What Library Staff are Reading

Edouard Manet – The Reader

We may not be as serious as Manet’s Reader (that is a really big book), but you just might find something below to pique your interest.

The time keeper by Mitch Albom – a nice easy read for over the Christmas/New Year break.  Score – 3.5/5

The last days of disco by David F Ross – this is the first in a series set in the early 1980s in and around Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland and follows the ups and downs of a couple of lads just leaving school who are trying to set up a disco.  This may not be one I can recommend to everyone as it is quite specific to me as, at the time in question 1981-1982 I was just leaving school in Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland.  I know Kilmarnock well. With the disco plot there’s lots of mentions of the music of the time too – it took me back to a happy time and place. Scored 3.5/5

The inaugural meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green – here’s a story about women in the outback in various towns or stations in the Northern Territory who manage to get together every so often for a book group.  The reader is introduced to the various personal dramas of each character and the plots unfold with the women finding inner strength, strength in their friendships.  This is a women’s book, the men, who appear as husbands, sons and lovers are fairly peripheral although as varied as the women themselves. Scored 3/5

The Dry and Force of Nature by Jane Harper – contemporary Australian detective novels set in Victoria which have received a lot of hype -the Hold lists are enormous.  This series features detective Aaron Falk who investigates financial crimes.  In The Dry the case is on home turf in the town he grew up in but left as a teenager after a tragedy involving him and his friends.  In the second a group of women go missing during a corporate team building bush adventure. Both books are engrossing enough, there is enough suspense to make you want to keep turning the pages to find out what’s going to happen but worth all the hype?  I scored them both 3.5/5

Queen Victoria’s matchmaking: the royal marriages that shaped Europe by Deborah Cadbury – Queen Victoria sat at the centre of a huge dynastic web with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren married and intermarried all over Europe, with varying degrees of success. Scored 3.5/5

Swapping Lives by Jane Green.  Ever wondered what it would be like to swap lives with someone for the life you think you should be living?  This is a fun story of a magazine features editor doing just that.  I loved the characters and the quirky lives they were living.  I doubt that swapping lives would be so easy and end with a bow at the end.  Good holiday read. 4/5

http://www.janegreen.com/books/swapping-liveslife-swap-uk/

 Queen of the Desert by Susanna De Vries.  This was not at all what I was expecting – a warts and all biography of Daisy Bates.  This was a character that I actually grew to respect the more I heard about her thanks to the meticulous research of Susanna.  Want to hear the real Daisy Bates story and how she ended up in the WA desert making the study of aborigines her lifes work?  This is the story for you. 4/5

http://www.susannadevries.com/desert_queen.html

Rock Chicks: The hottest female rockers from the 1960s to now by Alison Stieven-Taylor.  Snippets and short stories of Rock Chicks since the 1960s.  From Janis Joplin to Pink, here are some background stories of where they came from. I also love that this talking book was narrated by Jane Clifton – herself a “rock chick” (and actress).  4/5

https://www.rockpoolpublishing.com.au/rock-chicks-anz-edition

Artemis by Andy Weir – I’m afraid Andy is a one trick pony, as it is almost exactly the same as The Martian, except this time set on the moon, and with a few more people. 2.7/5 

The Nakano Thrift Shop by Kawakami Hiromi – a slightly melancholy slice of life novel about a woman who works in a second hand goods store in Tokyo. No dramas or plot progression, just the small tensions, ups and downs and reflections of a human being getting through her life. It was ok, but not very engrossing. 3/5 

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnes Martin-Lugand (eBook) – Abysmal. Why was it translated into English? I read this on my phone on the few days I was catching the train to work. I wouldn’t have finished it if it wasn’t so short. 1.5/5 (for being short)

Persuasion by Jane Austen (eAudio) – Just something to listen to in the car. I have read it many times. 3.5/5

Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman (eAudio) – Only got snatches of this on and off as I was listening to it to get to sleep, but it did the trick. Is that good or bad? 3/5

The trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend  – The cover quote suggested that if you liked Harry Potter, then you’d like this book. I loved Harry Potter but I was disappointed with this book and got bored rather quickly, but managed to skim read to the end. There were a few interesting magical ideas to be fair, but the main character was hard to empathise with and was annoying. It was definitely no Harry Potter! 3/5

The extremely inconvenient adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty – An enjoyable tale about a ten year old girl whose parents are killed by pirates and the subsequent adventure she has in order to complete the terms of her parent’s will. 4/5

Sam’s best shot: a father and son’s life-changing journey through autism, adolescence and Africa by Dr James Best  – The author takes his teenage son who has autism on a trip to Africa to try to help him with his autism. It felt like a published personal diary of the trip rather than a constructed narrative and lacked detail in how the journey had helped Sam improve his autistic behaviours. The ending was strange and abrupt. 2.5/5

