What Library Staff are Reading – September 2016

old-books-436498_960_720With winter just past we’ve managed to pull through those long cold nights, tucked in bed, making our way through our to-read lists. Here are some of the books library staff have read over the winter.

  • Conrad and Eleanor, by Jane Rogers. This is a portrait of a long marriage, acutely observed and understood by Rogers. Conrad, usually predictable, has gone to a science conference and, afterwards, has simply disappeared. Eleanor then has to deal with a whole lot more than his disappearance.
  • Little Jewel, by Patrick Modiano. 19-year-old Therese is at a Metro station one day when she sees an older woman who she thought might be the mother who abandoned her many years before. She follows, needing to find out.
  • Remember Me, by Liz Byrski. I have enjoyed Byrski’s novels for some years now, given that her characters tend to be of my generation, their concerns mine to some extent, and Byrski herself intelligent and insightful, unafraid to probe beyond the expected paradigms. This memoir details her meeting, again, a lover from her teenage past, and how that panned out. Her truthfulness and vulnerability make this riveting reading.
  • The Last Days of Ava Langdon, by Mark O’Flynn. This novel is loosely based on an eccentric writer named Eve Langley, who lived in bush on the fringes of Katoomba during her last years, dying in 1974. O’Flynn paints an affectionate, unsentimental picture of Ava during the last day of her life. His wit, humanity and imaginative use of language are, as always, a delight.
  • The Dark Forest (Three-Body, #2) by Cixin Liu (5/5) Second book in the trilogy by the most popular sci-fi author in China. I love this one as much as the first. It becomes a completely different kind of story because of the revelations at the end of the first book. I can see that the third book is probably going to be different again. A must for fans of hard science fiction.
  • Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II by Marc Weidenbaum (4/5) A book about an album by one of the best electronic musicians of all time. I had tried and failed to get into this album a few times, one of only two in his discography that I didn’t really like a lot. This book was a gift and while reading it I listened to the album again and this time it stuck with me. Some albums do that and I had never given this enough repetition for it to click with me. It now does and this is also a great book, as well as delving into the obscurity of the life of Richard D James and his early 90s impact on electronic music it examines some of the pioneers of ambient music (mainly Brian Eno) and how it evolved. Definitely recommend for fans of RDJ or ambient electronic music.
  • The Machine Dynasty, #1 by Madeline Ashby (4/5) & The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky Chambers (5/5) I didn’t try to read sci-by female authors these just happened to cross my path at the same time. Two very original stories with female protagonists with excellent world building, I will definitely be reading the sequels and have recommended these to friends. The Machine Dynasty is a good look at the morals of how AI could be treated, some tried and true theories and social commentary mixed with a good amount of original ideas. Can easily fit the cyberpunk subgenre. Angry Planet seems like it is setting the stage for big event at the end that turns out to be fairly minor to the story, the story is the journey and I think the different characters and species were well fleshed out and explored without having to use too many sci-fi clichés to explain back story, it all flowed very well. This one is most definitely space opera.
  • Lexicon by Max Barry (5/5) This book is about words as weapons, you think linguistics, philology and lexicography can’t be the base plot of a suspense novel? You are wrong.
  • Underground by Suelette Dreyfus (4/5)
  • Gut: The Inside Story of our Body’s Most Under-rated Organ by Giulia Enders (4/5)
  • The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick (4/5)
  • Black Hole by Bucky Sinister (4/5)
  • Meat Is for Pussies: A How-To Guide for Dudes Who Want to Get Fit, Kick Ass, and Take Names by John Joseph (3/5)
  • A Short History of Stupid by Bernard Keane & Helen Razor (3/5)
  • Celebrity Vinyl by Tom Hamling (3/5)
  • Machine Man by Max Barry (3/5)
  • Dead Air by Iain Banks (2/5)
  • Grace and Mary by Melvyn Bragg – 4 stars. Based on Melvyn Bragg’s own family history, this is the story of Grace and Mary, mother and daughter and Mary’s son, John.  John visits Mary in her nursing home. Mary is living with dementia and the old family stories and songs are what keeps Mary connected with the present world.  A poignant story beautifully written.
  • The Killing Season Uncut written and narrated by Sarah Ferguson – 4 stars. I can’t abide the day-to-day nonsense of politics and I am unsure why I chose this book which I downloaded as an eAudiobook via the Library’s Borrowbox app, especially as I listen during the night when I am otherwise tossing and turning like the rip-roaring insomniac I am.  What I tuned in and out of during the night, however, intrigued me sufficiently that I spent a day one weekend listening as I pottered about.  The book comes on the back of a documentary aired on the ABC earlier in the year but the book contains material not in the documentary including personal commentary from Sarah Ferguson about how she went about things and how she perceived the participants. It’s fascinating listening to the opposing accounts of the Rudd-Gillard tussle for the Labor leadership.  Neither of them (Rudd or Gillard) come out looking very good.
  • On Sunday I attended the book release for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (parts one & two) by John Tiffany & Jack Thorne (3.5/5) No! It wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling! From my understanding the book ( Play/script) was only based off her books. Anyway I went home and dove into the book, I read it in 3 hours… and I was disappointed. I’ll try not to say too much as I am sure some of you are wanting to read it. The story is based around Harry’s son, Albus Severus Potter, and follows the struggles of his life at Hogwarts as he struggles to live up to his father legacy…. And that’s about all I can say without giving anything away… Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic to dive back into the world of Harry Potter, but I think I had given it too much hype in my own head. I think it was a good book with the potential to be great but it just didn’t get there for me. Maybe it was the fact it was in fact a script and I pictured the entire book as an actual play in my head or the fact there is only so much you could accomplish on a stage, but I feel this didn’t meet the standards of the previous HP books, and in my opinion was not worth the discounted $29.99 price tag. All and all I would still recommend this book if you love the HP series… just don’t expect too much.


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