What Library Staff are Reading – December

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver – I found it a great read, timely and fascinating. She creates a parallel between people resisting the new ideas of Charles Darwin in the 1870’s and us now finding it so hard to change our trajectory from runaway consumption to dealing with climate change. Sounds a little dry but she does it through beautifully drawn characters in a very particular place and times. 4/5 stars

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – This is a revisit for me, a refresher before I start watching the series.  Loved it 20 years ago and still love it now. Has all my favourite things – historical drama, set in England, Scotland and Europe with well developed characters.  5/5 stars

The lives of Tudor women by Elizabeth Norton – Taking the Seven Ages of Man as its basis, this is a look at the lives of Tudor women, or a representative woman who was born in 1485 when Henry VII won the English throne to 1603 when Elizabeth I dies.  It’s nice to see what was happening to the other half of the English population while horses shoes were costing kingdoms, wives were being dispatched, the church set in uproar and the Armarda being defeated. 4/5 stars

The way of all flesh by Ambrose Parry – we’re in Edinburgh in 1847 and recent medical graduate Will Raven has taken up a post with famous obstetrician James Young Simpson who is experimenting with the use of ether and chloroform to ease the pain of childbirth.  Edinburgh is famously a city which presents a proper front but which has a very seedy underbelly and seethes with secrets and lies.  Will Raven has his own secrets, but what about his colleagues?  Written by award-winning crime writer Chris Brookmyer and his doctor wife, Marisa Haetzman this was an enjoyable historical thriller – 4/5 stars

Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook – a recent book group read.  Earlier this year I watched the 1971 film.  I also thought I’d give the new ABC TV series a go but found I couldn’t go through it again.  So when we had to read it this month for book group I was not looking forward to it.  Nor were my book group buddies.  As per the blurb on the back of my edition of the book, “Wake in Fright tells the tale of John Grant’s journey into an alcoholic, sexual and spiritual nightmare”.  Inspired by the author’s unhappy stint in Broken Hill in the early 1950’s, the subject matter is at times (most of the time) apaling but the writing is very good and the reading of it was not as bad as I’d imagined. In fact I think I polished it off in about three sittings.  I understand it was for a long time an school text – unfortunately our teacher member was not at the meeting to confirm that or tell us how it played with teenagers.  Anyway I gave it 3.5/5 stars

Whisky from small glasses by Denzil Meyrick – The about-to-be-promoted-to-DCI Jim Daley is sent from Glasgow to the back of nowhere Scotland after a partially dismembered body turns up in the small, fictional town of Kinloch.  As often happens, the bodies start to pile up and Daley is under pressure to perform.  I thoroughly enjoyed this undemanding novel.  There is lots of broad Scots dialect (Glaswegian and highland) used however, which some readers might find difficult.  Daley is distracted by the arrival of his wife who, we are told ad nauseum, is lovely. I could have done without her but she’s pivotal to the finale. This is the first in a series with Jim Daley set in Kinloch and I think I’ll try another – 3.5/5 stars

My husband and I have been sporadically binge watching The Last Kingdom on Netflix, an adaptation of the books by Bernard Cornwell.  Set in the late 800s this is the story of Saxon-born-Viking-raised Uhtred who helps Alfred become the first king of a (more or less) united England.  Lots of action and it’s probably a good thing that this part of English history is murky so I’m not shouting at the historical inaccuracies as I was watching the execrable Tudors. 4/5 stars for entertainment value.

The Living and Dead in Winsford by Hakan Nesser – I have developed quite a liking for Scandie writers enjoyed the depth of the story and characters 4/5 stars

Prophecy (Audio) – set in Elizabethan times and the fight between Catholics and Protestants. A scary time to live. The politics are amazing. 4/5 stars

Suburbicon (DVD) – wouldn’t want to live here. Black humour. Matt Damon is fantastic, Coen Bros and George Clooney directed and produced 4/5 stars

Made in America (DVD) – I am not a Tom Cruise fan but what a ride he takes you on. 4/5 stars

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje – I was mesmerised by the first half of the book. His language is beautiful and I found myself transported by his writing in way that hasn’t happened to me for a while. The second half left me cold for some reason. I can’t explain why. The only other book I have read of his was The English Patient, which I also thought was wonderfully written. I vowed never to see the movie, because I thought it wouldn’t translate. It has taken me a long time to come back to him, and I would call it a qualified success 3.5/5 stars

Saga volume 9 by Fiona Stables and Brian Vaughan – Nooooooo! The Horror, the Horror. I am not sure if that is spoiler free or not, but 5/5 stars, or 0/5. I can’t decide.

The Unusual Life of Edna Walling by Sara Hardy – A very interesting look at the life of one of our first female landscape designers, definitely an unusual woman in her times. 3.5/5 stars


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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