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 Gray –If 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 http://paulocoelhoblog.com/the-spy/
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 https://www.fionahorne.com/book
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 https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/pippa-wright/the-gospel-according-to-drew-barrymore
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 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33858905-the-end-we-start-from
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 https://thefastdiet.co.uk/
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 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24178.Charlotte_s_Web
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
The Daffodils have spoken – spring is just around the corner. While some of us may now be tempted outdoors, the wise know that The Reading Season is not quite over. Here is a selection of titles that library staff have been reading recently.
One of us is lying by Karen M. McManus – This book is an interesting take of a who done it. The story is based around the 4 teenagers that are suspected of murder. The 4 teenagers have detention with another teenager, whose water during detention is “poisoned” and dies via allergic reaction. The story is interesting as the story writes from all 4 perspectives and keeps you guessing for quite a bit! I will say that myself and my book club all figured it out WAY before the characters did, but it was still an interesting read if not a little predictable. It’s got drama, romance, and a little action thrown into a big mystery. It was an interesting read but I probably won’t be returning to this again any time soon. 3/5
Steal like an artist : 10 things nobody told you about being creative & Show your work! : 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered both by Austen Kleon – both have both really got my cylinders firing. Now that I’ve stolen some of his fantastic ideas and I’m slightly encouraged to show my work, I’ll be sneaking in time for creativity wherever I possibly can. I’m even inspired to get up an hour earlier each morning to get in some time before the rest of the household wakes up. This is balanced by the fact that I go to bed about 3 hours earlier with an electric blanket, a book and a spread of cats. I’ve just begun reading his original book, Newspaper Blackout, which was what inspired me to order in all 3 of his titles for the library. I have myself a permanent marker and I’m not afraid to use it. The Gazette never read so well!
The strange library – by Murakami – just didn’t get it at all. 1/5
Whatever happened to inter-racial love? – by Kathleen Collins – a book of short stories. I am generally not a fan of short stories so don’t really know why I gave this one a go. I didn’t like it. 1/5
A dog’s purpose – by Bruce Cameron. Read this one because the picture on the front cover was just soooooo cute. I loved it! It should have come with a warning label though as I must have gone through several boxes of tissues while reading it. 5/5
Letters to Alice, on first reading Jane Austen by Fay Weldon – I read this many years ago, but have just re-read it. Weldon’s fiction is a little too blistering for this faint-hearted reader, but Letters to Alice is an enchanting stroll through the country of literature by one who most comfortably lives there, and knows its highways and byways. Aunty Fay writes letters to her niece about writing. I will keep revisiting this book down the years, I suspect.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – You all know the story; Eliza, Mr Darcy, balls, perfidy, shameful younger sisters and embarrassing mothers… but in case you’ve forgotten the architecture of Austen’s language – have another look. I am always bowled over by the musicality of her prose, its rise and fall, its poise, its perfect grammar!
Outline by Rachel Cusk – A terrific book. These publishers’ notes give a concise picture of what it does:
Rachel Cusk’s Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and stark, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing during one oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner and discourse. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her neighbour from the plane.
The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves: their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.
I’ve gone back to the beginning of Game of Thrones by George RR Martin. I got to about Book 4 last time and I gave up because of the brutality but having watched some episodes on Youtube I’ve realised the book is better hence the restart and I’m devouring it.
I also read Harp in the South by Ruth Park for my book group. It is definitely well written but some of the ‘brutal’ bits got to me again.
The Orkneyinga Saga (pub. c. 1230)- this is in preparation for my upcoming trip to Scotland. Now I know that Sigurd the Mighty killed Máel Brigte the Bucktoothed of Scotland through treachery on the battlefield, but Sigurd got what for when he scratched his leg on the Scottish earl’s tooth, (his opponent’s head having been hung from Sigurd’s saddle), and the wound turned septic and killed him. He was only the second earl of Orkney, and I still have several to go before I reach the end.
Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern – I went on a bit of a Cecilia Ahern binge and this was the first one I read. A beautiful story that captures fame and reality television and love. 4/5
The Marble Collector by Cecelia Ahern – If you like family sagas and mysteries then this is right up your alley. I learnt more about marbles than I ever needed to! 4/5
Don’t Tell Mum I work on the rigs (she thinks I am a piano player in a whorehouse) by Paul Carter – Aimed at a male audience with too many blokey stories that might work at the pub but did not translate well to print. 2/5
Prince by Matt Thorne – If you want to learn more about the music behind the man then this is the book for you. Matt Thorne is a music journalist so concentrated on the music rather than the social side of Prince. Really interesting read. 3/5
Weightless by Sarah Bannon – A timely and on-the-pulse book about highschool bullying. If you have teenagers, read this book. 4/5
Raw Spirit by Iain Banks – A raucous read of visiting Scotch Whiskey distilleries in Scotland – purely to taste of course! 3/5
The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home –Set in Edinburgh which is always a draw-card for me, this novel is a bit different from the usual Tartan Noir in that Cal McGill, the eponymous Sea Detective, is an expert on how sea currents and tides move objects about and mostly consults for corporations who have lost containers overboard and want to know what happened to them. Here he is drawn into an investigation after feet are found washed up on beaches on the east coast of Scotland. A complex plot involving Cal’s own family history, people smuggling and political activism makes a compelling read. It is the first in the Sea Detective series. I gave it 4/5
Ice Cold Alice by C P Wilson – another Tartan Noir, also set in Edinburgh. Alice is a serial killer who is getting rid of men who abuse their families and giving their families the opportunity to disappear to a new life. DI Kathy McGuire is trying to track her down. The narrative flips between the present day and about 15 years ago for both characters. Definitely not for lovers of Cosy Detective novels, this had just enough to keep me turning the pages so I could find out what happens, but only just. Again, this is the first in a series called Tequila Mockingbird. Scored 3/5
So High a Blood: the life of Margaret, Countess of Lennox by Morgan Ring – Margaret Douglas was the daughter of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister, and her second husband, Archibald Douglas. She was also mother of Henry, Lord Darnley who disasterously married Mary Queen of Scots and fathered James VI of Scotland. James VI became James I of England also after the death of Elizabeth I. This rather dry at times book follows the highs and lows of Margaret’s life – she was imprisoned several times and schemed endlessly to further her family’s dynastic fortunes. Scored 3/5
Silly Isles by Eric Campbell – ABC Foreign Correspondent Eric Campbell has a lovely, dry sense of humour and loves to point out the absurdities of life. In this book he writes about his travels to a number of the world’s islands and takes a look a life. A fun book to dip in and out of, it’s been my lunch time reading for a couple of weeks. Scored 3.5/5
If there was any doubt, we are in the depths of winter here in the Mountains. It’s time to batten down the hatches, find somewhere warm, and lose ourselves in a good book. Library staff have been leading by example, and have plenty of books to recommend this month. Maybe you will find some inspiration for your own reading journey.
A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy. It is one of his earlier novels, full of emotion and plot advancing coincidence as are his others. I enjoy nineteenth century authors, especially when revealing of the social conditions of women of the times. 3/5
Australia’s most murderous prison: Behind the walls of Goulburn Jail by James Phelps. Written like a short series of articles (many chapters finish abruptly), but absolutely riveting. When James was asked why he wrote the book he said “voyeurism”. If asked why I read the book? I would say voyeurism. 4/5
Every Day is Mother’s Day by Hilary Mantel. Not at all what I expected but compelling all the same. Apparently there is a sequel – I am compelled enough to seek it out and see what happens to these odd characters. 4/5
Heaven, Hell and Mademoiselle by H.C.Carlton. Paris in the 1960s, Fashion houses, Intrigue and wonderful characters. What’s not to love about this chic lit novel? Great escapism with fashion, shoes and handbag descriptions. 4/5
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith – In 1631, Sara de Vos was admitted to the Guild of St Luke in Holland as a master painter, the first woman to ever be honoured. This is a story of that painter and a modern story of intrigue, forgery and art history. I really enjoyed this read, the characters, the plot development and the learning about Dutch Master painters and painting techniques. 4/5
