If there was any doubt, we are in the depths of winter here in the Mountains. It’s time to batten down the hatches, find somewhere warm, and lose ourselves in a good book. Library staff have been leading by example, and have plenty of books to recommend this month. Maybe you will find some inspiration for your own reading journey.
A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy. It is one of his earlier novels, full of emotion and plot advancing coincidence as are his others. I enjoy nineteenth century authors, especially when revealing of the social conditions of women of the times. 3/5
Australia’s most murderous prison: Behind the walls of Goulburn Jail by James Phelps. Written like a short series of articles (many chapters finish abruptly), but absolutely riveting. When James was asked why he wrote the book he said “voyeurism”. If asked why I read the book? I would say voyeurism. 4/5
Every Day is Mother’s Day by Hilary Mantel. Not at all what I expected but compelling all the same. Apparently there is a sequel – I am compelled enough to seek it out and see what happens to these odd characters. 4/5
Heaven, Hell and Mademoiselle by H.C.Carlton. Paris in the 1960s, Fashion houses, Intrigue and wonderful characters. What’s not to love about this chic lit novel? Great escapism with fashion, shoes and handbag descriptions. 4/5
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith – In 1631, Sara de Vos was admitted to the Guild of St Luke in Holland as a master painter, the first woman to ever be honoured. This is a story of that painter and a modern story of intrigue, forgery and art history. I really enjoyed this read, the characters, the plot development and the learning about Dutch Master painters and painting techniques. 4/5
The Strange Library by Murakami. Short story about a boy who enters the Library….I wont give anything else away because the story is worth reading and the book is a work of art. Have a look at the website and especially check out the Fan Photo Gallery….4/5
No Dress Rehearsal by Marian Keyes – Short story by one of my favourite authors about a woman that dies and hasn’t realised it yet…..3/5
Johnson’s Life of London by Boris Johnson – I read this for many reasons. Yes I wanted to hear a short version of London’s history which Johnson does quite well – picking out interesting stories to expand. This is not a dry history but one brought to life with interesting characters and storylines. And I also wanted to try and learn a bit more about Boris Johnson – and this book does give you a small insight to this interesting man (Mayor of London). 4/5
A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson – Charley Lambert is a workaholic who breaks her leg. This story is what happens next. I loved it – great characters and laugh out loud moments. 3/5
Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser – I found this book unsettling and I do understand myself well enough to know why. This narrative is based around 2 main characters – Laura who is a tourist – and Ravi who is a refugee. A thoroughly engaging read. Very well written and also confronting to those of us who love to travel the world. 4/5
American Gods – Neil Gaiman – Brilliant book that is highly entertaining. I don’t know why it won a SciFi award as it doesn’t seem very SciFi to me. However it also won a fantasy and a horror award. I think the horror award may of just been for one scene that had nothing to do with the rest of the book. I don’t usually read fantasy but I very much enjoyed this and cannot wait to watch the TV series. This is probably whjat you might call urban fantasy, but I think it would file better under mythology. I had read much for a while and I was glad I put the time aside for this. 5/5
iD – Medeline Ashby – The sequel to Vn which places the secondary character from the first book as the main protaganist which changes the type of story. Great cyber punk style sci fi. I look forward to the third installment. 4/5
Company Town by Medeline Ashby – A dystopian style sci fi with a highly entertaining storyline and well crafted characters. Reminds me of Bladerunner with all the corporate goings on. A very nice ending that will lead any sequels on a different path. The story takes place in a small pocket of a much bigger world that is only hinted at until the end. 5/5
The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds by J.M.R. Higgs – Amazingly entertaining unauthorised history of the KLF and its two members. 5/5
The Long and the Short of It: A guide to finance and investment for normally intelligent people who aren’t in the industry by John Kay – Very good introduction to the world of investing with a lot of background and practical information. I bought myself a copy for reference after reading the library’s copy. 5/5
Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner – This one is up there with the first Freakonomics book, one of their best. Introduces the techniques used to think in the way they do to come up with such interesting research. Highly recommended if you hold critical thinking in high regard. 5/5
When to Rob a Bank: A Rogue Economist’s Guide to the World by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner – A collection of their best blog posts. Even when curated and edited these are very hit and miss. Entertaining but only for fans, far from their best work as the previous book mentioned is. 4/5
Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich – 4/5
The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting by Jason Fung, MD – 4/5
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Brilliant writing by Strout about a complex character. Olive is a plain-speaking older woman living on the Maine coast, with her warm-hearted husband. Strout delineates the brusque, unkind aspects of Olive’s nature playing out against the care and generosity she is also capable of. I was blown away by this book, now a 4-part miniseries, also brilliant.
