What Library Staff are Reading – December 2015

christmas 2015

Here is our last What Library Staff are Reading for 2015.  Thank you to all staff who have participated this year.

Merry Christmas to all Blue Mountains residents and, for those who are having one, Happy Holidays – may the days be long and relaxed.

The little Paris bookshop by Nina George.  Lovely story – 4/5

The peculiar life of a lonely postman – by Denis Theriault – didn’t see the ending coming – enjoyable reading – 4/5

The princess bride: S. Morgenstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure-the ‘good parts’ version, abridged by William Goldman – “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Anyone who loved the film will at least like the book. They are remarkably similar, which isn’t surprising since the author was a screenwriter, and wrote the script for the film. The introduction is hilariously un-PC and rude towards his not quite accurately depicted family. definitely grounds for a divorce if he meant it.

The heart goes last by Margaret Atwood – always nice to get a feminist take on our seemingly inevitable dystopian future.

Australia Under Surveillance: How Should We Act? – Frank Moorehouse (A book that scares you) – I don’t enjoy scary films or books so I read a book about ASIO. The power and secrecy they have scares me. 5/5

Surveillance – Bernard Keane (A book with a love triangle) – I enjoy Bernard’s journalism so I thought I would check out his book which is about ASIO, hacking, politics and the links between private companies and government. All of those things were not a bad story… but the sex scenes and dirty talk were terrible. Mostly unnecessary and the female characters were very one dimensional. Many other reviews at Goodreads thought so also, so I hope he takes this on board as he has the potential to write some really great techno thrillers. 2/5

How Music Got Free: What happens when an entire generation commits the same crime? – Stephen Richard Witt – Fantastic book that follows three threads that all play a part in the rise of digital music and pirating. It follows the team of German scientists that invented the MP3 technology, one of the most successful record executives ever and a guy who leaked the most pre-release music CDs to the internet. The author was about my age and he also wrote some of it from his perspective of experiencing all this as it happened which I could relate to. Highly recommended. 5/5

Seveneves – Neal Stephenson (A book with more than 500 pages) – One of my favourite authors. This book did not disappoint. I loved it that two thirds of the way through the book it just states “One thousand years later”, I don’t know if many authors could pull that off but Stephenson does it flawlessly. 5/5

Zombie Apocalypse! Endgame (Zombie Apocalypse! #3)

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain – Oliver Sacks

Graphic Novels

The Walking Dead, Vol. 23 & 24 – Robert Kirkman 5/5

The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks – Alan Moore 3/5

Saga, Volume 4 & 5 – Brian K Vaughan 5/5

OINK – John Mueller 4/5

Batman, Vol. 5: Zero Year – Dark City

Batman, Vol. 4: Zero Year – Secret City

Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls

Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth

Batman and Robin, Vol. 1: Born to Kill

Batwoman, Vol. 1: Hydrology

Detective Comics, Vol. 1: Faces of Death

Catwoman, Vol. 1: The Game

Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin

Kick-Ass 3 – Mark Millar and John Romita – I’d heard of the movies but didn’t realise it had been based on a graphic novel! If you loved the movies then you will definitely like the graphic novel series. This was the last volume in the series and it was basically more of the same; OTT violence and gore, foul mouthed 11 year olds and mafia men. I was sad it was the last one but felt it tied up the story well. 4/5

Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others – Robert Trivas – Written by an evolutionary biologist the book looks at how and why we deceive ourselves and others. I was mostly interested in the idea of how we unknowingly deceive ourselves in order to survive. The author gives interesting case studies and examples such as how self-deception has led to numerous aviation and space disasters or how 65% of people think they are better looking than they actually are! Though being interesting, I couldn’t finish it.  The books arguments felt disjointed and the author would make sweeping statements and then follow it up with 2 sentences of evidence. That, and using his own personal (sometimes inappropriate) behaviour as an example was off-putting. 2/5

Legion and Legion: Skin Deep – Brandon Sanderson – I was thrilled when the library got in two new books by my favourite author!! I had been planning to read these for a while. Both are novella’s so I was able to finish them in one sitting. The books follow Stephen Leads AKA ‘Legion’ who has a unique mental condition which allows him to generate multiple personalities; hallucinations all with highly specialised skills to solve bizarre cases. If you’re looking for a twist on the classic detective story or like Sherlock Holmes you’ll probably enjoy these books. 4/5

