Author Archives: Librarians with Altitude
Click here to access the May issue of Good Reading magazine online with your library card number.
I’m Not From Here: from architecture to people, migration around the world
Migration is most commonly associated with people: those who move by choice and those who move because they have to.
Yet, almost everything we know came from somewhere else. Architecture. Coffee. Customs. Food. Ideas. More. The topic of migration, in Australia, often dominates newspaper headlines. Issues around asylum seekers, border control and detention centres are never far from the political imagination.
Migration is not new. Convicts arrived in Australia in the 1700s and have been followed by waves of migrants ever since. Many Australians are proud of their ancestors who made the journey to Australia, from all over the world. This can be seen in the work of genealogists in libraries and local studies centres around the country and the increasing popularity of television programs such as Who Do You Think You Are?
The efforts of early explorers facilitated many mass migrations including Christopher Columbus, James Cook, Francis Drake and Ferdinand Magellan. Some stories of migration are very sad (such as pieces around the Leaving of Liverpool) while other stories are uplifting (such as Ahn Do’s The Happiest Refugee, Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Reaching for the Stars by José Hernández).
Migration is, of course, not just about people. Famous naturalists, such as David Attenborough, have been documenting the migration of animals for generations. Some animal migrations – birds, insects, whales – are majestic. Others, such as the importation of cane toads and rabbits to Australia have proven to be incredibly destructive while migrating plants have overtaken natural environments in numerous countries. Similarly, disease – from the common cold to the plague – has decimated communities across the globe.
Perhaps some of the most popular migrations have been around food. Followed by architectural styles, inventions as well as many customs and ideas that, today, are taken for granted (such as democracy). Even play can migrate and become global from Scrabble to Angry Birds. Today, migration occurs – as it has always done – it is just much faster as advances in transport promote the migration of goods, services and people while the Internet allows for the almost instant migration of ideas and opinions.
This month, find something you take for granted – then read, watch, play and discover where it came from. There will be a twitter discussion on 26 May starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 8.00am GMT, 12.00 noon Central European Time. Note: this is a staggered start to the discussion.
Use the tags #migrantread and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of #migrantread, so others can join in the conversation too.
We are still working away at the 2015 Reading Challenge. How much progress are you making? These rainy days may make it easier to just curl up somewhere cosy and get more reading done?
- A Graphic Novel: Last Kiss – Casual Fridays by John Lustig – I cannot recommend this graphic novel highly enough – funny and clever captions on pop art graphics. Well worth delving into. 4 stars
- A book of Short Stories: Breaking Beauty – edited by Lynette Washington – a clever marketing ploy in that an excerpt of one of the short stories was published in the Jan-Feb 2015 Australian Book Review. I had to borrow the book to find out how the story ended. It was worth it. Each story in this collection explores the idea of beauty, warts and all. The stories challenge your perception and ideal of normal. My favourite story in this compilation was by the sci-fi writer, Sean Williams “The Beholders”. All have twists and all are clever. Worth reserving the library copy today. 5 stars (and I never give 5 stars).
- A book with a love triangle: One Night in Italy by Lucy Diamond – Okay stretching this one a bit – love triangle in the form of one character, Catherine – her husband was seeing a much younger woman on the side and she kicked him out. This is my preferred genre – chicklit, great characters that all bond and have a happy ending. Tick in all departments. The characters meet in an Italian night class. Easy, fun read. 4 stars
- A book with Bad Reviews: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy – So much promise, but I didn’t love it. Beautifully written, interesting characters but doesn’t really lead anywhere except in a circle. 2 stars. The bad reviews can be found here – one person wrote it was going to be the worst book they would read all year!
- A Book based entirely on its cover: The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman – I didn’t love it and I thought I would – set in Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles in the 1930s. Possibly because the main character was so unlikeable. Had a nice little twist at the end so I am glad I persevered. 2 stars
- A book written by someone under 30 – Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham – I enjoy her TV series and I wanted to see what you get for a 3 million dollar book advance these days. Apparently a lot of complaining. There were a few funny stories, some you could tell she had worked into the show or used as a base for some characters. These were interesting. The rest seemed to be complaining about how it is to be a relatively privileged New York girl. The potty humour saved it from a 1 star rating. 2/5.
- A book started but never finished – A fraction of the whole by Steve Toltz – It wasn’t bad, just too long and there was much more I wanted to read. 2/5.