The Abundance by Annie Dillard. A set of essays, “precise in language and deeply meditative in spirit” (cover notes). Dillard closely watches the world, sees its minutiae in a way that reminds me of William Blake, and perhaps Dylan Thomas. If you care about writing, read this one.
Arthur and George, by Julian Barnes. This is a re-read for me. Arthur Conan Doyle gets wind of a terrible injustice done to George Edalji, and seeks to put it right. Crisp, measured writing by Barnes, as he reconstructs an actual event from the early 1900s, with forensic attention to detail.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – 3/5
The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb. The idea of down-sizing everyday expenditure, and recycling, makes plenty of sense to me. The authors write light-heartedly of the many ways we can live simply and enjoyably.
Midwinter by Fiona Melrose. A sensitive, detailed portrait of a father and his son, as they negotiate trauma in an effort to emerge saner and wiser on the other side.
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. Surely it is too, too shaming to have never read this before. What starts in the sparkling world of privileged early 20th century London ends suddenly on an unnamed battlefield somewhere else. Happily there are no sympathetic characters to worry about and they all get their comeuppance. 4/5
The Twins of Tintarfell by James O’Loghlin (junior fiction). Picked up for a quick read while waiting for an appointment. I don’t read much junior fiction, so I have little to compare it to, but it was a mostly enjoyable yarn that felt like a bigger story that had been edited down to the bone. One twin is kidnapped from the castle keep and the other sneaks out to rescue him. Adventure ensues. 3/5
Fair Game by Steve Cannane (Bolinda eAudiobook). A rather shocking exposé of the Church of Scientology in Australia by ABC journalist Steve Cannane and read by the author. 3/5
Henri, le chat noir : the existential mewsings of an angst-filled cat by William Braden. My daughter got a black cat recently and he was quite shy so this was a very apt book. It was quite amusing. Our cat is no longer quite shy. In fact he’s a bit of a hooligan. Scored 3 ½/5
See what I have done by Sarah Schmidt – a novelised telling of the Lizzie Borden story which is very familiar to the Americans. In 1892 Lizzie was tried for the murder of her father and stepmother in a case so sensational it spawned a rhyme – Lizzie Borden took an axe/ And gave her mother forty whacks./ When she saw what she had done, /She gave her father forty-one. The novel portrays an extremely dysfunctional household. It is intense and claustrophobic and right to the end the reader is wondering whodunnit after all. I scored this a 4/5
For a complete change of pace I read The Childbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan. Set in WWII this novel is about the women of the village choir who are left after all the men go to war. Rivalries and secrets abound. It’s a charming book and an easy read. Score 4/5
Along the same lines was Holding by Graham Norton which is a cosy mystery set in rural Ireland. Again, beneath the peaceful village façade lie deep divisions and long-held secrets. Scored 3 ½/5
I also tried The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett for book group but I just can’t come to grips with fantasy and all the humour my book groupies saw left me completely cold.
Waking Hell (Station #2) – Al Robertson – 4/5
Tales from the Loop – Simon Stålenhag – 4/5
Things from the Flood – Simon Stålenhag – 4/5
Hip Hop Family Tree Book 3: 1983-1984 – Ed Piskor – 4/5
Hip Hop Family Tree Book 4: 1984-1985 – Ed Piskor – 4/5
Aleister & Adolf – Douglas Rushkoff – 3/5
Mechanica – Lance Balchin – 3/5
The Troop – Noel Clarke – 3/5
Things from the Flood by Simon Stålenhag (sequential art book with stories) – the second book by the Swedish digital artist. Memories of a childhood spent in rural 80s-90s Sweden… but not quite the past that we all remember. 4/5
The girl from the other side : csiúil, a rún Vol 1 by Nagabe (manga) – a very young girl is cared for by a benevolent demon on the Outside, as she is shunned by her fellow humans who live in fear on the Inside. Lovely ethereal drawings with a moody atmosphere. Also a nice change from standard manga. 4/5