Good Reading Magazine – March 2020

The March issue of Good Reading magazine is ready for you to enjoy through Blue Mountains Library!

This Month

  • Sulari Gentill on the latest ‘Rowland Sinclair’ novel, A Testament of Character.
  • Kawai Strong Washburn on creatively rejecting America’s colonial legacy in Sharks In The Time of Saviours.
  • Sophie Hardcastle on reclaiming your voice in Below Deck.
  • Karina Kilmore on using financial journalism and her family history to inspire Where The Truth Lies.

This month’s Podcasts:

  • Tanya Bretherton
  • Karen Brooks
  • Sophie Hardcastle
  • John Kinsella

You can borrow Good Reading from the library or access the digital subscription right here, right now, with your library card.

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Carolyn’s Books of the Month – March

Best Read: How We Disappeared by Jing Jing Lee

When her husband dies in the year 2000, Wang Di is forced into the solitary life of a widow in modern Singapore. But this new silence brings with it a surge of memories, taking her back to the brutal events of the Japanese invasion which altered the course of her life forever. Twelve-year-old Kevin is preoccupied with his own family worries; his father is suffering from depression, Kevin is being bullied at school, and his beloved grandmother’s health is declining fast. And then, on her deathbed, she makes a surprising confession – one she never meant for Kevin to hear. Back in 1942, Wang Di is sixteen years old and forced into sexual slavery as a Comfort Woman. What she sees and experiences will haunt her present nearly sixty years later. Meanwhile, after his grandmother’s death, Kevin sets about finding out the truth – a truth that will lead him to Wang Di; to the events of that brutal war and to a reckoning no one is prepared for and which can no longer be suppressed. They say the truth will set you free – but what if its horrors have been the very chains you have longed to escape from your whole life?

Crime: Their little Secret by Mark Billingham

Sarah thinks of herself as a normal single mum. It’s what she wants others to think of her. But the truth is, she needs something new, something thrilling. Meanwhile, DI Tom Thorne is investigating a woman’s suicide, convinced she was driven to do it by a man who preys on vulnerable women, a man who is about to change Sarah’s life.

Australian Author: The Heart of the Cross by Emily Madden

Tinahely, Ireland, 1959 Rosie Hart is content leaving her home behind to follow her new husband to Australia. But she soon discovers there is no room for her or their young son in the life he has built in vibrant Kings Cross. As their marriage crumbles, Rosie will need to fight for the golden future her son deserves … until the day her world is shattered and all hope turns to dust. Eighteen years later, haunted by her past, Rosie is determined her daughter Maggie will follow the path she has set out for her. But when Maggie rejects her plans and moves out of home, all Rosie can hope is that she has also left behind the grief that plagues the Hart name. Sydney, 2017 When her grandmother dies and leaves Brianna Hart a secret apartment in Kings Cross, Brie wonders what else Rosie was keeping from her. As Brie chases the truth of Rosie’s past she uncovers an incredible story of passion, violence, love and tragedy. Is the Hart family’s legacy of loss inescapable, or has Rosie gifted her granddaughter with a future of hope?

General: The Runaway Daughter by Joanna Rees

It’s 1926 and Anna Darton is on the run from a terrible crime she was forced into committing. Alone and scared in London, salvation comes in the form of Nancy, a sassy American dancer at the notorious nightclub, the Zip Club. Re-inventing herself as Vita Casey, Anna becomes part of the line-up and is thrown into a hedonistic world of dancing, parties, flapper girls and fashion.When she meets the dashing Archie Fenwick, Vita buries her guilty conscience and she believes him when he says he will love her no matter what. But unbeknown to Vita, her secret past is fast catching up on her, and when the people closest to her start getting hurt, she is forced to confront her past or risk losing everything she holds dear. The Runaway Daughter by Joanna Rees is the first novel in a sweeping historical trilogy.

Thriller Six Minutes by Petronella McGovern

How can a child disappear from under the care of four playgroup mums? One Thursday morning, Lexie Parker dashes to the shop for biscuits, leaving Bella in the safe care of the other mums in the playgroup. Six minutes later, Bella is gone. Police and media descend on the tiny village of Merrigang on the edge of Canberra. Locals unite to search the dense bushland. But as the investigation continues, relationships start to fracture, online hate messages target Lexie, and the community is engulfed by fear. Is Bella’s disappearance connected to the angry protests at Parliament House? What secrets are the parents hiding? And why does a local teacher keep a photo of Bella in his lounge-room? What happened in those six minutes and where is Bella? The clock is ticking…

