Carolyn’s Books of the Month – August

Best Read: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

In a historical novel from author Kate Quinn, two women-a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947-are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption. 1947.

Crime: Sixty Seconds by Jesse Blackadder

The Brennans, parents, Finn and Bridget, and their sons, Jarrah and Toby, have made a sea change, from chilly Hobart to subtropical Murwillumbah. Feeling like foreigners in this land of sun and surf, they’re still adjusting to work, school, and life in a sprawling purple weatherboard, when one morning, tragedy strikes. In the devastating aftermath, the questions fly. What really happened? And who’s to blame? Determined to protect his family, Finn finds himself under the police and media spotlight. Guilty and enraged, Bridget spends nights hunting answers in the last place imaginable. Jarrah, his innocence lost, faces a sudden and frightening adulthood where nothing is certain.

Australian Author: The Naturalist’s Daughter by Tea Cooper

Two women, a century apart, are drawn into a mystery surrounding the biggest scientific controversy of the nineteenth century, the classification of the platypus. 1808 Agnes Banks, NSW: Rose Winton wants nothing more than to work with her father, eminent naturalist Charles Winton, on his groundbreaking study of the platypus. Not only does she love him with all her heart, but the discoveries they have made could turn the scientific world on its head. When Charles is unable to make the long sea journey to present his findings to the prestigious Royal Society in England, Rose must venture forth in his stead.

General: Midnight Blue by Simone Van der Vhugt

Amsterdam 1654: a determined young woman hides a dangerous secret in this gripping historical novel set in the Dutch Golden Age. Following the sudden death of her husband, 25 year old Catrin leaves her village and takes a job as housekeeper to the Van Nulandt merchant family. But when a figure from her past threatens her new life, Catrin flees.

Thriller: Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor. She’s seen the killer’s face but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime.

Thriller: The Perfect Couple by Lexi Landsman

There are secrets in every marriage . . . and some are more dangerous than others. Sarah and Marco Moretti are the perfect couple. Together they have travelled the globe building high-profile careers as archaeologists. Now, at a dig in Florence, they are on the brink of the discovery of a lifetime. However their marriage is not what it seems.

Saga/Romance: The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

1940. Parisian seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee France as the Germans advance. She is bound for Manhattan with a few francs, one suitcase, her sewing machine and a dream: to have her own atelier. 2015. Australian curator Fabienne Bissette journeys to the annual Met Gala for an exhibition of her beloved grandmother’s work – one of the world’s leading designers of ready-to-wear clothing. But as Fabienne learns more about her grandmother’s past, she uncovers a story of tragedy, heartbreak and secrets – and the sacrifices made for love.

eAudio Books:

Lighthouse Bay by Kimberley Freeman

In 1901, a ship sinks off the coast of Lighthouse Bay in Australia. The only survivor is Isabella Winterbourne – escaping her loveless marriage and the devastating loss of her son – who clutches a priceless gift meant for the Australian Parliament. Suddenly, this gift could be her ticket to a new life, free from the bonds of her husband and his overbearing family.

One hundred years later, Libby Slater leaves her life in Paris to return to her hometown of Lighthouse Bay. Living in the cottage that was purchased by her recently passed lover, she hopes to heal her broken heart and reconcile with her sister, Juliet. Libby did something so unforgivable 20 years ago, Juliet is unsure if she can ever trust her sister again.

In this adventurous love story spanning centuries, both Isabella and Libby must learn that letting go of the past is the only way to move into the future.

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Good Reading Magazine – July 2018

The August issue of Good Reading magazine is ready for you to enjoy through Blue Mountains Library!

In this month’s edition:

  • Laura Elizabeth Woollett talks to Good Reading about her visit to the Peoples Temple Christian Church as research for her new novel, Beautiful Revolutionary, a fictional retelling of the life of Carolyn Layton, the woman behind notorius cult-leader Jim Jones. Plus, gr rounds up some of Australia’s best emerging women writers.
  • Top-rated book: Since 2013, Kurdish writer and scholar Behrouz Boochani has been held on Manus Island and, until October 2017, he was detained at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. No simple exposé, No Friend But the Mountains is a deep, philosophical exploration into the experience of displaced humans who are treated as if they are not human. ‘It is, put simply, the most extraordinary and important book I have ever read.’ – Angus Dalton, gr Editorial Manager.
  • We catch up with journalist and foreign correspondent Chris Hammer on his epic crime novel Scrublands.
  • Go on a trip to the Ngong Hills in Kenya to see where Karen Blixen lived and wrote Out of Africa.
  • There is an exclusive extract from Maryam Azam’s debut poetry book, The Hijab Files.
  • Expert in adolescent mental health, Dr Sarah Hughes, gives advice on teenage anxiety in Skip the Drama.

