Welcome back to WLSAR for 2016.
How about this crazy hot & dry/cold & wet weather? You know what though, whichever one is happening you have the perfect excuse to stay indoors with your nose in a book. The former makes it too onerous to be out and about and the latter too damp.
I hope you are feeling rested after the Christmas break, or is it a distant memory already? I spent a lot of my days off horizontal along the length of the couch. My sister gave my husband the first 3 series of Luther on DVD so my first 3 days break were spent watching Idris Elba (oh how I hope he does become the next James Bond!) – Elba is really good but everyone who knows Luther tends to say, “Isn’t Alice (played by Ruth Wilson) a great character?” Yes. She is.
The other days I read myself silly.
Here are the books Library staff have been enjoying over the last month:
- Soup’s Song: Mark O’Flynn. There’s more than a soupçon of word-play in the new collection of poems by this Blue Mountains writer. I’ve long admired the wit, humanity and glorious language he brings to all his work.
- The Natural Way of Things, by Charlotte Wood. Ten young women wake from a drugged state to find they have been kidnapped and dumped in a large enclosure surrounded by an electrified fence. Two men and a woman keep them subjected, filthy and starving, until they find ways to reclaim their strength and will. Only gradually do we understand why the women are held captive; the reasons are frightening, the mode bureaucratic, Kafka-esque. There is no easy redemption here. Wood’s prose has a visceral bite and a power that keeps you reading. You may view modern life differently once you have read it.
- The Simplest Words: a storyteller’s journey, by Alex Miller. This is a collection of essays, excerpts and reflections by an Australian writer I have honoured for many years, especially for his Journey to the Stone Country.
- The Secret Fate of Mary Watson, by Judy Johnson. 1879, Cooktown, far north Queensland. Definitely frontier country. Mary Watson, having no resources but her intelligence and taste for adventure, goes to do secret work on Lizard Island (even further north) as the wife of a redneck named Bob Watson. Great story, especially on Talking Book.
- Master of Shadows by Neil Oliver – the first novel from Scottish archaeologist & historian familiar from the Coast series, among others. Not unsurprisingly this is an historical novel. Set in Scotland and Turkey, based very loosely on actual events, but with an element of magic. Not my usual but not bad and I gave it 3 ½ out of five stars. And I was going to put it onto the 2016 Reading Challenge list under A book with a blue cover but have just spotted A book written by a celebrity and reckon this might be my only chance to tick off that category so I’ll save the blue cover for later.
- Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith – the latest in the Cormoran Strike series by JK Rowling under her crime writing pseudonym. PI Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robyn Ellacott are both likeable characters. A shade darker than the previous two books I thought, the villain more menacing. 4 stars and let’s pop it onto the 2016 Reading Challenge under A murder mystery.
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – set before and during WWII this beautifully written novel follows the parallel stories of blind French girl Marie-Laure, and German orphan boy Werner Pfennig. Although Marie-Laure doesn’t know it, she’s harbouring a priceless jewel which the sinister Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel is searching obsessively for. 5 stars and I shall tick off A book set in Europe with this one.
- Looking at my list (I record my reading in LibraryThing by the way) I’ve done a fair bit of war-time reading over the holidays. In WWI I’ve read Generals Die in Bed by Charles Harrison – similar to All Quiet on the Western Front. Harrison was an American who signed up to fight in the Canadian army and based this novel on his experiences in the trenches in France – 4 ½ stars – and In Pale Battalions by Robert Goddard 4 stars. And in WWII I read Wartime Lies by Louis Begby – a semi-autobiographical novel about a little Jewish Polish boy hiding in plain sight amongst the Christians with his Aunt (4 stars) and When the Children Came Home by Julie Summers which discusses the various experiences of child evacuees in WWII Britain and the long-lasting effects of those experiences on families (4 stars).
- Also with war as a backdrop is Spike Island: the Memory of a Military Hospital by Philip Hoare which is the history of the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, southern England which was built in 1856 and was used as a military hospital through the African wars, World Wars I and II and on through to its demolition in the late 1970s. The building was vast – on its completion it had, at a quarter of a mile long, the world’s longest façade – the US Army who used the building in WWII used to drive jeeps along the corridors to get from A to B. Even then WWI and WWII saw a vast array of temporary structures being built in the grounds to accommodate patients some of whom stayed for years.
- I also read Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave, a frank and beautiful account of his relationship with John Caleo which was made into a film last year by Neil Armfield. 4 stars and put under An autobiography for the Reading Challenge.
- Paving the New Road by Sulari Gentill – one of the Rowland Sinclair series set between the wars. This time Rowland and his pals are in Germany trying to head off the threat of fascism taking a strong hold in Australia. 3 ½ stars.
- The King is Dead by Susannah Lipscomb – Henry VIII, as we know, was a man who liked to get things his own way and thought he could still control what happened in England after his death via his will. Historian Susannah Lipscomb discusses the background to the will and shows how it took no time at all for most of it to be ignored or overturned.
- Mistresses: true stories of seduction, power and ambition by Leigh Eduardo – I found this a bit dull I’m afraid. 2 stars.