Thriller: Where the Dead Go by Sarah Bailey

A fifteen-year-old girl has gone missing after a party in the middle of the night. The following morning her boyfriend is found brutally murdered in his home. Was the girl responsible for the murder, or is she also a victim of the killer? But who would want two teenagers dead? The aftermath of a personal tragedy finds police detective Gemma Woodstock in the coastal town of Fairhaven with her son Ben in tow. She has begged to be part of a murder investigation so she can bury herself in work rather than taking the time to grieve and figure out how to handle the next stage of her life – she now has serious family responsibilities she can no longer avoid. But Gemma also has ghosts she must lay to rest. Gemma searches for answers, while navigating her son’s grief and trying to overcome the hostility of her new colleagues. As the mystery deepens and old tensions and secrets come to light, Gemma is increasingly haunted by a similar missing persons case she worked on not long before. A case that ended in tragedy and made her question her instincts as a cop. Can she trust herself again?

Saga/Romance: The Collaborator by Diane Armstrong

An act of heroism, the taint of collaboration, a doomed love affair, and an Australian woman who travels across the world to discover the truth… It is 1944 in Budapest and the Germans have invaded. Jewish journalist Miklos Nagy risks his life and confronts the dreaded Adolf Eichmann in an attempt save thousands of Hungarian Jews from the death camps. But no one could have foreseen the consequences… It is 2005 in Sydney, and Annika Barnett sets out on a journey that takes her to Budapest and Tel Aviv to discover the truth about the mysterious man who rescued her grandmother in 1944. By the time her odyssey is over, history has been turned on its head, past and present collide, and the secret that has poisoned the lives of three generations is finally revealed in a shocking climax that holds the key to their redemption.

EAudio Books

A Minute to Midnight by David Baldacci [Borrowbox]

‘My sister was abducted from here nearly thirty years ago. The person who took her was never found. And neither was she. Her abductor nearly killed me. So I’m back here now trying to find the truth.’ Atlee Pine has spent most of her life trying to find out what happened that fateful night in Andersonville, Georgia. Her six-year-old twin sister, Mercy, was taken and Atlee was left for dead while their parents were apparently partying downstairs. One person who continues to haunt her is notorious serial killer Daniel James Tor, locked away in a Colorado maximum security prison. Does he really know what happened to Mercy?

The family moved away. The parents divorced. And Atlee chose a career with the FBI dedicating her life to catching those who hurt others. When she oversteps the mark on the arrest of a dangerous criminal, she’s given a leave of absence offering the perfect opportunity to return to where it all began, and find some answers. But the trip to Andersonville turns into a roller-coaster ride of murder, long-buried secrets and lies.


 The Chain by Adrian McKintry [RBdigital]

The hottest crime thriller of 2019 from one of the world’s best crime writers. Already sold to 31 countries! VICTIM. KIDNAPPER. CRIMINAL. You will become each one. You are now part of the chain. Don’t break the chain.The morning starts like any other. Rachel Klein drops her daughter, Kylie, at the bus stop and heads into her day. But then a phone call changes everything. A woman has Kylie bound and gagged in her back seat, and the only way Rachel will ever see her again is if she pays a ransom – and kidnaps another child. The caller is a mother herself, whose son has also been abducted, and if Rachel doesn’t do exactly as she’s told, both children will die. Rachel is now part of a terrifying scheme – The Chain. The rules are simple: find the money, find your victim, and then commit a horrible act you’d have thought yourself incapable of just 24 hours ago. Rachel is an ordinary woman, but over the coming days she will be pushed beyond ordinary limits to save her daughter. What the anonymous masterminds behind The Chain know is that parents will do anything for their children. But what they don’t know is that they may have met their match. Can Rachel be the one person to finally break The Chain?

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Alison’s Picks – March 2020


 The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – Danny Conroy and his sister Maeve grow up in an opulent house in small-town Pennsylvania. This house becomes a powerful symbol for everyone connected with it. Because I enjoy fiction that tells me how people interact, and the truths they aren’t able to acknowledge, I was intrigued by the lines of relationship Patchett drew between the various characters, showing the complex dynamics. But the tone… I baulked. There was a flatness to it, an absence of light and shade, of emotional colour. The voice felt truthful, clear but slightly brittle. Her observations were insightful but not compassionate. I compare her to, say, Wallace Stegner in Crossing to Safety; or Murray Bail in Eucalyptus. There is red blood flowing in the veins of these books – not so through The Dutch House. Presumably Patchett adopted this flatness of tone to echo the emotional poverty in the main characters here. Traumatic events led to an inability to grow and prosper. And there is more than a nod to materialism and the American Dream.