Chew, Volume 1 : Tasters Choice John Layman – In this graphic novel the main character has ‘cytopathic’ powers, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It’s basically about a detective who eats murder victims to track down their killers. I made the mistake of reading this one over lunch!  Both the story line and the art didn’t appeal to me in this one. I don’t think I’ll try the second volume. 3/5

Elantris – Brandon Sanderson – This was the first audio book I had listened to since listening to the ‘Muddle Headed Wombat’ in the car when I was a child. I absolutely loved the story and the narration. Brandon Sanderson is a master at writing about ‘believable’ magic systems (if that’s such a thing) and sneaking in killer plot twists. Really enjoyed this one. 5/5

Nimona – Noelle Stevenson – I’d seen some good reviews on Goodreads about this one and a few pages in I realised this book was targeted at teenage girls…. but kept reading anyway and actually didn’t mind it. It’s a great light hearted read. Later I found out this was originally a popular web comic which had been compiled into a book. 3/5

Slaine: The Horned God – Pat Mills – A colleague recommended this one to me. Knowing he had excellent taste in graphic novels I borrowed it immediately! It is an epic Celtic tale about a Slaine the warrior King who seeks out heroic weapons and battles the powers of darkness to save his people. It’s worth borrowing this book for art work alone! 4/5

A Place for Us by Harriet Evans – it had all the makings of a good character-based saga except I hated all the characters!  Nasty and self-centred, I did not want to spend time with them.  This book reminded me of how shallow and mean families can be to one another. 2 stars.

The Blood Countess by Tara Moss – if you love a good supernatural novel with a New York backdrop, this book is for you.  I want to move to the fictitious suburb of Spectre now!! 4 Stars 

The Spider Goddess by Tara Moss – The next book in the Pandora series – I am hooked and will have to read all of them….4 stars

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling – really hard to get into.  I really want to like it so persevered and finally am now enjoying it – but took more than 200 pages into it to be able to say that J. . .  3 stars

The Lost Daughter, by Elena Ferrante. Leda, having raised two daughters and divorced her husband, leaves her work-life behind and takes a holiday on Italy’s Ionian coast. She spends her days at the beach. There, she becomes involved with a Neapolitan family. What follows throws into sharp relief the way she has lived her life. Ferrante writes with ferocious honesty.

Island Home, by Tim Winton. I see Tim Winton becoming an Elder, someone who has the ability to stand outside our human maelstrom and see it truly. This set of essays explores Country, both in the South-Western corner of Australia where he has spent most of his time, and further north into the Kimberley, and further east across the Nullarbor. The last essay is for the First People, with good reason. It is they who understand the gift of country, a gift many of us have ignored and undervalued. I hope that is becoming less the case.

Flesh Wounds, by Richard Glover. I listened to this riveting memoir on Talking Book. You will know Richard Glover from ABC Radio. A terrific piece of work, interesting to the end, and spiced always by Glover’s wit – though his parents were a nightmare.

Last Chance Café, by Liz Byrski. Another entertaining and thoughtful Byrski novel whose characters are older, and have experienced life. I enjoy her work for that reason.

I am reading Christians, Muslims, and Jesus by Mona Siddiqui. I have found it to be a respectful and leisurely comparison of theological viewpoints from Muslim and Christian faith perspectives through history. There is no commentary on current issues, nor on issues of peaceful coexistence or conflict through history, simply a comparison of viewpoints, citing respected voices from both faith traditions. However the author demonstrates a thoughtful and empathetic understanding of both Islam and Christianity and in the last chapter speaks of how exploring the differing Christologies deepened her own Muslim faith journey.  3/5

A book I read with glee each night was Gulp : adventures on the alimentary canal  by Mary Roach. Every chapter was fascinating, and rather humorous. 5/5

Two books that expanded my mind, from the children’s picture book collection, are The Complete Guide to a Dog’s Best Friend by Felicity Gardner and David West and York’s Universe by Heidi Goh, 5/5 and 4/5.