The Strange Library by Murakami. Short story about a boy who enters the Library….I wont give anything else away because the story is worth reading and the book is a work of art. Have a look at the website and especially check out the Fan Photo Gallery….4/5
No Dress Rehearsal by Marian Keyes – Short story by one of my favourite authors about a woman that dies and hasn’t realised it yet…..3/5
Johnson’s Life of London by Boris Johnson – I read this for many reasons. Yes I wanted to hear a short version of London’s history which Johnson does quite well – picking out interesting stories to expand. This is not a dry history but one brought to life with interesting characters and storylines. And I also wanted to try and learn a bit more about Boris Johnson – and this book does give you a small insight to this interesting man (Mayor of London). 4/5
A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson – Charley Lambert is a workaholic who breaks her leg. This story is what happens next. I loved it – great characters and laugh out loud moments. 3/5
Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser – I found this book unsettling and I do understand myself well enough to know why. This narrative is based around 2 main characters – Laura who is a tourist – and Ravi who is a refugee. A thoroughly engaging read. Very well written and also confronting to those of us who love to travel the world. 4/5
American Gods – Neil Gaiman – Brilliant book that is highly entertaining. I don’t know why it won a SciFi award as it doesn’t seem very SciFi to me. However it also won a fantasy and a horror award. I think the horror award may of just been for one scene that had nothing to do with the rest of the book. I don’t usually read fantasy but I very much enjoyed this and cannot wait to watch the TV series. This is probably whjat you might call urban fantasy, but I think it would file better under mythology. I had read much for a while and I was glad I put the time aside for this. 5/5
iD – Medeline Ashby – The sequel to Vn which places the secondary character from the first book as the main protaganist which changes the type of story. Great cyber punk style sci fi. I look forward to the third installment. 4/5
Company Town by Medeline Ashby – A dystopian style sci fi with a highly entertaining storyline and well crafted characters. Reminds me of Bladerunner with all the corporate goings on. A very nice ending that will lead any sequels on a different path. The story takes place in a small pocket of a much bigger world that is only hinted at until the end. 5/5
The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds by J.M.R. Higgs – Amazingly entertaining unauthorised history of the KLF and its two members. 5/5
The Long and the Short of It: A guide to finance and investment for normally intelligent people who aren’t in the industry by John Kay – Very good introduction to the world of investing with a lot of background and practical information. I bought myself a copy for reference after reading the library’s copy. 5/5
Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner – This one is up there with the first Freakonomics book, one of their best. Introduces the techniques used to think in the way they do to come up with such interesting research. Highly recommended if you hold critical thinking in high regard. 5/5
When to Rob a Bank: A Rogue Economist’s Guide to the World by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner – A collection of their best blog posts. Even when curated and edited these are very hit and miss. Entertaining but only for fans, far from their best work as the previous book mentioned is. 4/5
Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich – 4/5
The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting by Jason Fung, MD – 4/5
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Brilliant writing by Strout about a complex character. Olive is a plain-speaking older woman living on the Maine coast, with her warm-hearted husband. Strout delineates the brusque, unkind aspects of Olive’s nature playing out against the care and generosity she is also capable of. I was blown away by this book, now a 4-part miniseries, also brilliant.
The Abundance by Annie Dillard. A set of essays, “precise in language and deeply meditative in spirit” (cover notes). Dillard closely watches the world, sees its minutiae in a way that reminds me of William Blake, and perhaps Dylan Thomas. If you care about writing, read this one.
Arthur and George, by Julian Barnes. This is a re-read for me. Arthur Conan Doyle gets wind of a terrible injustice done to George Edalji, and seeks to put it right. Crisp, measured writing by Barnes, as he reconstructs an actual event from the early 1900s, with forensic attention to detail.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – 3/5
The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb. The idea of down-sizing everyday expenditure, and recycling, makes plenty of sense to me. The authors write light-heartedly of the many ways we can live simply and enjoyably.
Midwinter by Fiona Melrose. A sensitive, detailed portrait of a father and his son, as they negotiate trauma in an effort to emerge saner and wiser on the other side.