[The Dutch House is also available on BorrowBox]


Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany.  Her other novels – Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living and Mateship with Birds – won awards, and charmed and fascinated this reader.  This one, however, is a different animal; no less well-written, but the subject matter is grim. It was only Tiffany’s assured prose that got me through to the end. The central character is a young girl, living with her mother, brother and stepfather. Her complete alienation from this family is obvious from the start. The stepfather is a car mechanic, and the girl is skilled and knowledgeable with car engines too, so much so that she knows exactly how to sabotage mechanical work the father has done on cars that come to his workshop to be repaired. Gradually we are given clues as to why this girl (never named) is full of destructive energy. You can probably guess. Helen Garner’s comment on the cover is: Superbly controlled, like dark, secret music rising from an abyss. Amen to that.




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Good Reading Magazine – February 2020

The February issue of Good Reading magazine is ready for you to enjoy through Blue Mountains Library!

This Month

  •  In The Light After the War, Anita Abriel draws upon the true story of her mother surviving the Holocaust to craft a sweeping tale of love, friendship and the human spirit after the horrors of World War II.
  • The Lotus Eaters, a new memoir from Emily Clements that explores self-redemption – When Emily found herself stranded in Vietnam at just 19, she found herself spiralling into despair. gr spoke to Emily about her journey to finding self-worth and avoiding the trappings of typical travel memoirs.
  • D L Hicks on putting 25 years as a police officer to good use in writing his debut crime novel, The Devil Inside.
  • The anxiety of writing your second book with Pip Drysdale.
  • Lee Child Hands Over Jack Reacher
  • Podcasts with D L  Hicks, Benjamin Gilmour, Emily Clements & Genevieve Gannon

You can borrow Good Reading from the library or access the digital subscription right here, right now, with your library card.

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Carolyn’s Books of the Month – February

Best Read: The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis

A heartbreaking letter. A girl locked away. A mystery to be solved. 1956. When Ivy Jenkins falls pregnant she is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a dark, brooding house for unmarried mothers. Her baby is adopted against her will. Ivy will never leave. Present day. Samantha Harper is a journalist desperate for a break. When she stumbles on a letter from the past, the contents shock and move her. The letter is from a young mother, begging to be rescued from St Margaret’s. Before it is too late. Sam is pulled into the tragic story and discovers a spate of unexplained deaths surrounding the woman and her child. With St Margaret’s set for demolition, Sam has only hours to piece together a sixty-year-old mystery before the truth, which lies disturbingly close to home, is lost for ever… Read her letter. Remember her story…

Crime: I Thought I Knew You by Penny Hancock

Who do you know better? Your oldest friend? Or your child? And who should you believe when one accuses the other of an abhorrent crime? Jules and Holly have been best friends since university. They tell each other everything, trading revelations and confessions, and sharing both the big moments and the small details of their lives: Holly is the only person who knows about Jules’s affair; Jules was there for Holly when her husband died. And their two children – just three years apart – have grown up together. So when Jules’s daughter Saffie makes a serious allegation against Holly’s son Saul, neither woman is prepared for the devastating impact this will have on their friendship or their families. Especially as Holly, in spite of her principles, refuses to believe her son is guilty. For fans of He Said/She Said and Anatomy of a Scandal, Penny Hancock’s I Thought I Knew You is about secrets and lies – and whose side you take when it really matters.

Australian Author: The Burnt Country by Joy Rhoades

Australia 1948. As a young woman running Amiens, a sizeable sheep station in New South Wales, Kate Dowd knows she’s expected to fail. And her grazier neighbour is doing his best to ensure she does, attacking her method of burning off to repel a bushfire. But fire risk is just one of her problems. Kate cannot lose Amiens, or give in to her estranged husband Jack’s demands to sell: the farm is her livelihood and the only protection she can offer her half-sister pearl, as the Aborigines Welfare Board threatens to take her away. Ostracised by the local community for even acknowledging Pearl, Kate cannot risk another scandal. Which means turning her back on her wartime lover, Luca Canali … Then Jack drops a bombshell. He wants a divorce. He’ll protect what’s left of Kate’s reputation, and keep Luca out of it – but for an extortionate price. Soon Kate is putting out fires on all fronts to save her farm, keep her family together and protect the man she loves. Then a catastrophic real fire threatens everything …

General: The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen

Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits inches And she’s right. And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia. When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown.