You can borrow Good Reading from the library or access it right here, right now, with your library card.

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eBook of the month – August

Find eBooks and eAudio on Bolinda Borrowbox. Download the app or enjoy on your computer.

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Alison’s Picks – August


Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales: a retelling by Peter Ackroyd

When biographer/historian Peter Ackroyd turns his hand to something, you listen. In this volume he translates Chaucer’s fourteenth century work into something we can more easily understand. The General Prologue introduces us to a disparate group of the faithful, heading to Canterbury for religious observances. They are persuaded to entertain each other on the way by telling stories, and tell them they do. Chaucer, who has been considered the first novelist in the English tongue, takes a great number of English ‘types’ (knight, miller, cook, friar, merchant, pardoner etc) and puts the kind of stories into their mouths that show us, with wry wit, what manner of human being they are. The Friar, for instance, “knew the taverns in every town, as well as every landlord and barmaid: certainly he spent more time with them than with lepers or beggar-women. Who could blame him? To consort with the poorer sort would not be honourable. It would not be respectable.” His favourite clients were those who said “Bless me, father, for I have sinned and I have a large purse.”  Chaucer’s irony is everywhere, and Peter Ackroyd knows just how to illuminate it for us. I wonder how much we human beings have changed in 600 years?

We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt

Do you want to read a novel about a beautiful little boy who, out of the blue, is diagnosed with a brain cancer, and whose loving parents suffer to the nth degree? Of course you don’t, life’s too short, right? But, read a few pages and I defy you not to finish this debut novel. Allnutt finds that sweet spot between innocence and experience, to borrow William Blake’s terminology. With authenticity in spades.


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What Library Staff are Reading – July

photo Flickr/Wystan

The keeper of lost things  by Ruth Hogan – I am only half way through but it is a lovely easy reading, feel good story so far.  3/5 stars

The Magpie murders  by Anthony Horowitz – (eAudio on RB Digital)  Great narrators, and a great cosy crime 5/5 stars

The rúin by Dervla McTiernan  –  Detective fiction, set in Galway. The author is a Galway born lawyer who now lives in Australia. A brilliant first novel from an author to watch. 5/5 stars.

A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman – I wanted to read this novel after reading one of Backman’s other novels ‘Britt-Marie was here’ (which I loved).  A man called Ove is written in the same spare Swedish style, and the character of Ove is strikingly familiar, and believable.  As you get to know Ove, and the other cast of characters, you come to see through his grumpy and austere façade, and in the end hold him in affection.  A thoughtful and worthwhile read that explores deep issues with a light and humorous touch.  4.5/5

The Death of Stalin by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin – I read this graphic novel because I’ve heard a bit about the film on podcasts and the radio and wanted to read it before I see the film.  It’s darkly comic and covers exactly what the title says it will – the couple of days around the death of Stalin and the machinations of the men around him.  4/5 stars

It’s all relative: adventures up and down the world’s family tree by A J Jacobs – this is about genealogy from one man’s perspective as, intrigued by the whole genealogy craze, he tries to arrange the world’s biggest family gathering in order to break the Guinness World Record. Simultaneously humorous and informative. 4/5 stars

Two steps forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist – a novel about two people travelling the Camino de Santiago. They are travelling separately but their paths converge – it’s about relationships, misunderstandings and quests.  It was predictable but enjoyable.  This was a book group choice and, not having enjoyed the Rosie stories I wasn’t looking forward to it.  I subsequently watched the film (not of this book), The Way, directed by Emilio Estevez which I thoroughly enjoyed. Had I attended the book group meeting, I may have been the strongest advocate for the book. Apparently it only scored 0.7 out of 5 – our lowest score in 14 years. 3/5 stars for the book.

