Librarian’s Choice – September

Have you ever asked your librarian for a book recommendation? Well here are the top 10 favourite books for August as voted by librarians across Australia on the Librarians’s Choice website.

1. The Choke by Sofie Laguna

Abandoned by her mother and only occasionally visited by her secretive father, Justine is raised by her pop, a man tormented by visions of the Burma Railway. Justine finds sanctuary in Pop’s chooks and The Choke, where the banks of the Murray River are so narrow it seems they might touch – a place of staggering natural beauty. But the river can’t protect Justine from danger. Her father is a criminal, and the world he exposes her to can be lethal.
Justine is overlooked and underestimated, a shy and often silent observer of her chaotic world. She learns that she has to make sense of it on her own. She has to find ways to survive so much neglect. She must hang on to friendship when it comes, she must hide when she has to, and ultimately she must fight back.

2. The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

In the spirit of Station Eleven and Never Let Me Go, this dazzling and ambitious literary debut follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future, weaving a spellbinding story of their relationship to the bees—and to their children and one another—against the backdrop of an urgent, global crisis.

3. City of Crows by Chris Womersley

A woman’s heart contains all things. Her heart is tender and loving, but it has other elements. It contains fire and intrigue and mighty storms. Shipwreck and all that has ever happened in the world. Murder, if need be…

4. The Seagull by Ann Cleeves

A visit to her local prison brings DI Vera Stanhope face to face with an old enemy: John Brace. Brace promises Vera information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, if she will look out for his daughter and grandchildren. He tells her where Marshall is buried, but when a search team investigates, officers find not one skeleton, but two.

5. Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

6. Take Three Girls (Young Adult) by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell & Fiona Wood

When St Hilda’s establishes a Year 10 Wellness Program in response to the era of cyber-bullying, three girls are thrown together and an unlikely friendship is sparked. One thing they have in common: each is targeted by PSST, a site devoted to gossip that must have a source within St Hilda’s. Who can you trust when rumour is the new truth?

7. The Museum of Words by Georgia Blain

In late 2015, Georgia Blain was diagnosed with a tumour sitting right in the language centre of her brain. Prior to this, Georgia’s only warning had been a niggling sense that her speech was slightly awry. She ignored it, and on a bright spring day, as she was mowing the lawn, she collapsed on a bed ofblossoms, blood frothing at her mouth.

8. Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer

Life was about living, experiencing and emotions. The good and the bad. You had to laugh to cry. You had to love to hurt. You had to jump to fall or fly.

9. A New England Affair by Steven Carroll

The latest, immensely moving novel of lost love and missed moments from Steven Carroll, one of Australia’s greatest writers, multi-award winner of the Miles Franklin Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Prime Minister’s Literary Award ‘Why do some nights feels as though they were always waiting to happen?

10. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.
In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America.


What Library Staff are Reading – September

Looking for some Spring reading inspiration?

There is something for everyone in this selection of books that library staff have been reading recently. We didn’t love them all, but maybe you will!


Lorimer and Brightman (series) by Alex GrayIf you love a well-written police procedural with well-developed characters and engaging plot lines, then consider reading Alex Gray’s Lorimer and Brightman series. William Lorimer is a police detective who often enlists the help of a criminal profiler, Solomon Brightman, on his cases. Although the series is set in Glasgow, Keep the Midnight Out (#12) goes on holiday with Lorimer to the Isle of Mull where a grisly find has echoes of a Glaswegian cold case from Lorimer’s past. The Darkest Goodbye (#13) deals with a series of suspicious deaths of chronically ill patients, raising issues of trust and quality of life. Both these recent novels can be enjoyed without delving further back into the series – but after you have read either of them, you may well find yourself more than a wee bit tempted.

House of Names by Colm Tóibín – This is a retelling of a Greek myth and so wouldn’t normally take my fancy but I’m a big fan of Colm so I gave it a go. It didn’t disappoint. Left in the hands of Colm this story was very readable and as with all family sagas, the themes of loyalty, honour and betrayal are timeless. 4/5 stars

Hillbilly Elegy: A memoir of a family and culture in crisis by J. D. Vance A memoir about Vance’s childhood in rust-belt, white, working-class Appalachia with themes of poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse and despondency. Yet Vance’s deep love and connection to family and place takes the edge of things and remains somewhat hopeful in that Vance himself managed to achieve upward mobility and graduated from Yale Law School. Touted as a book to explain the rise of Trump it isn’t politically and should find a broad readership. 4/5 stars

The Spy by Paulo Coelho – I was really looking forward to this fictional story based on Mata Hari – I enjoyed the first half of the book but it seemed to run out of steam in the second half and did not have nearly as much espionage or intrigue as I expected. The website is way more fascinating with links to national archives 3/5 stars


The Naked Witch by Fiona Horne – an autobiography by a truly fascinating individual who bares her soul. I agree with the blurb on the back of the book – At once heartbreaking and inspirational, you will wonder how one person could pack all this into one life – Maybe she really is a witch. 3/5  stars          


