What Library Staff are Reading – April 2014

The rain has kept us all indoors.  My colleagues have been busy too. A lot of good reading has been done this month it seems.

What have you had your nose in this month?

  • Did She Kill Him? A Victorian tale of deception, adultery and arsenic by Kate Colquhoun – an impulse buy when I saw the author’s name! I enjoyed it though; a narrative non-fiction account of a woman accused of poisoning her husband. If you liked The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, you’ll likely enjoy this one too.
  • The Lie by Helen Dunmore – my sick bed read. Daniel returns to his native Cornwall following The Great War.
  • A Second Wind : the true story that inspired the motion picture The Intouchables by Philippe Pozzo di Borgo – my favourite film of 2013
  • The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman – another post WWI read for book group. Set in WA this is a beautifully written novel.
  • Disobedience by Naomi Alderman – set in the Orthodox Jewish community in London the cat is set among the pigeons when the rabbi’s lesbian daughter returns for her father’s funeral.
  • One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson – a fun read set in Edinburgh – a crime seen from all sorts of angles.
  • Wee Macgregor Enlists by JJ Bell – Written (in broad Scots) in 1916; I downloaded this from the Library’s  Project Gutenberg list of books.
  • Just now I’m reading A Country Too Far : writings on asylum seekers edited by Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally – essays, poems and short stories from 27 of Australia’s finest wordsmiths.
  • And for some light relief from that 44 Scotland Street by Alexander Maccall Smith – not even MY mother is as bad as Irene, Bertie’s Mum!
  • Enduring Love by Ian McEwan- I avoided this because of the soppy title, but I was rewarded with a strange little tale which revolves around deciding who exactly has lost the plot- the protagonist or the bit players.
  • Reunion by Andrea Goldsmith- the most boring book I have ever finished. It took over six months, but I became strangely determined to see it out.
  • Lexicon by Max Barry- exciting from the first page.
  • Hotel Kerobokan by Kathryn Bonella  – Hotel Kerobokan is the ironic nickname for Kerobokan Jail, Bali’s most notorious prison, and home to a procession of the infamous and the tragic: the Bali bombers, Schapelle Corby and the Bali nine among many others.  Good insight into how the Bali and Indonesian Jail and judicial system work and puts a human element to those you have only read about in newspapers. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7380006-hotel-kerobokan
  • The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin. The wonderful next chapter in the Tales of the City series. Loved it.  But only for those familiar with the original series. http://armisteadmaupin.com/BooksDOAM.html
  • To My Best Friends by Sam Baker – a real tear jerker.  Loved that you could not help but put yourself somewhere in the scenario and imagine what you would do.  http://www.sambaker.co.uk/books
  • The Eve Continuum Book 1 by Storm JK.  Wonderful effort by new writer – lots of fun elements, supernatural, mystery, racy!  Also love that she is a local writer.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – this classic was my #reelread for the month – I wanted to read it before I watch the Baz Luhrmann film. Fitzgerald examines a privileged section of American society in the 1920s (including both ‘new money’ and ‘old money’), bursting with the energy of vacant excesses (wealth, parties, free-flowing alcohol, reckless behaviour), and holds it up to the light.
  • Zelda & Scott Fitzgerald : sometimes madness is wisdom by Kendall Taylor – a comprehensive biography, focusing mostly on Zelda’s life and her relationship with her famous author husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I learnt from this book that Scott took chunks of Zelda’s diaries, verbatim, and put them into his own stories.
  • The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (e-book).
  • Free-falling by Nicola Moriarty – Nicola’s first book is about grief and its impact on relationships; despite the emotionally-heavy subject matter it is an entertaining read from the younger sister of authors Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty.
  • Last Tango in Toulouse by Mary Moody (audio book) – following on from her first memoir, Au Revoir, this book charts Mary’s discontent with her seemingly perfect life, and how this discontent culminates in a romantic affair. Then there is the fall-out when she tells her husband and family what she has done. It is a very open and honest story, uncomfortably so at times.
  • The Philosopher’s Doll by Amanda Lohrey (audio book) – this book is well-written and I enjoyed the descriptive language very much.
  • A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snickett – I really enjoyed this tale about the Baudelaire children.
  • The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley – I love Chris Priestly. He is a wonderful creator of suspense and gothic horror. This ghostly tale did not disappoint.
  • Mister Creecher: A Novel in Three Parts by Chris Priestley – Written about the character of Frankenstein’s monster (I loved the original by Mary Shelley). This was an interesting take on the tale with a surprising ‘twist’ at the end.
  • Medical Firsts: From Hippocrates to the Human Genome by Robert E. Adler – I enjoyed reading about different medical breakthroughs and the people who were pioneers and made the discoveries.