I also re-read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  Tudor England is one of my happy places and I love the first two of Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy.  She is really slow at getting the last one out, distracted it seems by the success of the first two – both having won the Man Booker Prize – and her involvement in screen and stage adaptations.  5/5 stars

The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka – This sci-fi novel starts with a tantalising exploration of the double-slit experiment, a mind blowing demonstration of quantum physics where light  acts as a wave until caught in the act, when it hastily becomes a particle for the audience. Spooky.  This book had me spending a bit too much time on Google at first, initially trying to make sense of the science, and then trying to work out if the premise was legit. I had to remind myself that it was a novel, and not a scientific paper, and I left it at that. The protagonist, a physicist with a problematic past, discovers that the double-slit experiment can be used to detect sentience, or the soul. This first half of the book had me engaged, but the second half, which was more of a thriller, completely went off the rails, with unexplained characters, events and an endless stream of good luck that enabled our much put upon scientist to survive. 3.5/5 for the first bit, 1.5/5 for the rest of the book and the dénouement. Can I use a quantum eraser to unread the book?

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – Don’t expect much else from me for a while – at 1330 pages of small font I am going to be at this for a while, but how can I tick off all of those 100 best ever books lists until I have conquered this one? No score as yet, as I am only about 50 pages in.


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


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Librarians’ Choice – July

1. A Month of Sundays by Liz Byrski

For over ten years, Ros, Adele, Judy and Simone have been in an online book club, but they have never met face to face. Until now… Determined to enjoy her imminent retirement, Adele invites her fellow bibliophiles to help her house-sit in the BlueMountains. It’s a tantalising opportunity to spend a month walking in the fresh air, napping by the fire and, of course, reading and talking about books. But these aren’t just any books: each member has been asked to choose a book which will teach the others more about her. And with each woman facing a crossroads in her life, it turns out there’s a lot for them to learn, not just about their fellow book-clubbers, but also about themselves. A Month of Sundays reminds us of the joy, the comfort and the occasional challenge we can find in the pages of a book.

2. The Other Wife by Michael Robotham

3. Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

4. The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

5. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

6. The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart

7. Second Sight by Aoife Clifford

8. Pretend I’m Dead by Jen Beagin

9. The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell

10. Return To Roseglen by Helene Young

source: Librarian’s Choice



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Golden Man Booker Prize Winner

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje has won the Golden Man Booker Prize.

This special one-off prize was chosen by the public to celebrate 50 years of the Booker prize. All previous winners were considered by a panel of five specially appointed judges, each of whom was asked to read the winning novels from one decade of the prize’s history. They selected a shortlist, which were then subject to a public vote.

Review of The English Patient From Publisher’s Weekly Review

A poet’s sensitive, deep-seeing eye, a fluid, sensuous prose and imaginative juxtapositions of characters and events distinguish Canadian author Ondaatje’s impressive novels ( Coming Through Slaughter ; In the Skin of a Lion ; etc.). Here again he brings together disparate characters whose lives intersect at a crucial moment in history, and introduces real-life figures who add dimension and credibility to the story. The four people who take shelter in an abandoned villa in Italy during the final days of WW II are in retreat from a world gone mad; each of them is bent on protecting painful memories and pondering irreplaceable losses. The mysterious “English patient” has been horribly burned while parachuting into the Libyan desert; his face unrecognizable and his identity unknown, he gradually reveals his tragic story through the prompting of David Caravaggio, a professional thief and former spy whose hands and spirit have been maimed by Nazi torturers. Caravaggio has come to the villa in search of Hana, a woman who is nursing the burned man, whom Caravaggio has known since her childhood in Toronto. Close to emotional breakdown herself, dry-souled Hana is nourished by her love for Kip, a Singh demolitions expert whose perilous craft reflects the fragility of all their lives. Each is “playing a game of secrets,” which Ondaatje reveals in a suspenseful narrative whose gripping scenes (a desert sandstorm; the defusing of live bombs) call to mind the sudden brilliance of subjects illuminated by Caravaggio’s artist namesake, to whose work Ondaatje elliptically refers. If the events of the novel’s closing pages seem forced, they underscore Ondaatje’s message about the lingering effects of war’s brutality.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

This beautifully written book will stay with you long after reading, and surely deserved its nomination, if not the top prize.

Borrow a copy of the book, eBook or DVD of the acclaimed movie from Blue Mountains Library.

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