fire, the lawyers representing the defendant and the unfolding trial. I wouldn’t use the word ‘enjoyable’ to describe the experience of reading this book but it has been one of my favourites this year. 4/5
A Month of Sundays by Liz Byrski – Set in the Blue Mountains the four female characters are feeling overwhelmed by their life circumstances – retirement, health issues, regrets, family revelations – but are buoyed by fresh mountains air, friendship and books. A very easy, enjoyable read. 4/5
I read The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot- it gets a 3.
I attempted to read 99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai – It was awful and I gave up after having forced myself to make it about half way through. .25 stars
Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein- it gets a 4.
I gave up on Milkman by Anna Burns less than ¼ of the way through. I give it a 2.
Best Summer Stories edited by Aviva Tuffield – some of these stories stay with you long after reading them – they really hit a nerve! Highly recommend! And I have bought as a present for many people. 4 stars.
Re-reading the Outlander Series before tackling the TV series – up to Book 2 – Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon – still stands up after all this time. Definitely worth the re-read. What a great storyteller! 4 stars
At Freddie’s by Penelope Fitzgerald – Only my lack of interest in the theatre prevented me from enjoying this more. Set in a decrepit stage school in 60’s London, it boasts a cast of horribly knowing children and less than adept adults, all ruled and manipulated by the ruthless Freddie.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder – what to say about this Woman meets Fish-Man erotic warts-and-all tale… remind me never to go to group therapy for people with relationship addiction. Oh, and then there is the dog murder at the end. Over-sharey, but not funny.
Let’s pretend this never happened: a memoir by Jenny Lawson – after the horror show of The Pisces, I thought this might elicit a laugh. Jenny Lawson has the material in her less than conventional childhood, but lousy, try hard writing made it a chore, and I failed to finish it. Apparently she is a blogger. I can believe it.
The sky is yours by Chandler Klang Smith – I have only just begun this sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction book set in a world where a couple of mysterious dragons hang out over a crumbling city, making life difficult for those who still call it home. I don’t know yet if I will continue, and it has failed the LOL test.
Wintering by Krissy Kneen – This is set in a tiny coastal town in southern Tasmania over one winter, where the protagonist is grieving the loss of her missing partner and becomes embroiled in the mystery of his disappearance. However, I wasn’t expecting this to turn in to a paranormal story with were-thylacines, and it didn’t quite work for me. Perhaps had I known what I was in for I would have enjoyed it more. Or not.
American pastoral by Philip Roth – I felt overwhelming deja vu reading this, and began to wonder if I had read if before, not realising that the narrator, Nathan Zuckerman, has been in many of Roth’s books, and that I was thinking of The Human Stain. Anyway, it made me realise that I have moved on from being interested in the world view of older American men, and my days of catching up on Significant Authors and Books may be over.
A Simple Favour – good cast, a twisty plot & I would watch again. 4 stars
Crazy Rich Asians – enjoyed the book so knew what to expect in the movie. The sheer opulence and snobbery are amazing between Singaporians/Chinese Americans and mainland Chinese. 3 stars
Happy Valley series – what a great drama although the accents sometimes were a bit difficult to understand BUT what a story. 4 stars
Mission Impossible: FALLOUT– I am not a Tom Cruise fan but he is excellent as Ethan in Mission Impossible action is fast, acting is excellent and there is a story line 4 stars
Pine Gap double disc 6 episodes – Paranoia, distrust are two of the elements in this series that is between Australia and America never let you right hand know what your left hand is doing! What a story it does slowdown in the middle of the series but worthwhile watching. 3 1/2 stars
My Blind Brother – A patron recommended this DVD it is funny and poignant as the title implies 2 brothers one is blind and an over achiever at his sighted brothers expense. 4 stars
The Party – with Timothy Spall, Kirsten Scott Thomas and an excellent cast (especially) Cillian Murphy. I do recommend “The party” excellent acting and a plot that twists in so many directions it is in black and white and it is a black comedy.
What do our scores mean?
1 star – I hated it / Don’t bother / It felt more like homework than reading for pleasure
2 stars – I didn’t like it / Not for me but worth trying / This book needed something different to make me like it
3 stars – I liked it / Recommended / This book was good. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.
4 stars – I really liked it / One of the best books I’ve read this year / I’m glad I read it
5 stars – I loved it / One of the best books I’ve ever read / I will probably read it again