Blue Mountains Library wishes you all happy reading, watching and listening in July.
It’s been a while since we had a What Library staff are reading – April. As we entered the COVID-19 lockdown I found I was unable to read – not something I remember ever happening to me before. I have read through all sorts of upheaval and trauma – university exams, infant children, bushfires and cancer. COVID-19 hit just as I’d picked up the long-awaited last book in the Wolf Hall trilogy arrived in the bookshops. Even Hilary Mantel’s fabulous writing couldn’t get me hooked and the book sat on my bedside chair for a long time.
What I did find comfort in was a series on SBS OnDemand which I fell over. Called The Last Man on Earth https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Man_on_Earth_(TV_series), it is about a man who is the last survivor of a virus that has swept the earth!!! Bit close to the bone? Yes. And very very funny. 5 stars
The book that got me reading again was She said: breaking the sexual harassment story that helped ignite a movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. This is the story of how the authors, reporters for the New York Times, exposed the sex crimes of Harvey Weinstein and kick-started teh #MeToo movement. They detail the difficulties of getting the women involved – they have all been thoroughly intimidated by the Weinstein machine – the lawyers and companies that hid his behaviour. It details the sacrifices and risks these women face. 4 stars
Shuggie Bain by Stuart Douglas – this is about a young boy, Hugh ‘Shuggie’ Bain. Shuggie’s family is poor, his father has left them for another woman, his older sister has left home as soon as she could, his brother is mostly absent and young Shuggie is left trying to look after his alcoholic mother. The story is set mostly in a mining community in the 1980s after the mines have shut. My father’s home village in Scotland is such a village so I could see exactly what it would look like in my mind’s eye; this might be more difficult for Australian readers. It is a grim story but beautifully told and there is an absolutely hilarious few pages where Shuggie’s Mum, for once on the wagon and in a job, feeds a taxi driver a loaf of bread through the slot of a security screen slice by slice because he didn’t want his loaf squashed. 4.5 stars
Bury them deep by James Oswald. This is the latest in the Inspector Tony McLean series set in Edinburgh. Gritty detective stories, always with a whiff of the occult, this was an easy, engaging read. 4 stars
The lost lights of St Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford. The title caught my eye and I thought, ‘if it’s about St Kilda, Melbourne, it’s going back on the shelf, if it’s about St Kilda, Scotland, it’s coming home. Place is one of my reading doorways and I have long been fascinated by the romantic story of St Kilda, the island in the Atlantic which was evacuated at the islanders request in 1930 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Kilda,_Scotland. This book is a romance (not my usual thing). It’s a beautiful, lyrical read where St Kilda is as much a character as Chrissie and Archie the lovers. I was transported to a wild, dangerous land and loved it. 4 stars
I followed The Lost lights with The life and death of St Kilda by Tom Steel, a book I have had on my shelf for many years and have read several times. This is the true history of St Kilda, written by a great Scots historian. 4 stars
So did I get The mirror and the light by Hilary Mantel read? Yes. She’s done it again! Fingers crossed for a third Booker Prize for Hilary. The book starts with Thomas Cromwell turning away from the bloody, headless corpse of Anne Boleyn to go off to breakfast. The cruelty of the age fills the pages, as does the danger of keeping your head in the face of an increasingly mercurial, tyrannical king. Cromwell’s fall comes in a very few pages, echoing perfectly how swift, sudden and shocking it was for the man himself. 5 stars
The world that we knew – by Alice Hoffman is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I’ve also been very absorbed by the series Un village Francais. I watched series 1 on Beamafilm and LOVED it, so now I’m watching the rest on DVD. And Mythos by Stephen Fry was also highly entertaining on Borrowbox. I’m giving 5 stars to all three!
I’ve been reading my way through the series Six Tudor Queens series by Alison Weir. So far I’ve read the first 4 and am on the waiting list for part 5. They were a nice read during the initial stress of the COVID outbreak and subsequent restrictions. I hope the author has been using her lockdown time in the UK to write the final book of the series!!!! 4/5
Sorry for the Dead (BorrowBox) by Nicola Upson is the 8th in her historical detective series starring the author Josephine Tey. I enjoy this series as it includes historical information about the period between the wars and also an imagined life of Josephine Tey based of course on her real life. I was inspired to read some of Josephine Tey’s work after reading these books so that was also a fun crossover. This book I found quite compelling and interesting though maybe some aspects were a little far-fetched, even so I was carried along with the storyline and trying to work out who most likely ‘done it’. 3/5
I read Fallen in to the Pit (BorrowBox) by Ellis Peters because I enjoy her Cadfael medieval monk detective series. This one is the first of a series The Felse Investigations set in the English countryside soon after the Second World War. It has an interesting focus on the teenage son of the local police detective who fancies himself a bit of an investigator too. This took me a little while to get in to but once I allowed myself to be lulled in to the quite flowery language and detailed descriptions of people’s thoughts, motivations, actions and surroundings I was carried along all the way to the end. 3/5
Next on my BorrowBox reading list are a couple of more literary titles and then I might go back for Felse number two!”
I have just finished A Secret Life by Christobel Kent. A psychological thriller that had me guessing to the end trying to work out who did what to whom and why. Set in London so I like the backdrop. 3 stars
Mobitecture : architecture on the move by Rebecca Roke – I love tiny buildings, and these completely mobile shelters are fabulous. Some are real, some are conceptual, some are pure art. Stick a sleeping bag on the back of a bike, hoist an umbrella and voila! I think I may have been a snail in a previous life… 4/5
Handmade houseplants : remarkably realistic plants you can make with paper by Corrie Hogg – everyone needs a winter craft project, surely. Chop a tree down, turn it in to paper, and then shape it back into a plant! 3/5
Salvation By Peter Hamilton – I have just started this Sci-Fi novel. Warp gates? Check. Multiple timelines? Check. Aliens? Check. I am hoping this will cure my reading drought. TBA
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