- A book with a number in the title – 50 popular beliefs that people think are true
- A book from an author I love that I haven’t read yet – Vulcan’s Hammer by Philip K Dick – An early book with many of his great themes running through it, written right before his most award winning book, This wasn’t outstanding but highly enjoyable for a fan. The main themes included are one world government, AI, conspiracies, religion and overthrowing the powers that be.
- A book that became a movie – The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. This was an adjunct to a library ebook I had out called simply Hyde by Daniel Levine. Levine tells the story from the monster, Hyde’s, point of view. I actually enjoyed it more than the original I think – am I allowed to say that? 3 stars for RLS’s story, 4 stars for Levine’s book
- A book that made you cry – A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness but built upon an idea by Siobhan Dowd. This was a book group read but I’d read it before on a recommendation from a friend. This really got the group going and there were all sorts of shenanigans as members tried to change the date of the meeting so they could come after all. Catherine listened to it on talking book and blubbed to and from work in Penrith for several days. 4 stars
- A book you can finish in a day – You Have to F**king Eat by Adam Mansbach
- A book that was originally written in a different language – The three-body problem by Liu Cixin – This was originally published in China and is the first part of a trilogy that was apparently quite popular over there. A very original sci fi story that I enjoyed a lot and can’t wait for the rest to be published in English. Themes involved are game theory, maths, astronomy, aliens, VR, politics, nano technology and more. 5/5.
- A trilogy – Resistance by John Birmingham – This is part 2, part 3 is out soon. 3/5.
- A nonfiction book – World’s Best Jazz Club: The Story Of Bennets Lane by David James.
- A mystery or thriller – Consumed by David Cronenberg – I love Cronenberg’s films except for a few recent ones and this book has all the themes of the good ones. If you loved Videodrome, eXistenz, Dead Ringers and Crash then this book is for you. 4/5.
- A book at the bottom of your to-read list – Mustaine: A life in metal by Dave Mustaine – Creator of the band Megadeth of which I was a small fan many years ago. Re listened to the music while reading the book which I enjoyed. Not the best music biography, too much focus on the rehab and band politics and not enough on the making of the music for my tastes. 3/5.
- Nicholas Sparks – At first sight – I didn’t enjoy this one as much as some of his others I have read in years gone past. Maybe my tastes are changing???? (couldn’t fit it into one of the reading challenge categories) 3 stars.
- A book with non- human characters + A book based on a true story – James Bowen – Bob : no ordinary cat. This is the JNF version of “A street cat named Bob”. I loved it! Bob the street cat adopts James Bowen and joins him in his busking on London streets and gives James a reason to get off drugs and look after himself better. Bob has his own website and is very famous on You Tube as well from tourists and Londoners who have come across him and James on the London streets. A lovely, inspiring real-life book. 5 stars
- A book started but not finished – Graeme Simison – The Rosie effect. Really disappointing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading “The Rosie project” last year and waited with great anticipation as my reserve got closer and closer to the top of the list. When it was finally my turn, I got set to sit and read all weekend, but only got through a couple of chapters before I decided to give up. Just not as entertaining as the author’s first Rosie book. 1 star
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt- a fabulously implausible page-turner. I have happily stayed up far past my bedtime all week for this one. I read a review of the book dismissing it as full of clichés, and indeed it is, however it doesn’t seem to bother me. Everything that happens, and everyone in it, seems so unlikely, including the scenarios that propel the storyline, but I am still hooked.
- Still reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton…just copy and paste this email for the next few months!!
- Wife on the Run, by Fiona Higgins. A marriage in trouble in our social-media-ridden world… There are lots of ways people can be dishonest, when they can hide their true identities behind a facsimile. Apart from being a well-paced story, this is a comment on how life is currently being lived. I like her dialogue, and unsentimental representations of human character.
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I avoided reading this one for ages because I thought it would be pop literature, manipulative, slight. But having read her big novel, The Signature of all Things, I changed my mind. Listening to Gilbert’s journey-story on Talking Book is a great pleasure. I love to see how thoughtful, honest people make their way from one identity to another, and what they encounter on the way. It’s the eternal human story, how we change and what we learn.
- The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I know this one has been around a long time, but I have just got to it. Stevens, the butler at Darlington Hall, is a complex creature who has been bought and sold by the British myth of inherited class difference. He belongs, he feels, in the butler class; his true mind, his authentic self, is buried beneath the weight of expectations of his ‘class’. It is ‘not his place’ to be a fully-realised human being. When he loves, he doesn’t know or admit that he loves. What a powerful book this is.
