What Library Staff are Reading – February 2014

library lovers day 2014

  • I’ve been enjoying the dogs eye view of the Chet and Bernie series of detective stories by Spencer Quinn. It is real holiday fare with some fun observations about the relationships between humans and dogs, the ways that dogs might be understanding what goes on, and the failings of humans, especially in the nose and ear department.
  • I picked up the Grimstone series by Asphyxia to see if I might give them to my nieces for gifts and thoroughly enjoyed their whimsical world and the artistry with which they are put together.
  • A lovely YA book called Wonder by RJ Palacio was recommended to me and I did enjoy reading about a young boy with a facial disfigurement encountering school for the first time. The young peoples voices were great and the situations pretty realistic, and uplifting.
  • I also decided to give The Hunger Games a try as it is so popular. I was expecting it to be all about young people having to murder each other, but it was only half about that so I was pleasantly surprised. The world that is set up is an interesting one and some aspects of it are unfortunately chillingly believable.
  • Another bit of holiday reading was the Mara – Brehon of the Burren series by Cora Harrison. I am finding it quite fascinating as it brings to life the Brehon Laws of 16th century western Ireland and the lives that people may have been living. There are some comparisons with the viciousness of 16th century English laws and I must say that some of the Irish laws do sound preferable to the hanging of people who have stolen due to poverty and starvation for example.
  • And now back to some more serious reading with The Swan Book by Alexis Wright, I’ll let you know more when I’m done.
  • I’ve read Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites for book group – beautifully written.
  •  I’m currently engrossed in Edward Rutherford’s Paris.
  •  I’ve also started Khaled Husseini’s And the Mountains Echoed for book group, as with his other books I’m enjoying it.
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change by Charles Duhigg. A scientific approach to habits, how they are formed and how they are reprogrammed. Some great very interesting case studies, lots of data and concludes with some practical instruction.
  • Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind by V.S. Ramachandran. Another book about the strange workings of the brain. This is by a neuroscientist and he is studying phantom limb syndrome and other similar conditions. Sometimes feels like he is trying to be too much like a fiction author with elaborate descriptions setting the scene of meetings, didn’t become too  annoying though and I enjoyed the book. He isn’t afraid to propose theories that other neuroscientists shun and that’s probably why it is so interesting. Many of his theories proved accurate and he has been able to create procedures that phantom limb patients can use to decrease or sometimes get rid of their pain.
  • This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death by Ryan North. The second book in the machine of deaths series. Early stories started slow but then I got into it with a story about a society that is trying to put to use people who die from cancer in an invincible army and a mad scientist that employs people based on their death predictions. Another great read like the first volume, I hope there will be more.
  • Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Volumes 7 – 10
  • I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan by Alan Partridge (with ‘help’ from Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Rob Gibbons and Neil Gibbons) – I loved this e-book autobiography of fictional character Alan Partridge, DJ of the North Nolfolk Digital Radio program, Mid Morning Matters. I could hear Alan’s voice in my head as I read, and I have to admit to laughing out loud a number of times. A must for Partridge fans!
  • Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty – the entertaining story of three sisters, triplets, and their quite volatile relationship. It’s a very funny and relaxed read.
  • The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty – a hypnotherapist is dating a wonderful new man, only to find out they are being stalked by his strange ex-girlfriend . . .
  • A History of Silence, by Lloyd Jones. His earlier novel, Mr Pip, makes it very clear that Jones is a writer of intense conviction, emotional depth and poetic sensibility. He brings those qualities to this memoir, in which he gradually uncovers what truly happened in the two generations of his family that preceded his. As in many another family, skeletons were jammed into closets in an effort to promote an image of respectability. He is horrified to discover the cruelty to which his grandmother Maud was exposed, and gives a sympathetic portrait of her, and the way she negotiated in order to survive.
  • The Roundabout Man, by Clare Morrall. Quinn is a middle-aged man living in a down-at-heel caravan in the middle of a roundabout. He is desperate for the world at large NOT to find out who he really is, and his connection to the very famous writer of a much-loved series of books – his mother. I was very impressed by this novel, eager to unravel it. There’s wisdom here, and authentic human beings trying to work things out.
  • The Chemistry of Tears, by Peter Carey. Well, he just gets better. He’s a great yarnspinner, with a combination, here, of wry social comedy and a Dickensian flair for drama and hyperbole. Catherine, the central character in this most recent novel, is a highly-skilled conservator, and has for years enjoyed a secret affair with her colleague, Matt. As the story opens, Matt is pronounced dead. Her world unravels. He was her universe. Then her boss gives her a special project, to help her recover: boxes of oddly-shaped pieces, and several diaries along with them. Pieces of what? Whose diaries? The story remains intriguing, as Catherine tries to understand what’s before her.