The Gospel according to Drew Barrymore by Pippa Wright – Esther and Laura live their lives and friendship based on Drew Barrymore films – starts off light hearted and quickly gets to the nub of friendships. 3/5 stars


The End We Start From by Megan Hunter – this beautifully written story says so much with so little.  Apocalyptic, relationships, disasters, not for the faint hearted as it is a story that will stay with you and you will have to re-examine again and again.  Resonates with the events and politics of today. Good for a Book Club. 5/5 stars


The Fast Diet by Dr Michael Mosley & Mimi Spencer – change the way you think about food.  The chapter on the science of food is worth it plus good high-protein recipes.  Based on the 5:2 diet – give yourself permission to fast. 4/5 stars


Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – so lovely reading a story from childhood and enjoying it just as much.  Does not feel dated at all.  5/5 stars                             


The Girl with the Dogs by Anna Funder – we should all read more novellas – more than a short story and not quite a novel but leaves you with a snippet of life that is interesting and worthwhile.  Everyone has a storyline in them of the life they could have lived….here is one examination of that idea. 5/5 stars


I’m still going through the Game of Thrones saga by George RR Martin.

The Good People by Hanna Kent (audio book) – I’m only about half way through and at the moment I have mixed feelings about it.  At the moment I’m thinking 2.5/5 stars, I just wish she’d get on with it!

Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin – I am not a crime reader, but the Edinburgh setting seemed like a good enough reason to call it ‘research’. I am prepared to believe that his books get better, but this one was pretty dire. The writing was juvenile, with Rebus frequently lamenting the fact that tourists are taking photos of landmarks and having a good time, cluttering up the city and never getting to know the crime ridden back streets and seedy pubs. Frankly if you live somewhere desirable enough to be a tourist attraction you can consider yourself lucky IMHO. Stop whinging and catch the killer! 2/5 stars

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott – I have read it more than once as a Young Person, but I am in the mood for some comfort reading. My copy is an ancient Collins Illustrated Pocket Classic that is disintegrating after 100 or so years of active service. I found it my grandmother’s house and devoured it during a hot and boring family holiday at the various family farms and establishments that we were destined to visit that Christmas. It fills with me with warm nostalgia to remember the trouble I got in each day as I read it at the dining table, embarrassing my parents with my antisocial behaviour. Now of course kids are told to put away their phones while eating, but perhaps all they are doing is reading the classics? 5/5 stars

Mrs Whitlam by Bruce Pascoe (Junior Fiction) is a moving story about a girl and a horse which also talks about fitting in, or not, and about death and grief. 4/5 stars

I really enjoyed the Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (Young Adult), Calpurnia is eleven in 1899 in America and is fascinated by the natural world. This is thought to be an unusual interest for a girl but she is encouraged by her grandfather. Her slow realisation of the difficulties that she will face and the picture of her life and the town where she lives all felt quite real to me. 3/5 stars

Wormwood Mire by Judith Rossell (Junior Fiction) which is the second Stella Montgomery book, following Withering-by-Sea. It didn’t grip me from the beginning in quite the same way as Withering-by-Sea but by the time I had finished the book I believed the fantastical world that was created and was waiting to find out what was going to be revealed next. 3/5 stars

In my grown-up mode I read Kate Grenville’s The Case against fragrance, which rang a lot of bells with me and I was pleased that someone had started the conversation. 3/5 stars

I finally read Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey after watching it come and go over the counter a few times and thinking that it looked interesting. I wasn’t disappointed, it was both sad and clever, and both a modern and an historical mystery. I’m not sure if people living with dementia do have the experiences and feelings of the main character but it certainly felt believable and true to me. 4/5 stars

I have enjoyed Inga Simpson’s fiction writing very much, Mr Wigg, Nest, and Where the trees were, so I was interested to read Understory:a life with trees. It is the memoir of a period of time living in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. I loved the detail of Inga’s learnings about and attachment to the trees and the bush and the region. 3/5 stars

My reading – which never includes the stuff I can’t get into and give up on – Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News which I only could do up to page 66 or so.  Tried reading it years ago and had no idea what was going on.  Same again this time round.  I can appreciate the clever writing but the story just didn’t resonate with me.

Quarterly Essay 65: The white queen: One nation and the politics of race by David Marr – a review of the Hanson phenomenon, how she got into Parliament both now and the first time 20-odd years ago.  How the refusal of the major parties to condemn her racism let it happen, how the electoral system has been played (depending on your point of view I guess) to allow her and other fringe political parties disproportionate power.  There’s a much better review than mine here. 3.5 stars

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein – this YA novel is a prequel to the Code Name Verity series.  It documents one summer when Lady Julia Beaufort-Stewart goes home to help pack up the family castle after her grandfather’s death.  She becomes involved in a murder investigation when Dr Housman who was cataloguing the treasures of the castle, goes missing.  If you are over 25 don’t let the YA designation put you off, these books are worthy of adult attention.  4/5 stars

