What Library Staff are Reading – October

Bridge Burning & Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan – I listened to the eAudiobook on Borrow Box; the Library also has several copies in print – there is a waiting list. Australian comedian Kitty Flanagan’s entertaining memoir includes stories from her Sydney childhood, travel both in Australia and overseas, family, relationships and career. The audiobook, narrated by Flanagan herself, runs for just over 5 hours – perfect entertainment for a long drive (for adult listeners).

Day of the Dead by Nicci French – I have listened to the eaudiobook on RBDigital – but the Library also has the book in print. Day of the Dead is the eighth instalment in the Frieda Klein series by writing duo Sean French and Nicci Gerrard who publish under the pseudonym Nicci French. Set in London,  Day of the Dead  is well-written, tense and thrilling to the very end. This crime novel is best read as part of the Frieda Klein series, but is still enjoyable even if you have not encountered the character of psychotherapist Frieda Klein before. 4/5 stars

I am, I am, I am: seventeen brushes with death by Maggie O’Farrell – this is a memoir with a difference, or more than one difference.  Not only is the story told not chronologically, it is told by body parts and each part of the story is the story of how Ms O’Farrell has, as the subtitle indicates, narrowly eluded Death.  I read this after listening to an episode of A Good Read, a BBC Radio 4 programme where Harriet Gilbert and two guests choose a book each and come together to discuss them, and it’s really well written.


I loved it, hated being made to do other stuff and couldn’t wait to get back to find out what disaster struck next.  5/5 stars

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood – apparently a classic, this book was chosen by someone else for book group.  I had to force myself to read for 30 minutes a night for a week and only got 60% of the way in. I didn’t get the point of the story in this book at all and in the end didn’t care. 2/5 stars.

A month of Sundays by Liz Byrski – Members of an online book group for over 10 years, Ros, Adele, Judy and Simone are the only ones left.  They have never met face to face until they have the opportunity to stay for a month in a house in the Blue Mountains of NSW.  Each member is asked to choose a book that will teach the others more about herself and they take it in turns to lead the weekly discussion over the month.  The women are all in their later years, either retired or on the cusp thereof and they all have their different backgrounds, stories, secrets and insecurities.  The books chosen allow each character to reveal more of her story to the others and to the reader.  This is not my usual fare. As a member of two book groups, both of over ten years standing, I was seduced by the fact that it’s about a book group. I swithered between being compelled to find out what was going to happen to one character and being annoyed by the inevitability of the storyline of another. I rate this book 3/5 stars.

The killing of Louisa by Janet Lee – Based on a real person, this is the story of Louisa Collins who went on trial for the murder of her husband, Michael Collins in 1888.  Unfortunately for Louisa, Michael was her second husband. Her first husband, Charles Andrews, had died rather conveniently some thought after she became attracted to her then boarder, Michael Collins.  The story is told as Louisa awaits her fate in Darlinghurst Gaol and has the same claustrophobic atmosphere as See what I have done by Sarah Schmidt, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. It’s a tragic story, compellingly told.  Louisa is sentence to hang and, with Louisa being certain they would never hang a woman, the suspense is maintained all the way to the last full stop. You can read a bit more about Louisa and the case in this Guardian review: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/sep/25/theyll-never-hang-a-woman-louisa-collins-thought-shed-be-spared  4/5 stars

Edinburgh: a traveller’s guide edited by David Daiches – this book presents extracts of descriptions of Edinburgh from letters, memoirs, diaries, histories, biographies and novels from its earliest days on.  As a former resident and lover of Auld Reekie, the extracts are fascinating and I enjoyed reading the city’s history and characters.  However, the book is a very modest little paperback without illustrations and I feel an opportunity has been missed thereby. It would be a wonderful book to pour over if it was bigger and contained old maps, etchings and paintings to accompany the wonderful stories.  Tourists to Edinburgh, or the Scottish diaspora would buy such a work up big.  2/5 stars

The Scandal by Frederik Backman – took a while for me to get into this.  I believe it would appeal to mums of sporty teenagers – kind of like a “Big Little Lies” with Ice Hockey as the background.  Based around an “event” that took half the book to get to so I nearly put the book down.  But an absolute page turner after the event.  3/5 stars

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman – a true saga!  Set in St Thomas of the early 1800s but with frequent visits to Paris, this family saga spans 3 generations of secrets and scandals.  4/5 stars.

Resistance in futile by Jenny T. Colgan – Mathematics, geeks, romance, and science fiction come together is this highly readable and enjoyable book. 4/5 stars

Ladies in Black by Madeleine St John (eAudiobook) – Also titled, Women in Black, a thoroughly enjoyable novel of contemporary manners set in 1950s Sydney.  Great development of recognisable characters. Both insightful and funny. The film was also great. 4/5 stars

Winchester starring Helen Mirren (DVD) -I give it a rating of 4/5 stars

Anna by Niccolò Ammaniti – Slow to grab my attention, this Italian sci-fi pick up in the latter stages. Much like In the Country of Ice Cream Star, this dystopian novel set in Sicily has everyone over the age of 14 dead from a virus. Chaos follows. 3/5 stars

The Beautiful Death by Mathieu Bablet – A sepia toned exploration of post-apocalyptic Earth. Lovely art (except for the human faces). For anyone who had a hunch that insects are out to get us. 3.5/5 stars

If you loved the fictional diaries of comic British characters Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones, then you will probably enjoy Ceri Radford’s A Surrey State of Affairs which is available as an eAudiobook via the RB Digital app. Read by Jilly Bond, A Surrey State of Affairs purports to be the blog of Constance Harding, prim and proper 50-something wife, mother and church bell ringer as she navigates a tumultuous year in the life of her family. The humour is a little obvious and we often know what is coming long before Constance does, but if you feel like listening to something light, comic and very British, then this is a fun choice.

What do our scores mean?

1 star – I hated it / Don’t bother / It felt more like homework than reading for pleasure
2 stars – I didn’t like it / Not for me but worth trying / This book needed something different to make me like it
3 stars – I liked it / Recommended / This book was good. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.
4 stars – I really liked it / One of the best books I’ve read this year / I’m glad I read it
5 stars – I loved it / One of the best books I’ve ever read / I will probably read it again


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