A rather large list this month! Enjoy!
When Hitler stole pink rabbit by Judith Kerr (4/5) – This was recommended by one of my colleagues and I really enjoyed it. An autobiographical tale of Judith Kerr’s escape from Nazi Germany.
A grief observed by C.S. Lewis (3/5) – I enjoyed reading parts of this book and it was heartfelt. For me, there was too much religious reference, but I appreciate and respect that the death of his wife made him question his faith.
Stuffocation: living more with less by James Wallman (4/5) – Preaching to the converted with this one!
Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville (4/5) – This is the sequel to The secret river. A wonderful writer and an interesting tale, showcasing the bravery and passion of the female protagonist and the hardship of life in colonial Australia.
Blueback by Tim Winton (4/5) – A lovely tale of a boy, his friendship with a fish and his love of the sea and country where he grew up.
Robe of skulls by Vivian French (4/5) – A fantastic book and the first in the Tales from the five kingdoms series. Wonderful characters and a nice little adventure.
The 9 lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemel Marciano (4/5) – A cautionary tale, macabre and very enjoyable.
Murder most unladylike and Arsenic for tea by Robin Stevens (4.5/5) – These were wonderful! Daisy and Hazel start a schoolgirl detective society to investigate the murders that occur at their boarding school and Daisy’s family home.
Run, Pip, run by J.C. Jones (3/5)
Darth Vader and Son by Jeffery Brown (3.5/5) – Very funny and if you like Star Wars, you should check this out.
Operation Bunny by Sally Gardner (4/5) – Emily Vole is adopted, but her new parents are mean and cruel. She befriends her neighbour, Mrs String and her cat called Fidget. Mrs String unfortunately dies and leaves Emily a mysterious inheritance of an old shop and a bunch of small golden keys. A great little detective story.
Nanny Piggins and the race to power by R.A. Spratt (4/5) – Another wonderful and giggle-some Nanny Piggins story.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 5/5
A great new science fiction author, I really enjoyed this book. If you watch or read a lot of scifi particularly Star Trek you would be aware of the cliché of having a character that is obsessed with 20th/21st Century pop culture. This book takes the cliché and builds the whole plot around it, and does it well. I imagine the author is about my age or a bit older because there were lots of references to 80s video games and music and films. Almost the whole bopok takes place inside a virtual world. Highly recommended.
Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of US by Matt Fitzgerald 4/5
Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone to Tell All by Philip Houston 5/5
Ascendance by John Birmingham 3/3
The final book in a trilogy. Not enjoying this series anywhere near as much as his previous ones. There are going to be more apparently and I am really not into this world at all.
The Mongoliad Book Three – Neal Stephensen et al. 3/3 A long drawn out ending to a trilogy. I think I enjoyed it but I was glad when it was over.
The peripheral – William Gibson 5/5
Great near future science fiction from Gibson. I thought all the themes he had in it were very well
Dust – Hugh Howey 5/5
Loved the whole trilogy, great finale.
For the reading challenge – a trilogy – Small World and Nice Work by David Lodge numbers 2 & 3 of the Small World trilogy – academic life in the 70s and 80s. Mildly humorous but not as funny as I expected – 3.5/5
A book with bad reviews! Go set a watchman – Harper Lee – not a patch on Mockingbird. Large sections of boring with snatches of lovely 3/5
A funny book – Mrs Harris goes to Paris and Mrs Harris goes to New York by Paul Gallico – saw this on a visit to Lawson Library and, as I will be visiting Paris in October, thought, “I’ll give that a go.” Charming stories about Char lady Mrs Harris who wins over all she meets. 4/5
Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale – set in the Blue Mountains and loosely based on Mark Foy and the Hydro Majestic this kept me turning the pages. It has some nice plot twists -there’s me thinking I knew what was coming . . . I look forward to him appearing at Katoomba Library later in the year – 4/5
The Port Fairy Murders by Robert Gott. A sequel to the Holiday Murders which I haven’t yet read, fine as a stand alone story. Detective and mystery set in 1940s Victoria 4/5
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. A book group read. Oh dear, not enjoyed by many in the group but by gum the discussion was lively! 2.5/5
A book with nonhuman characters – H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald – a memoir of a year or more following her father’s death when Helen Macdonald retreated from the world and took on a goshawk called Mabel to train. (Mabel is the nonhuman character for the purposes of the reading challenge). Interspersed with Helen’s story is that of TH White who wrote, among other things, The Sword in the Stone. I just couldn’t feel any sympathy for Helen I’m afraid and got completely bored and irritated by her unrelenting grief and I found TH White’s story much more interesting. This was a book group read and I was in a definite minority, in fact I was the only one who didn’t like it. 2/5 for me but the group scored it 3/5 (without my low score that would have been higher).