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I read this around the time it came out and, while I couldn’t remember the intricacies of the plot, remembered I’d enjoyed it and I binge-watched the recent SBS TV rendition one snotty, fluey day in bed.  I can’t fault this feminist dystopian tale.  Read it NOW!  5/5 stars

Moonglow: a novel by Michael Chabon – a book group read.  We had our meeting last night but the member who’d chosen this book wasn’t there and I was the only one at the meeting who’d read the whole thing and the other who’d got anywhere near it was only half way through but enjoying it.  This book has a deliberate subtitle – this is memoir masquerading as fiction masquerading as memoir –speculative autobiography I read somewhere.  It’s the life story of the grandfather of a fictional Michael Chabon.  The stories Michael is told are not told chronologically with each of the stories being build upon little by little interspersed with each other.  I really enjoyed the writing style as well as the stories.  Grandfather was an interesting character involved in all sorts of things including the NASA space missions.  I gave this 4/5 stars.

Now I’ve started on The Last days of Jeanne D’Arc by Ali Alizadeh.


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



Library love letters

A small hand passed a small note across the counter at Blaxland Library. Could there be any better advice for those feeling the pains of boredom?

Library love letters

Miles Franklin Award Winner 2017

The Miles Franklin Award winner was announced last night. Congratulations to Josephine Wilson for her novel Extinctions. The novel was also the winner of the inaugural Dorothy Hewett Award for unpublished manuscripts in 2015.

“In Extinctions, Josephine Wilson explores ageing, adoption, grief and remorse, empathy and selfcentredness,”
said chair of the judging panel and State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian Richard Neville.
“The novel is a meditation on survival: on what people carry, on how they cope, and on why they might, after
so much putting their head in the sand, come to the decision to engage, and even change.”

Extinctions is Wilson’s second novel. Her first novel, Cusp, was published in 2005, and is also available from Blue Mountains Library.

Good Reading Magazine – September

The September issue of Good Reading magazine is ready for you to read!

You will find the online version on our website, or you can borrow a physical copy from the library.

Featured books

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde
England, 1852. William, a biologist and seed merchant, sets out to build a new type of beehive — one that will give him and his children honour and fame.United States, 2007. George, a beekeeper, fights an uphill battle against modern farming, but he hopes that his son can be their salvation.

China, 2098. Tao hand-paints pollen onto fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao’s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident — and she is kept in the dark about his whereabouts and condition — she sets out on a gruelling journey to find out what happened to him.

Haunting, illuminating, and deftly written, The History of Bees joins these three very different narratives into one gripping and thought-provoking story that is just as much about the powerful relationships between children and parents as it is about our relationship to nature and humanity.

Read the September cover story here.

Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer

Best friends Abbie, Jess and Ricki are setting sail on a cruise ship, rekindling the excitement of a school excursion they took 10 years earlier to the historic port town of Albany. But are they truly prepared for what this voyage will reveal?

Secrets Between Friends is a poignant novel of romance, family dynamics and friendship. Through her highly relatable, sympathetic characters, beloved Australian storyteller Fiona Palmer writes about issues, experiences and emotions we have all faced while posing the ultimate question: What is really important in this life?

Taboo by Kim Scott

Taboo, which takes place in present day rural Western Australia, tells the story of a group of Noongar people who revisit a taboo place: the site of a massacre that followed the assassination, by these Noongar people’s ancestors, of a white man who had stolen a black woman. They come at the invitation of Dan Horton, the elderly owner of the farm on which the massacres unfolded. He hopes that by hosting the group he will satisfy his wife’s dying wishes and cleanse a moral stain from the ground on which he and his family have lived for generations.

But the sins of the past will not be so easily expunged.

City of Crows by Chris Womersley

France, 1673. Desperate to save herself and her onlysurviving child from an outbreak of plague, the widow Charlotte Picot flees her village to seek sanctuary in Lyon.

But, waylaid on the road by slavers, young Nicolas is stolen and his mother is left for dead. Charlotte fears the boy has been taken to Paris for sale, for it is well known there is no corruption in a man’s heart that cannot be found in that terrible City of Crows.

Yet this is not only a story of Paris and its streets thronged with preachers, troubadours and rogues. It is also the tale of a woman who calls herself a sorceress, and a demon who thinks he is a man.

Fergus the Farting Dragon by Monique Mulligan

Fergus is different from other dragons. But when people make fun of him, he has an ear-splitting, eye-watering, toe-curling, stink-making response. He farts! When a cheeky knight in a fireproof suit steals a precious dragon egg, the other dragons are at a loss. It’s left to Fergus to get the egg back from the thieving knight. A rhyming story that celebrates difference in an entertaining way, Fergus the Farting Dragon is set to delight adults and children.

Alison’s Picks – September 2017


Anything is Possible – Elizabeth Strout

A Writing Life: Helen Garner and her work – Bernadette Brennan

Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

A Few Days in the Country, and other stories – Elizabeth Harrower

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