Thriller: Good Girl,Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

A girl is found hiding in a secret room in a house being renovated after a terrible crime. For weeks, she has survived by sneaking out at night, stealing food for herself and two dogs that are kept in the garden. The nurses at the hospital where she is taken call her “Angel Face” because she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is 12, maybe 15, or somewhere in between. She doesn’t appear on any missing person’s file, or match the DNA of any murder victim. Six years later, still unidentified, the same girl is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac, when she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult. Psychologist Cyrus Haven is sent to interview Evie and decide if she’s ready to go free, but Evie Cormac is unlike he’s anyone he’s ever met. She’s damaged, destructive, and self-hating, yet possessed of a gift, or a curse, that makes her both fascinating and dangerous to be with – the ability to tell when someone is lying. Soon, he is embroiled in her unique and dangerous world, his life in utmost peril.

Thriller: The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath

On a night out, four friends witness a stranger in trouble. They decide to do nothing to help. Later, a body washes up on the banks of the Thames – and the group realises that ignoring the woman has left blood on their hands. But why did each of them refuse to step in? Why did none of them want to be noticed that night? Who is really responsible? And is it possible that the victim was not really a stranger at all?

Saga/Romance: Tell Me Your Secret by Dorothy Koomson

Ten years ago, Pieta was kidnapped from outside a London nightclub by a man who said he wouldn’t kill her if she kept her eyes closed for 48 hours. Pieta survived the weekend but was left emotionally and physically scarred by the experience. Now living in Brighton, she is a mother and journalist with a good life, until she is tasked with interviewing Callie, a woman who has the same story and scars as she does. Pieta has never told anyone what she did to escape with her life but now she may have to. Fifteen years ago policewoman Jody made a terrible mistake that resulted in a prolific serial killer known as The Blindfolder escaping justice. Only his newest victim Callie is willing to talk publicly about her ordeal, but when Jody finds out journalist Pieta was also once kidnapped by him, she realises how she can catch him. But that would mean endangering at least two innocent people. As the newest victim of the man known as the Blindfolder, Callie knows all eyes are on her to tell her story and give the police the information they need to catch this man. But does Callie know more than she is willing to tell? They kept quiet to protect themselves. Will they tell all to save or sacrifice each other?

EAudio Books

Daughter of the Murray by Darry Frazer (BorrowBox)

1890s, River Murray, Northern Victoria

Young and spirited Georgina Calthorpe is not happy living with her foster family, the MacHenrys, on their neglected sheep run on the banks of the River Murray.
Unlike the rest of the family, she isn’t looking forward to the return of the family’s prodigal son, Dane. She is right to be concerned, as on his return he’s furious when he discovers his inheritance is in severe decline. Ignoring the true culprit – his father – he blames Georgina and she decides to flee. Unfortunately, she makes her escape on Dane’s prized stallion and he gives chase …
From here their fates collide with Conor Foley, a businessman with a dark secret. He is offering Georgina security: marriage and status in the emerging nouveau-riche echelons of Melbourne. But where does her heart really lie?
No one could imagine the toll the changing political and social landscape will have on home, heart and family. Will Georgina’s decisions lead her into grave danger and unhappiness, or will she survive and fulfil her destiny?

Silver by Chris Hammer (rb digital)

Martin Scarsden returns in the sequel to the bestselling Scrublands. For half a lifetime, journalist Martin Scarsden has run from his past. But now there is no escaping. He’d vowed never to return to his hometown, Port Silver, and its traumatic memories. But now his new partner, Mandy Blonde, has inherited an old house in the seaside town and Martin knows their chance of a new life together won’t come again. Martin arrives to find his best friend from school days brutally murdered, and Mandy the chief suspect. With the police curiously reluctant to pursue other suspects, Martin goes searching for the killer. And finds the past waiting for him. He’s making little progress when a terrible new crime starts to reveal the truth. The media descend on Port Silver, attracted by a story that has it all: sex, drugs, celebrity and religion. Once again, Martin finds himself in the front line of reporting. Yet the demands of deadlines and his desire to clear Mandy are not enough: the past is ever present. An enthralling and propulsive thriller from the acclaimed and bestselling author of Scrublands. “Sprawling and explosive – a masterpiece.” HERALD SUN on Scrublands

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Stella Prize Long List – 2020

The Stella Prize Long List has just been announced, and it is time to get reading! The library has copies of all of these worthy books, and there is bound to be one to interest you.