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. Surely it is too, too shaming to have never read this before. What starts in the sparkling world of privileged early 20th century London ends suddenly on an unnamed battlefield somewhere else. Happily there are no sympathetic characters to worry about and they all get their comeuppance. 4/5
The Twins of Tintarfell by James O’Loghlin (junior fiction). Picked up for a quick read while waiting for an appointment. I don’t read much junior fiction, so I have little to compare it to, but it was a mostly enjoyable yarn that felt like a bigger story that had been edited down to the bone. One twin is kidnapped from the castle keep and the other sneaks out to rescue him. Adventure ensues. 3/5
Fair Game by Steve Cannane (Bolinda eAudiobook). A rather shocking exposé of the Church of Scientology in Australia by ABC journalist Steve Cannane and read by the author. 3/5
Henri, le chat noir : the existential mewsings of an angst-filled cat by William Braden. My daughter got a black cat recently and he was quite shy so this was a very apt book. It was quite amusing. Our cat is no longer quite shy. In fact he’s a bit of a hooligan. Scored 3 ½/5
See what I have done by Sarah Schmidt – a novelised telling of the Lizzie Borden story which is very familiar to the Americans. In 1892 Lizzie was tried for the murder of her father and stepmother in a case so sensational it spawned a rhyme – Lizzie Borden took an axe/ And gave her mother forty whacks./ When she saw what she had done, /She gave her father forty-one. The novel portrays an extremely dysfunctional household. It is intense and claustrophobic and right to the end the reader is wondering whodunnit after all. I scored this a 4/5
For a complete change of pace I read The Childbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan. Set in WWII this novel is about the women of the village choir who are left after all the men go to war. Rivalries and secrets abound. It’s a charming book and an easy read. Score 4/5
Along the same lines was Holding by Graham Norton which is a cosy mystery set in rural Ireland. Again, beneath the peaceful village façade lie deep divisions and long-held secrets. Scored 3 ½/5
I also tried The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett for book group but I just can’t come to grips with fantasy and all the humour my book groupies saw left me completely cold.
Waking Hell (Station #2) – Al Robertson – 4/5
Tales from the Loop – Simon Stålenhag – 4/5
Things from the Flood – Simon Stålenhag – 4/5
Hip Hop Family Tree Book 3: 1983-1984 – Ed Piskor – 4/5
Hip Hop Family Tree Book 4: 1984-1985 – Ed Piskor – 4/5
Aleister & Adolf – Douglas Rushkoff – 3/5
Mechanica – Lance Balchin – 3/5
The Troop – Noel Clarke – 3/5
Things from the Flood by Simon Stålenhag (sequential art book with stories) – the second book by the Swedish digital artist. Memories of a childhood spent in rural 80s-90s Sweden… but not quite the past that we all remember. 4/5
The girl from the other side : csiúil, a rún Vol 1 by Nagabe (manga) – a very young girl is cared for by a benevolent demon on the Outside, as she is shunned by her fellow humans who live in fear on the Inside. Lovely ethereal drawings with a moody atmosphere. Also a nice change from standard manga. 4/5
The July issue of
Good Reading magazine
is ready for you to read!
In the July cover story, author Monica McInerney shares how her own experience of being torn between Ireland and Australian has found its way into the emotional undercurrent of her latest novel, The Trip of a Lifetime. Check out Dennis Glover’s debut novel, The Last Man in Europe, which explores the final months of George Orwell’s life as he pens his dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four.
In another novelised biography, Michael Fitzgerald offers a lyrical depiction of Robert Louis Stevenson’s final years of life on the Samoan island of Upolu. Read an extract of Mojgan Shamsalipoor and Milad Jafari’s moving memoir, Under the Same Sky. Find out which books inspired three of the women who contributed their stories to Unbreakable: Women share stories of resilience and hope.
Last but not least, look through the fiction, non-fiction and kid’s reviews to find out which books you’d like to sink your teeth into this month!