The Road to Character, by David Brooks. In this study of the development of human character, Brooks draws a distinction between the résume virtues and the eulogy virtues. Resumes proclaim the skills we bring to an external market; whereas eulogy virtues are the deeper qualities talked about at your funeral – kindness, courage, honesty and so on (or not). The book examines the lives of a number of well-known people, to see how their characters developed. Brooks feels that modern parenting encourages a child to think too well of himself, that egoism is the reigning philosophy. He thinks that is counterproductive. I guess we’ll have to watch that generation move through to see if he’s right.
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is a book about the creative life, a subject dear to my heart. Gilbert is chatty, confiding, sensible, encouraging. Every now and then an over-developed egoism (qv above) leaps off the page to annoy me, but in general I’ve enjoyed this one, as I have her Eat Pray Love and The Signature of all Things. There is a forthright honesty and courage that appeals.
Our Tragic Universe, by Scarlett Thomas. Having trouble sleeping? The pills don’t work? Here’s your solution: a story on Talking Book that strangles itself with so much really quite boring detail that it brings on instant fatigue, or a desire to throw the CD player out the window. Talk about irritating. Self-conscious navel-gazing, pseudo-science. The title is the best thing about it. But hey – live and let live.
Six Bedrooms, by Tegan Bennett Daylight. This is a collection of short stories by a writer whose fearless honesty I have always admired. She shines a spotlight, with no sentimentality, on the process of growing up, and the small betrayals and acts of shame that accompany us on that journey.
Can’t we talk about something more pleasant? By Roz Chast. This is a gritty memoir in graphic-novel format, about the ageing and death of Chast’s parents. I note she waited till they were dead to say the things she wanted to say about them. Wise move. This is quite a compelling read.
Dear Leader, by Jinsung Jang. A country where the year is 104 not 2015; where a trip to the hairdresser can only end in one of 28 approved haircuts; where owning a pair of jeans could land you in gaol; where the government kidnapped a famous South Korean director and actress to make propaganda films; and which is simply a black patch of earth when seen from space at night. North Korea is equal parts fascinating and terrifying. Dear Leader offers a rare insight into a country which is usually opaque and mystifying. The narrative effortlessly interweaves the author’s personal story with the internal politics of North Korea. Living and working under the rule of Kim Jong-il’s regime Jang Jin-sung proves a loyal citizen, penning a nationally renowned poem and becoming one of ‘The Admitted’ (a title given to those who have met the ‘Dear Leader’). Through a series of events Jang Jin-sung begins to see the true nature of the regime and decides to flee across the border into China, eventually finding his way to South Korea. The book paints a disturbing picture of a calculating and manipulative leader and a people living in desperation under brutal control. Although the leader has since changed there is little evidence that much else has for North Koreans. 3.5/5
Nothing to Envy, by Barbara Demick is another must-read book about North Korea that follows the lives of six citizens living through the death of Kim Il-sung and the rise of Kim Jong-il. Both books (Dear Leader & Nothing to envy) are fascinating and personal glimpses into a country shrouded in mystery. 3.5/5