  • Wool by Hugh Howey – a novel set in a dystopian near future, where the air is poisonous and the remaining people live in a vast underground silo. The plot is teased out nicely, with the reader’s assumptions often overturned.
  • Shift by  Hugh Howey – a prequel to Wool, where the history of the silo is explained. I was initially dubious about going back in time for the second book, but it allows for a slower “reveal” of the world Howey has created.
  • You’ll be sorry when I’m dead by Marieke Hardy – a largely humorous autobiography of someone who hasn’t really been alive long enough to justify writing a book about themselves.
  • The wilderness garden : beyond organic gardening by Jackie French- it’s hard to have a wilderness when your garden is a desert, but I can continue to dream.
  • I’m reading RAFA by Rafael Nadal with John Carlin. It is one of the most fascinating autobiographies of one of the world’s most famous tennis players. Just learning about his strict coaching by his famous uncle Toni, to his diet and exercise regime’s, is truly mesmerising! Discipline-Discipline-Discipline is all that comes to mind. What makes a champion?, well this book does give you a few clues;  & how you see it from a champions mind.
  • Lessons in Heartbreak by Cathy Kelly – love a good saga and this is an author I had not read before – I now have a whole new author to read through – great plots and characters.  Highly recommended as holiday reading. http://www.cathykelly.com/
  • Gypsy Boy on the Run by Mikey Walsh – powerful insight into a section of community not well known.  Found it fascinating learning about expectations and pressures growing up in the gypsy community for boys and what happens if they are unable to conform to the norm.  http://gypsyboymikeywalsh.blogspot.com.au/p/on-run.html
  • The Night Guest by Fiona  McFarlane – This was given to me as a Christmas present and really not a book I would have picked up and read ordinarily – however, it is such a powerful insight into old age, the thought processes, loneliness of old age, people who prey on old age . . . I could go on.  The story really surprised me by slowly drawing me in until I had to keep reading until I found out what happened in the end!  The main character Ruth, deteriorates before your eyes.  Read if you have aging parents and you would like an small insight into their world.  http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/book-review-the-night-guest-by-fiona-mcfarlane-9052185.html
  • Perfect by Rachel Joyce  – A much more serious  story than her previous novel (The one hundred year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared)  with a twist towards the end which I was not expecting. I enjoyed it.
  • For book group I tried to read Kill Khalid by Australian journalist Paul McGeough. I tried really hard but I was overwhelmed by the history and politics of the middle east with the factional in-fighting, interference and side-changing by foreign governments and in the end all I could think of was Monty Python’s Life of Brian (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb_qHP7VaZE  . All this was not helped by a poorly formatted Kindle edition which had new paragraphs where there shouldn’t be and words running together all over the place. Before I bailed I tried reading just the first sentence in each paragraph, a tip a Library user had given me, but it did no good, I was driven nuts and gave up.
  • I had way more success with Pat Barker’s Regeneration which I have scored 5/5 on LibraryThing. Pat Barker and this book has been recently been the subject of the BBC’s World Book Club  http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/wbc/all ). This novel is set in the Craiglockart War Hosplital in Edinburgh where shell-shocked soldiers were sent for treatment by, among others one Dr William Rivers. Among the patients are WWI poets Siegfried Sassoon whose Finished with the war : A Soldier’s Declaration led to his being there and Wilfred Owen. This is the first in a trilogy and I will definitely be following the other two up.
  • Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall – another war story this one set in Poland during WWII and involving a woman trying to get to her Jewish husband.
  • I have also been reading 101 Poems Against War edited by Matthew Hollis and Paul Keegan. I’m not usually into poetry but I am thoroughly enjoying these anti-war poems which cover conflicts from earliest times and from all corners of the globe.
  • In the car I’m listening to Raw Spirit : In search of the perfect dram by the late Iain Banks. It’s all about whisky – not my tipple at all but I am thoroughly enjoying it.  Banks is very humourous and his digressions into the Scottish landscape, history, people and politics pad out the information on whisky making and whisky drinking.
  • Fun Home : a family tragicomic by Alison Bechdel – a graphic novel about Alison’s childhood in a funeral home which was overshadowed by the death, possibly by suicide, of Alison’s father.
  • After all that I’ve needed some cheering up and got that with To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Willis writes novels where historians in the 2050s are able to do action research by going back in time to their specialist period in history and there is much to do about not changing history incase there are unintended and disasterous consequences for the future. The trilogy I read a while back – Black Out, All Clear and Doomsday Book have been quite serious but To Say Nothing of the Dog was much more humorous and I enjoyed it immensely.
  • Next on the list is the Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay which I started and then left at work and then I started Regeneration so I am just getting back to it a week later.
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