  • The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart – This was my favourite book that I have read this month. It was refreshing to have a children’s character who is intelligent and not ‘just ordinary’. I liked that the children who are supposed to be friends in this book actually get along and seem to care for each other. The mystery to be solved is intriguing. I thought it was written beautifully and enjoyed the adventure so much that I am going to read the next books in the series (this one being the prequel), The Mysterious Benedict Society – I can’t wait!
  • Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop by Rupert Kingfisher
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  This book is not actually in our YA collection(it’s in Adult Fiction) but is a fantastic book for that age group. I loved it, it’s a retro love story with a gritty background story set in the 1980s. If you like John Green’s writing then you will enjoy this.
  • Big Brother by Lionel Shriver. If you like her writing and have the stamina for it (think We Need to Talk About Kevin; high school mass murder, So Much for That, terminal illness) then you will enjoy – if that’s the right word – this. It’s about obesity and our cultural love affair with food told through a moving and interesting story. An amazing and thought provoking read from the author as usual.
  • Summer Lies, by Bernhard Schlink – Here are seven stories exposing, as the book jacket says, “the many faces of love.” Schlink probes quietly the routes through which people connect with each other, then break away. The difficulty of commitment is a theme here. The last story, The Journey to the South, begins disturbingly in this way: The day she stopped loving her children was no different from other days. When she asked herself the next morning what had triggered the loss of love, she could find no answer. Maternal love is one of those sacred cows mostly unquestioned, but Schlink is fearless in examining this mother’s alienation, and the painful losses that led her there. This is a thoughtful, intelligent collection.
  • The Road to Middlemarch: my life with George Eliot, by Rebecca Mead – George Eliot’s Middlemarch being the book that, for me, sits at the apex of English literature, I was delighted to find that someone who’s equally smitten has written a leisurely, thoughtful account of Eliot’s unconventional life, musing on the ways in which Eliot’s work has informed Mead’s own life and attitudes. Mead goes to those places Eliot lived in or visited, and puts Eliot’s friends under the microscope to see which of them inspired characters in Middlemarch. Like the novel itself, this is a book I would like to visit more than once.
  • Mr Loverman, by Bernardine Evaristo – I’m listening to this entertaining story on Talking Book, narrated by the versatile James Goode, who is master of accents from the Caribbean to London to posh English boys’ school. Two refugees from Antigua live in material comfort in Hackney, while their marriage of many years spits and fizzes like ill-made fireworks. The hostilities escalate as Carmel suspects Barrington of carousing with other women; little does she know that her husband is actually gay, but firmly locked in the closet, and terrified to step out of it lest his life and relationships are destroyed. His boyfriend Morris has suggested that they, now in their seventies, should live together. Can Barrington tell the truth to Carmel after all this time? I’ll see how the story ends!
  • The Making of Us, by Lisa Jewell – Another Talking Book. A Frenchman, in his young and thoughtless days, becomes a sperm donor to raise some cash. Only when old and close to death does he realise he’d really like to meet the four children he knows resulted from that. Does he find them? You’ll have to read it and find out! Enjoyable storytelling.
  • Astronomy photographer of the year 2013 by Royal Observatory Greenwich – absolutely stunning photographs, even from the beginners and young photographers.
  • The Novel Cure: An A-Z of literary remedies by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin – reading truly is the answer to ever ailment, and this book proves it. My “to-read” list has grown enormously since reading this one. Might need to take some sick leave!
  • Sane new world: taming the mind by Ruby Wax – an honest, funny look at managing mental health issues with mindfulness (and other tips and techniques).
  • Blackboard blunders: spelling slip-ups and homework howlers by Richard Benson – literally laugh-out-loud funny, this book had my whole household in stitches as we took turns reading parts of this book out loud to one another.
  • Happier at home by Gretchen Rubin – really simple, constructive ideas on enjoying life more.
  • The prophet by Kahlil Gibran – a beautiful story full of wisdom.
  • And currently reading The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron and The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.
  • Nefertiti in the flak tower by Clive James – I really enjoyed this collection of poetry by Clive James.  Having watched his recent interview with Kerry O’Brien it was easy to engage with his thoughts, reflections and a certain preoccupation with ageing and loss. Other than the occasional classical illusion there is nothing fanciful about his writing and no paring down of the text to make it obscure to the reader, as is the case with so much poetry.  I loved his tribute to his wife’s scholarship, the image of what happened to the Nefertiti bust during the war and his ability to express the dichotomy of having lived his life in two places.  If you leave the writer and journalist renowned for his comedic barbs out of your equation when reading this volume you discover a man who just loves to write poetry – making no claim to any scholarship of his own.  A very engaging read.
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