The disappeared by MR Hall – a psychological thriller, one in a series about Coroner Jenny Cooper set on the Welsh border.  In this one the mother of a British muslim man who disappeared from university almost a decade previously wants Jenny to find out what happened to her son.  He’s not the only one who went missing in similar circumstances. Some of it got quite technical about the legal and moral aspects of the work coroners do which may fascinate some but put others off. Score 3/5

The accident on the A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnet – set in Saint-Louis, a real town near the French –German border, Inspector Georges Gorski is called to investigate a fatal car crash on the A35 road.  It looks like a straightforward case of a man falling asleep behind the wheel, but of course it isn’t and Inspector Gorski is intrigued by the beautiful widow and her fey son.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and, using Google Maps/Google Earth, I was able to follow the characters around town which I always enjoy. Scored 4/5

Half Wild by Pip Smith – a novelisation of the true story of Eugenia Falleni who lived as a man for many years in the early 20th century Sydney and was brought to trial for killing at least one of the women she was husband to.  I wasn’t always sure of what was happening in this story and much prefer Mark Tedeschi’s factual account. Scored 2.5/5

He by John Connolly – this is my favourite read over the Christmas break.  This is about Stan Laurel told from Stan Laurel’s point of view as an old man, frail and lonely in his apartment in Florida.  The chapters alternate between episodes in the past from Stan’s birth in Ulverston, England in 1890 and the present of the book which is the early 1960s (Stan Laurel died in 1965).  I found the story beautifully, lovingly told and thoroughly fascinating – I knew nothing of Laurel and Hardy beyond the films I’ve watched.  I had no idea of the parade of wives, or of his close relationship with Oliver Hardy which really is the core of this story.  Oliver Hardy died in  1957 and Stan Laurel (in the book at least) still misses him dreadfully. Scored 4.5/5

Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi – translated from the French, this murder mystery is set in Giverny in and around Monet’s house and garden.  The story is told by three different women.  There’s a very clever plot twist at the end.  Again I followed the characters around the town on Google Maps/Earth.  This book was recommended to me by one of our borrowers proving that Readers’ Advisory is a two way street. An engrossing read and I shall pursue more titles by this author.  Score 4/5

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole – WWII and American student David writes a fan letter to Elspeth who is a poet living on Skye, Scotland.  As their letters criss cross the Atlantic they become more and more intimate with each other.  Interspersed with these letters are those of Elspeth’s daughter Margaret who is trying to find out who her father was.  A charming, easy read. Scored 4/5

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry – I have been attracted by the cover of this book for a long time and am not sure now why I didn’t read it sooner; I think I perhaps expected it would be a fantasy book which is NOT MY THING AT ALL!  Anyway, it’s more historical mystery than fantasy although there is the supernatural in it. Again, it was a pleasant read, not too taxing but engaging enough.  Scored 3.5/5

Nice work if you can get it written and narrated by Celia Imrie – this was an eaudio book that I downloaded using the BorrowBox app and which I listened to on my morning walks for several days.  This one is set in a small town on the French Riviera (my I’ve travelled near and far this holidays) where a group of ex-pat Brits live.  Some of them are trying to start a local restaurant, others are looking for romance or escape. A light, amusing ‘read’ which I scored 3/5

Restless by William Boyd – this is my second book by William Boyd and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was delighted to find it was made into a series several years ago starring Rufus Sewell so I will have to pursue that.  This is a spy story, another told from more than one point of view, from different time periods and partially by letters. Septogenarian, ordinary British mother Sally reveals via a series of letters to her daughter that she was actually a Russian refugee living in Paris when she was recruited to the British Secret Service during WWII and after the death of her beloved brother.  It’s an exciting story with lots of spy shenanigans, betrayal and revenge all wrapped up in beautiful, literary language. Score 4/5

My name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – almost a novella, this slim book tells the story of a mother-daughter relationship while the daughter, Lucy, lies seriously ill in hospital.  Her mother, from whom she has been estranged for some time, has come to sit in vigil by her bed.  Poignant. Maybe not enough action for me? Scored 3.5/5

So you’ve been publicly shamed by Jon Ronson – I both read the physical book and downloaded the eaudio book via BorrowBox where the book is narrated by the author.  Jon Ronson explores what happens when people turn on others via social media.  Horrible, horrible stuff of nightmares and utterly compelling. Scored 3.5/5

Currently I am reading The girl on the train by Paula Hawkins – another enormously popular book which I resisted for a long time.  I saw the film last week and had the book on my shelf so I thought I’d read it to compare the two.  The film has been set in America while the book is set in England but is fairly faithful otherwise.  I probably will give it a 3/5.  It’s not haute literature but it has a plot that carries you along at a fair clip.  I’m intrigued to see how the twist at the end is presented in the novel.

Deep Dish, by Mary Kay Andrews, and read by Julia Gibson – I recently listened to this eAudiobook and found it an enjoyable story to listen to.  It is a light hearted romantic comedy involving a TV cooking show, perfect for a summer holiday, especially if you enjoy listening to a pleasant southern USA accent.  3.5/5

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