- Hester & Harriet by Hilary Spiers is one of those sweet, funny, quirky little stories the British do so well of two sisters who take in a homeless foreigner one Christmas. 4 stars
- For the A play category of the 2015 Reading Challenge I read the ‘Scottish Play’ (Macbeth) by William Shakespeare and have ticked off A book you haven’t read since high school – 3 stars. One reason for choosing this one is that in September 2015 I went to Birnam Wood in Scotland –
SCENE I. A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.
Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come against him.
- And for a bit of Australian history I’ve not long finished Long Bay by Eleanor Limprecht who has written a novel based on the true story of Rebecca McDowell Sinclair who ended up in goal under sentence of manslaughter. I’ll tick off A book set in your home state for this one. 3 ½ stars
- Currently I’m pursuing a recommendation by an ex-colleague which will fit into the A book translated to English category nicely – The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen which has been translated from the Finnish by Lola M Rogers.
- A rip-roaring insomniac, I listen to talking books all night so that when I wake up I can drift off to the sound of someone telling a soothing tale rather than start thinking about all the stuff I need to do. I have been listening to Bill Bryson books, At Home which is narrated by Bill Bryson himself, I could listen to him forever, and Down Under which is narrated by American William Roberts who is valiantly giving his all to Aussie accents.
- Digital Gold: The Untold Story of Bitcoin – Nathaniel Popper 4/5 and The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order – Paul Vigna & Michael Casey 3/5 – I read these two books one after the other and I think I read them in the right order. Digital Gold follows Bitcoin from its very beginnings right up until recently. It follows the major players on the development side and the finance/business side. Excellent introduction if you feel the need to know how and why Bitcoin was created. The Age of Cryptocurrency focuses a lot on Bitcoin but also gives more in depth explanations of cryptocurrency in general and some of the possible competitors to Bitcoin. This book talks a lot more about the Blockchain and other uses that it might have. I wouldn’t say one book is better than the other, they both complement each other well.
- Gilliamesque: A Pre-posthumous Memoir – Terry Gilliam 5/5 – My earliest memory of film is watching Monty Pythion and the Holy Grail on TV in Perth, which means I was six years old or younger. The scene I remember is the black knight having his arms and legs chopped off. Gilliam was one of the directors of this film and went on to be a very successful director (depending how you measure success). I really love all his films and some of them are my all-time favourites. This book looks back on his life with a focus on the art he was producing at the time. It spends little time on the Pythin years which is covered in great detail elsewhere. If you are a Gilliam fan then this is for you.
- Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection
- Batgirl, Vol. 2: Knightfall Descends
- Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1: Demon Star
- Batman: Detective Comics, Vol. 2: Scare Tactics
- Batman: The Dark Knight, Vol. 1: Knight Terrors
- Batman: The Night of the Owls
- Batwing, Vol. 1: The Lost Kingdom
- Batwing, Vol. 2: In the Shadow of the Ancients
- Batwoman, Vol. 2: To Drown the World
- Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Trouble in Mind
- Birds of Prey, Vol. 2: Your Kiss Might Kill
- Catwoman, Vol. 2: Dollhouse
- I, Vampire, Vol. 1: Tainted Love
- I, Vampire, Vol. 2: Rise of the Vampires
- Justice League Dark, Vol. 1: In the Dark
- Justice League, Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey
- Nightwing, Vol. 1: Traps and Trapezes
- Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 1: Redemption
- Suicide Squad, Vol. 2: Basilisk Rising
- Teen Titans, Vol. 1: It’s Our Right to Fight
- Worlds’ Finest, Vol. 1: The Lost Daughters of Earth 2
- Continuing on with my Tara Moss read-a-thon, this month I tackled – completely out of my comfort zone – Fetish and Split. – Both very well written and it helps that I love “hanging out” with the heroine, Makedde Vanderwall. While I thought reading about serial killers would make me squeamish, it was the character development and the descriptions of fashion, Sydney, Vancouver, etc that kept my interest. If you want to cross over into crime from your normal chick-lit read, these are the books to do that with. I am reading the next instalment….4 stars
- Adultery by Paulo Coelho – I always love Coelho’s books – they make me think. Whether I want to or not! This book was no exception. You immediately relate with the main character and start questioning your own decisions in life….4 stars
- Cloudstreet by Tim Winton – how had I put off reading Tim Winton for so long? This book is a gem and I found myself re-reading passages to savour the characters and keep them with me a bit longer. 4 stars.
- Monday to Friday Man by Alice Peterson – very cute story set in London. What happens to Gilly Brown when her fiance calls off the wedding last minute – how do you go on when you are 34, single and living in London? 3.5 stars
- The Margaret Thatcher School of beauty – by Marsha Mehran – a book chosen purely on its lovely cover. Not really my cup of tea – contained lots of poetry interwoven with the story. 3.5/5
- Animal Farm – George Orwell – something I have never actually read even at school so thought I should. I found it very sad. 4/5
- Gentlemen prefer blondes – by Anita Loos – the original 1920’s novel which inspired the Marilyn Monroe film. Well, the main character may well have been your stereotype ‘dumb blonde’ but only in so far as her spelling and general knowledge went. She seemed to be extremely clever as she knew how to play wealthy men into giving her all sorts of lovely jewels, trips and meals by just batting her eyelids and being ‘blonde’ . I’ll have to track down a copy of the Marilyn Monroe film how the book was interpreted in film. An enjoyable read. 4/5