A book from the Young Adult collection that I found very moving is Woolvs in the Sitee by Margaret Wild and Anne Spudvilas. It is a short read, brilliantly written, and in reading it I entered into the mind of another. 5/5

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett (3.5 / 5) – The final discworld novel. This is the last book in the Tiffany Aching series too. I enjoyed it for sentimentality reasons and even though this wasn’t up to Pratchett’s usual superb standard, it was still enjoyable and I love the characters.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (3 / 5) – A young adult fantasy love story about faeries. A little too gory and soppy for me. I did like that the faeries were nasty, as they should be. Sarah J. Maas wrote the much acclaimed Throne of Glass series.

The Vanishing of Billy Buckle by Sally Gardner (3.5 / 5) – The fourth instalment in the Wings and Co. series.  A jolly fine case of a vanishing giant for the fairy detective agency to solve.

Fangirl: a novel by Rainbow Rowell (3.5 / 5) – This was actually quite fun and I liked that there was a novel within a novel. Cath and Wren are identical twins who have just finished high school and are about to start college in a new town. This book is about their experiences – love, college life, and family issues (as well as fanfiction).

Clarice Bean spells trouble (3 / 5) by Lauren Child. I enjoyed this, but not as much as I enjoyed Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola series.

The trouble with Beezus and Ramona and The unstoppable Ramona and Beezus by Beverley Cleary (3.5 / 5) – I loved these books when I was little and it was great to go back and revisit them. Ramona Quimby is a great character!

Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ by Giulia Enders (4.5 / 5) – This was an excellent book about the gut and how important it is to maintain good gut health. It even tells you how to sit on the toilet properly! Fascinating.

Emergency: real stories from Australia’s Emergency Department Doctors by Simon Judkins (3 / 5) – Amazing what Emergency staff have to deal with and the situations that they can find themselves in. I had a few tears in my eyes reading this book.

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: the truth about OCD by David Adam (4 / 5) – Thoroughly fascinating. An inside into what it is like to live with OCD.

One life: my mother’s story by Kate Grenville (3 / 5) – I enjoyed reading the story of Kate Grenville’s mother. What a strong woman!

I finished off the Insurrection trilogy about Robert the Bruce with Renegade and Kingdom both scoring 4/5 each.  The series ticked off my history, Scottish history, character and plot boxes nicely.

For the 2015 Reading Challenge ‘A book that came out the year you were born’ category I read Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak – 4/5

My favourite Scottish crime writer, Ian Rankin, brought the protagonists of his two series together in Even Dogs in the Wild – 4.5/5

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks was slightly disappointing, not sure why. Perhaps it was the misogyny and violence as a colleague pointed out last month?  3.5/5

For ‘A book written by an author with your same initials’ I read Missing You by Harlen Coben, a competent enough thriller but I’ve forgotten the plot already – 3.5/5

For book group I’ve just had to read The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton.  Even the author must’ve got bored with this one because the resolution took all of 5 pages at the last! – 2/5

Now I’m reading Fashion Victims: the Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David as my at-work, lunch-time read.  We all know about internal organ crushing corsetry, mercury in hats, arsenical greens and lead-based complexion potions in days gone by but did you realise danger is still all around the fashionista?  Today platform soles inhibit the ability to brake a car within safe limits, botox and plastic surgery present obvious danger and did you know that lipsticks can still contain lead? Because it is a ‘contaminant’ not an ingredient, lead is not listed on lipstick labels – a 2011 study by the US FDA found lead in all 400 of the lipsticks tested! (p.24) Sobering reading indeed.

And I’m a few pages into Elvis Costello’s biography, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink which I think I will put on the Reading Challenge List under ‘A book based entirely on its cover.’ It’s got way more pages than I usually like but I’ll see how I go.

And I listened to Magda Szubanski reading her autobiography, Reckoning. First on CD in the car and then on my iPad using the Bolinda app trial we’ve had. Wonderful stuff.

How are you going with the 2015 Reading Challenge by the way?  I’ve only got half a dozen to go I think – unless we are allowed to pop books under more than one category – HC

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