What Library Staff are Reading – December 2014

  • I read The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry and loved it. This book is captivating for its Irish style of talking (the two main characters keep diaries) and the story is heartbreaking but potted with moments of happiness and the balance works out in the end in favour of human connection and beauty. I give this 5/5.
  • I am now reading another novel of Sebastian Barry’s, On Canaan’s Side: a novel. Again I love the style of the language, the voice of an Irish woman ‘exiled’ to America, but I have not become so engrossed in the plot. However, I am only halfway through.
  • I also read Dark Emu : black seeds agriculture or accident? by Bruce Pascoe. I want everyone to read this book. It enlarged my understanding of the culture and lifestyles of Aboriginal people at the time of early European settlement and exploration, particularly the agricultural and fishing practices. Early records are revealing of so much descriptive material that did not see the light when I was at school and in tertiary education. The picture of thinly spread wandering nomads needs to go. I was startled at how populated certain areas of Australia were, with substantial villages, of several thousand people, and how organized the food production was. Scored 5/5
  • The Martian by Andy Weir – a fast-paced sci-fi thriller full of the type of science facts that I would normally think make a book an instant put-down but this one was so amazing that I couldn’t. An astronaut is accidentally left on Mars by his colleagues. He has to use all his ingenuity to survive and make a long overland trek to a space capsule that could reunite him with a rescue crew. I couldn’t help feeling that the author has left if open for a sequel which would be a good thing in my view. Even if this is not your usual thing, give it a try!
  • Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood, a fictional narrative written from the perspective of the four wives of Ernest Hemingway. The ‘voice’ of each wife is distinctly different but equally poignant and full of insight. I really enjoyed this book.
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. What everyone says about it: moving, intense, sad, a great story, beautifully written. I loved it.
  • Springtime – a ghost story, by Michelle de Kretser. I read this little story in one sitting, then went back to the beginning and started again. Mysteries are set up, which you want to resolve but are not sure you have, by the end. It begins with 28-year-old Frances walking her dog Rod in the inner west of Sydney. Rod, a “hefty, muscled bruiser from the RSPCA”, was afraid of everything, even the tiniest dogs. One day they see a white bull terrier in an overgrown garden, and, further in, a woman “in a wide hat and trailing pink dress.” The story develops from there. Now read it yourself, and work out what is going on.
  • The Secret River, by Kate Grenville. I’m re-reading this for Book Club: and being struck all over again by Grenville’s fresh and convincing prose, her characters about whom we care so much, and in so short a time. She has brought this period (early 1800s) so vividly to life, from the filthy, dangerous world of a Thames lighterman to the just-planted English colony at Port Jackson. Soon the Aboriginal inhabitants of this country will thread their way into the story, and the result will not be pretty. One of the best books I’ve ever read.
  • The Girl who Couldn’t Read, by John Harding. I’m listening to this on Talking Book. The first-person narrator is proving to be a tricky customer, whose web of deceits becomes more complex by the day. Very compelling, and oddly nerve-wracking, to live inside the head of such a person. Troubling, even. This is powerful writing.
  • The Signature of all Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is one of those broad-canvas works covering many years. Alma Whittaker is born in Philadelphia in 1800, to parents who raise her to be an independent thinker with a thirst for knowledge. Great story, and rich, subtle characterisation.
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – I was looking forward to reading this book and it did not disappoint.
  • I was delighted to receive the next book as  birthday present so I didn’t have to wait to get the next part of the story! The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion.  I actually did not enjoy this as much as the first book – it became a chore to read.  I didn’t like Rosie and the character did not ring true as she appeared to change so much from the first book – but maybe that was the hormones (you will have to read the book to see what I am talking about).  Still good to read so you can say you have.  And the last few chapters make the story worthwhile.
  • The Women in Black by Madeleine St John – What a wonderful step back in time in Australian history – based in 1950s Sydney, I loved the snapshot of Australian life and the characters were really likeable.
  • The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide – I was nervous about reading this – why would I want to read a book about a woman dying?  But it was so much more than that.  Multi-layered, great characters and a good storyline.  Worth it and I was happy with where the story ended.
  • Kristen Britain Mirror sight. – 6th in a series titled Green Rider. Fantasy fiction and riveting. Score 4.
  • Arnuldur Indridason:  Reykjavik nights, Strange shores and Black skies – all set in and around Reykjavik, all murder mysteries and I find that I can’t put them down, very readable. Score 3 for each of them, only because when I gave them to my husband to read he couldn’t get on with them.
  • The Last Refuge by Craig Robertson – a mystery/thriller set on the Faroe Islands which is what piqued my interest after Carolyn wrote a review for it for the blog.  It took me quite a while to read this book – not because it was difficult or boring, quite the contrary – but because I kept looking up the location in Google Earth and Google images. And the Faroe Islands are stunning, quite the most wonderful looking place I think I have ever seen. I gave the book 3.5/5
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote – read it for the second time in just a few months for book group. I enjoyed it both times. In the group though we agreed it was very difficult to read the book without seeing the film in your head and, as there were many changes to the latter because of the censorship of the time (1961), some things jarred. I gave it a score of 3/5
  • At the moment I am reading The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow by Sandy MacKinnon – I read this because I heard Sandy interviewed on ABC Radio by Richard Fidler  and with my other book group had just finished reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and not only the title reminded me of Harold. Sandy was teaching at an English public school for 6 years. When he left he decided he didn’t want to just leave by car or bus; he’d found a little sailing dingy and decided to leave by river expecting just to do a night or two / 50 miles or so, down the river to Bristol. The journey he takes ends up in the Black Sea. At the spot I’m at in the book Sandy is in London and thinks he has solved Fermat’s Last Theorem and is up for the million pound prize!  It’s a lot of fun but again I’m going slower than I should because, again, I’m travelling through every lock and weir via Google Earth. Score 4.5/5
  • I’ve been listening to Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. I’ve loved this book for a long long time and Bryson’s narration is just perfect. Score 5/5


So looking forward, what have you got on your TBR (To Be Read) Pile for over the summer?

Some of us are looking forward to chillaxing with :

  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • The Crow Road by Iain Banks
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – the downside of being in a book group!
  • We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  • Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
  • First Impressions, by Charlie Lovett
  • Window Gods, by Sally Morrison
  • What Days are For, by Robert Dessaix.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.