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What Library Staff are Reading – February

Wheat Field in Rain – Vincent van Gogh – 1889

The Chain by Adrian McKinty – I have enjoyed Adrian McKinty’s other novels set in Northern Ireland and with such interesting titles as I hear sirens in the street and Police at the station and they don’t look friendly. Apparently he was trying to break into the US market with this one which is set in a coastal town in America.  Rachel’s daughter is kidnapped but rather than having to pay the ransome herself she has to kidnap someone else’s child. The kidnapper has taken Rachel’s child to save their child who was kidnapped in turn by another parent otherwise, their child will be killed. And so on. I struggled to the end of this bland story.  I just couldn’t empathise with the characters and the ending was predictable. 2 stars

Erotic stories for Punjabi widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal – this was chosen by a friend for book group.  It’s about a young woman who is engaged by the local Sikh temple to teach writing to some of the women who are widowed.  Things go slightly awry and they end up telling erotic stories to each other – which all has to be hidden from the scary woman in charge.  We had a wonderfully funny time at the discussion, not least because our hostess had this story to tell about reading the book on a flight back to Sydney from Melbourne : Picture me on a flight seated with the only Punjabis on the flight. The old man sitting next to me was very quiet, the text is LARGE and he was not blind. At the end of the flight his elderly wife leans over stating that they are Punjabi and could she get the details of the book. I explained the plot and that it has some naught bits in it.  She leaned over her husband and whispered, “we can be very naughty.”  I was floored! And he had a smile on his face.  This is a fun read 3.5 stars

A single thread by Tracy Chevalier. A friend bought and lent me this novel set in Lincoln between the wars. Violet Speedwell’s fiancé died in the Great War and she has fled the oppression of her mother’s home to live independently in Lincoln.  She joins a broiderers group who are embroidering the new kneelers for the cathedral.  As always, Chevalier is drawing on real life events and those who are interested can go online and see the kneelers at the cathedral and read about the woman who headed the group. Violet however, is busy falling in love with a married man, while being chased in the country-side by another one.  I didn’t quite get what the attraction was for Arthur by Violet and couldn’t fathom what triggered her stalker.  Not my favourite Chevalier. 3 stars

Men at work : Australia’s parenthood trap by Annabel Crabb – this is a Quarterly Essay exploring why men do not take on more domestic chores, especially child-related ones and parental leave.  Very interesting. 4 stars

The ventriloquists by ER Ramzipoor – this novel grew out of a PhD thesis into resistance literature, and is based on a true story.  It is set in Belgium in WW2 among a group of people working to produce a subversive copy of an evening newspaper that usually prints Nazi propaganda, Le Soir.  It is narrated from the point of view of Gamin, a girl who survived by dressing as a boy.  Chapters alternate between what is happening to the various characters, some of whom the reader is not sure are going to turn collaborator. A different story, an enjoyable read. 4 stars

At the moment I am reading The cut out girl by Bart van Es which won the Costa Book of the Year in 2019.  I’m very nearly finished and would highly recommend it.  Bart’s grandparents hid Jewish children from the Nazi’s during the occupation of the Netherlands, one of whom was a 9 year old girl called Lien.  After some time living with the van Es’s, they were raided and Lien had to move elsewhere, and did so multiple times.  At the end of the war she requested to go back to the van Es household and did so, fitting in happily with the family.  Somewhere along the line something went wrong though and Lien became estranged from the family.  Bart van Es wrote this book about his investigation into this story.  5 stars

Without a word by Kate McQuaile (rb digital) – Well-plotted and engaging Irish police procedural. The storytelling alternates between the perspective of the detective and that of the chief witness. The audiobook uses both a male and a female  narrator – both with marvellous lilting Irish voices. 4 stars

Watching You by Lisa Jewell (Borrowbox) – Wonderfully compelling thriller with a cast of interesting characters. The story moves back and forth in time between the events leading up to a terrible crime and (without giving much away) excerpts from the police interviews after the crime. The plot has just the right amount of twists and turns to be both plausible and engaging. At the start of the audiobook I wasn’t keen on the narrator’s voice, but the story was so compelling I had to keep listening and before long I was enjoying it so much I was glad I’d done so. 3.5 stars

Girl, Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo – though provoking and interestingly written.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – for the umpteenth time.

I have been listening to Emma by Jane Austen on Borrowbox – a bit of comfort food for dark times.

DVD London Road – great cast, interesting story, absolutely terrible. Could not endure any more than 20 minutes of viewing and I love musicals. I give it 1 star

DVD The best of Enemies – Great cast and a wonderful thought provoking story. I give it 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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