Books staff have been reading over the past month or two. Here’s the rating scale used:
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
- The way back home by Freya North – I didn’t really like this wishy-washy heroine and it frustrated me that there was a big secret in the plot line that I had to wait to find out. But it was still a page-turner and I had to find out what happened. 2 stars
- Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod – This book was recommended to me and I LOVED it. If you are familiar with the Artists Way, then this book will appeal to you too. Well-written and entertaining – so jealous that she managed to change her life! We should all downsize, stop going out, save up and run away to Paris – here is the guide: 4 stars
- Now is the time to open your heart by Alice Walker – I have always loved the writing of Alice Walker – this was quite different but still intriguing. If you like journeys, physical and spiritual, this is the story for you. 3 stars
- Ours are the Streets by Sunjeev Sahota – Not a comfortable read, but very compelling. If you are interested in exploring the idea of home and how an isolated youth can become radicalised… This is a sensitive and poignant story of our time. 4 stars
- Fall Girl by Toni Jordan – Very original storyline – never sure where it was going to end up. Really enjoyed the ride. Romantic comedy/chicklit at its witty best. 4 stars
- No one ever has sex in the suburbs by Tracy Bloom – catchy title but then I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. But once I got to know the characters I was sad to leave them at the end. I didn’t realise it was a sequel as it does work as a stand-alone read. I found it a fun, light read. 3 stars
- The Commitments by Roddy Doyle – this was a re-read as I wanted to see how it held up after all these years. Still a raucous and entertaining read. It captures a slice of life in Dublin at the time. 4 stars
- You had me at hello by Mhairi Macfarlane – (Mhairi is pronounced ‘Vari’ by the way) Ben and Rachel were a couple at university, when they cross paths again 13 years later will the old spark still be there, and what will they do about it? I’ve had this on a to-read list for quite some time. I either read or heard a review that said it was absolutely hilarious. I didn’t find it that amusing. 2 ½ stars
- The Toymaker by Liam Pieper – Adam Kulakov runs the family toymaking business which appears to be going well, but Adam has made a mistake which threatens his business, his marriage. Adam’s grandfather, Arkady, was imprisoned in Auschwitz and given an impossible choice. The past is catching up with both men. A compelling story with a twist I didn’t see coming. 3 1/3 stars
- In the dark room by Susan Faludi – a biography and discussion on gender politics. The subject of the biography is Susan Faludi’s father Steven Faludi who, after twenty-five years absence, invites Susan to get to know her now as a woman after sex change surgery. She’s a slippery character though and the truth is not easy to get at. 3 stars
- Springtime: a ghost story by Michelle De Kretser – a very disappointing novella. Not even suspenseful and not much in the way of a ghost. 1 star
- Sheila: the Australian beauty who bewitched British society by Robert Wainwright – an interesting biography of Sheila Chisholm, born into a wealthy squatter family in Australia who who arrives in England just before the outbreak of the First World War, married a lord and finds herself mixing with the aristocracy including the Prince of Wales and Duke of York (the future George VI) with whom she had an affair. Well written and interesting. 3 stars
- Nora Webster by Colm Toibin – Nora is newly bereaved and trying to get on with life and do her best for her family. This is usually the type of book I hate with no beginning, middle or end, just a meandering along through a few years but Colm Toibin is such a beautiful writer the language carried me along and I was at the end before I knew it. 4 stars
- The woman who walked into the sea by Mark Douglas-Home – I found this book somewhere and had it on my bookshelf for a while. Cal McGill is an oceanographer and one who assists families find the bodies of loved ones involved in drownings, man overboard situations, etc. In this book he is helping a young woman find out what really happened when her mother walked into the sea 20+ years previously. This is the second in the Sea Detective series, I think I’ll take a look at the first one too. 4 stars
- No 2 Feline Detective Agency by Mandy Morton – had some amusing plays on human names and concepts, but as it was about cats running a detective agency and living human lives I couldn’t quite get into it – 2 stars
- The readers of Broken Wheel recommend by Katrina Bival – a light and fluffy, happily ever after – was a good Christmas holiday read as it was not at all taxing – 3.5 stars
- Papadam preach by Almas Khan – I persevered to the end but did not enjoy it at all – 1 star
- A Christmas carol and other Christmas stories by Charles Dickens– read it right the way through over the Christmas break – enjoyed A Christmas Carol the best – 4 stars
- The Better Son, by Katherine Johnson. This novel is set in the vicinity of Mole Creek, which is east of the Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair area of Tasmania. We are in limestone (karst) country, where water has, over the centuries, hollowed out huge caves. Those caves are central characters in this story. In 1952 two brothers find a secret cave, and one day only one of them returns home. Great storytelling, suspenseful, and best of all for me, I meet some brilliant Tasmanian wild country I didn’t know existed. I even contacted the author to congratulate her!
- Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy – Very funny, micky-taking. Struan Robertson leaves his home in Cuik, Scotland, to look after a London-based playwright who has been disabled by a stroke. Brilliant portraits by Clanchy of a cast of characters, each one of whom is engaging and gently satirised.
- Reckoning by Magda Szubanski – This well-known Australian comedian/actress has written a memoir which searches for the truth of her father’s history, and examines her own troubled existence. The charm of this work is Szubanski’s honesty.