- The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (Junior Fiction) – 4 / 5 stars – This was an excellent adventure story about a little girl who is orphaned, her cousin and the horrid guardian who comes to look after them. The landscape is ruggid, the wolves very scary and the female heroines fantastic. It was a really enjoyable read – I want to read the rest of the series now. Joan Aiken is an awesome writer!
- Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Junior Fiction) – 4.5 / 5 stars – Having seen the animation by Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) years ago, I only recently learned that it was based upon the book by Diana Wynne Jones. Sophie is a young woman who works in her step-mother’s hat shop when the Witch of the Waste puts a spell upon her. To everyone else she appears an old woman. Additionally, Sophie can’t tell anyone that she has a spell on her. Thinking that her step-mother won’t recognise her as an old woman, she sets off to seek her fortune and finds herself at the Wizard Howl’s Moving Castle. I loved this book, I definitely recommend it!
- Ottoline and the Yellow Cats and Ottoline goes to School by Chris Riddell (Junior Fiction) – 4 / 5 stars each – Ottoline is a little girl who lives with her pet, Mr Munroe, while her parents travel the world collecting interesting things. Ottoline is a very likable character and Mr Munro is this cool dog-like ‘thing’ that is very sweet and helpful. He and Ottoline are the best of friends. Ottoline is very adept at solving mysteries. These stories are fantastic and are brilliant for kids who are just up to chapter books – there is a great mix of text and Chris Riddell’s amazing illustrations.
- Where Song Began: Australian birds and how they changed the world (Adult Non-Fiction) – 3.5 / 5 stars – I have only just started this one, but I’m finding it very interesting. I have learned that: Australian Birds are quite aggressive, play an important role in the pollination of certain trees and are very noisy in a harsh sort-of way (think Wattle-Bird calls). I’m looking forward to learning more.
- I have just read The elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. When I finished it I wanted to immediately reread it. I found it so beautifully written and the English translation from the French so well done, and the way the story was portrayed so poignant, I laughed and cried as I read it.
- Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty – McKinty lives in Australia now but his character Sean Duffy is a catholic detective in the almost exclusively Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Gripping stuff that I think will be enjoyed by those who like Tartan Noir writers like Ian Rankin and Stuart McBride. 4 stars
- The Ghost of the Marie Celeste by Valerie Martin – Historical fiction with ships, sailors, spiritualists and Arthur Conan Doyle. 3 stars
- Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith – the most thrilling thriller I’ve read in a while. Set in 1950s Russia where the Stalinist regime does not allow that crime could take place because everyone was too content to commit crime. So when it dawns on NKVD officer Leo Demidov that a serial killer is at work just investigating brings the threat of being denounced as a traitor. Although the time period is the 1950s this is based on a real-life serial killer of the 1970s and 80. 4 ½ stars
- Mathew’s Tale by Quintin Jardine – I picked this up because it was an historical novel set in 17th Century Scotland in a very small town in Lanarkshire called Crossford. One of my friends at school came from Crossford and I stayed a weekend there once. The story of justice for the little man was OK but I’ve read better. 3 stars
And what about you, dear reader?
The Blue Moutains Stamp Club have put together an interesting display of ANZAC related commemorative stamps, coins, envelopes and postcards and it is on display at Springwood Library from 23 April to 25 May 2015. Come along and have a look (the picture really doesn’t do things justice).
Above is The Rising Sun issue of 17 april 2012. It shows the evolution of the rising sun badge which is worn by military personnel, including nurses, on the left side of the hat.
Join in the Read Watch Play discussion this month about #reflectread. We’ll be focused on ideas and reading about physical reflections, and things that make you think, give a new or different perspective on life, the world around us, others and ourselves.
The Twitter discussion takes place on Tuesday 28 April 2015 from 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. Or 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 12.00 noon Central European Summer Time, 8am – 10.30am, 2pm – 4pm, 6pm – 8pm GMT. Note this is a staggered discussion.
While you are reading, playing or watching your #reflectread this month, you might like to tweet about it using hashtags #reflectread #rwpchat so that other people can have a conversation with you about it. You can add to the discussion on Pinterest too. You might like to post your photographs to Instagram or Flickr and use #reflectread #rwpchat so others can share in your reading, watching and playing.