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
Here are some suggestions for what to read when it’s too wet to go outside:
- I haven’t read any books by Neil Gaiman and The ocean at the end of the lane was recommended to me as a good starting point. I enjoyed the quirky world that slowly came in to focus, and then went out of focus again! 3/5
- I was a bit nervous about reading LaRose by Louise Erdrich as I know that her novels can take you on grim journeys through difficult lives, but she writes so deeply and well about the effects of colonisation and dispossession in America that I knew I would want to go on whatever journey LaRose would take. This is actually a surprisingly gentle and positive story, even though people go through great tragedies, and again her writing is so strong that I was drawn in to the lives that are so skilfully portrayed here. 4/5
- I loved reading Hag-seed: The Tempest retold by Margaret Atwood. It was a clever retelling of the Shakespeare, bringing both the play and its plot in to the current day. The story of producing Shakespeare in a prison environment was compelling and I even got to like the main character more as the story unfolded. 4/5
- I also read Murder at Myall Creek: the trial that defined a nation. This is a biography of John Hubert Plunkett, the Attorney General of NSW and the prosecutor of the 11 men who were tried for the murder of 28 Aboriginal children, women and men in 1838. It was almost unknown for whites to be tried for killing Aboriginal people at this time and Plunkett stuck to his belief in ‘equality before the law’ against most of the population of the young state. 3/5
- I wanted to recommend The Hawley Book of The Dead by Chrysler Szarlan. I give it 4 Stars, really enjoyed it. A creepy read on a stormy night.
- I have read all four books in Alison Croggon’s Pellinor series – a huge dose of fantasy fiction which I just devoured, some of them I read twice – 5/5
- I’m currently reading Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project this is for book group and although I haven’t finished it I would recommend it – 4/5
- The mapmaker’s children : a novel by Sarah McCoy – based on the true life story of the famous abolitionist John Brown and his family – mostly his daughter Sarah. 4/5
- The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith. The action takes place in three ‘theatres’ – Amsterdam, early 1600s: New York 1958: and Sydney 2000. Sara de Vos and her husband Barent are painters during what later becomes known as the Golden Age of Dutch painting. Their beloved only child is taken by the Plague. To assuage her grief, Sara paints something that is now reverberating down the centuries in surprising ways. Riveting read, totally recommended.
- Nutshell by Ian MacEwan. Imagine an unborn baby boy, upside down in his mother’s birth canal because D-Day is near, listening to all that goes on in the outside world, which shortly he will enter, and not liking what he hears. His mother and her lover plotting to do away with his father! This baby is seriously displeased. He thinks in majestic prose, with Shakespearean flair. The humour is dark, but this is finest example of MacEwan’s linguistic bravura I’ve ever seen.
- The Good Guy by Susan Beale. Here’s another novel with a baby close to its epicentre, in a more roundabout way. Ted needs to be admired, so when wife Abigail doesn’t provide enough of this he finds his way to Penny, who does. Ted tries to live two lives in parallel, with more lies than you can poke a stick at. Beale manages this subject well, by situating herself at a slightly ironic distance from the characters. I liked this one a lot. It’s her first published novel.
- The Fields by Kevin Maher – there were parts of this book that I really enjoyed, parts that made me think, parts that needed to be shared and then parts that were utterly absurd. If you enjoy the Irish fiction genre, it covers all those bases but be prepared to go where you have never been before. 3 stars
A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy – I keep picking this one up and putting it down after reading only 1 or 2 stories – only because I want to savour them and not rush them. Each short story in this collection is a gem. 5 stars.
- A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon. This book has inspired me to look at what is important – what would I keep? And to take it one step further (as it did in the book) and capture my 100 moments of 2017. 4 stars
- Bittersweet by Colleen McCulloch – I love a good saga, spanning several decades and involving sisters. Great read and set in the Depression era of Australia. 4 stars
- The Promise by Jamie Zimmerman. I listened to this one on Talking Book – not sure if I could have read it. It really went there with the background to being in the army and the toll it takes on those around you. Jamie is an Australian Commando and outlines Australia’s involvement in the middle east. Worth reading if you want to know. 4 stars
- The Fabulously Fashionable Life of Isabelle Bookbinder by Holly McQueen – If you love chicklit, a hopeless heroine, great characters and a story that works out in the end, then this is for you. 3 stars
- The Travelling bag by Susan Hill – this is a collection of ghostly short stories. Susan Hill is great at creating a creepy atmosphere and is somewhat Dickensian in her telling. 3 ½ stars
- Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell – Maxwell’s tale of a short year with otter, Mijbil, on a secluded property on the west coast of Scotland is just glorious and had me laughing and weeping by turns. Maxwell was a tortured soul and the next two books in the trilogy demonstrate that clearly. This first one scores 5 stars for me though.
- Line of Fire by Ian Townsend – Townsend explores the little known story of Australian ex-pats caught in Rabaul , New Britain in Papua New Guinea as the Japanese army advances in 1942. Among those who surrender to the Japanese after hiding out in the hills for several months are 11 year old Dickie Manson, his mother Marjorie, his step-father Ted Harvey and his uncle. Unbelievably, Dickie and his family are executed for spying – I’m not spoiling the plot here, it’s all there right from the start. 4 stars
- Tulip by Celine Marchbank – a beautiful book of photographs taken by Celine Marchbank in the last year of her mother’s life. 4 stars
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.
Oh my, we’ve been having a busier time that we thought. We haven’t posted a What Library Staff are Reading since February!!!
Anyway, here’s some reading staff have been doing that might provide some inspiration to you as we head towards the warmer weather. It’s almost jacaranda time – my favourite.
Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Brackman – I wasn’t sure I was going to like this novel, written with a distinct Swedish flavour, but the character Britt-Marie and the author’s sparse writing style somehow drew me in to this strange, funny, sometimes confronting story about a rather difficult character. Almost against my will I came to barrack for Britt-Marie. An uplifting tale of the value of belonging and community, and that it is never too late. Scored 4 stars.
Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach – the film is due to be released soon so I thought I’d give this another read. Set in Amsterdam in the 16oos there are plenty of references to Dutch art of the period – the story revolves around the parallel romances of wealthy young woman, Sophia, married to a much older and that of her maid, Maria. Atmospheric and evocative of both time and place – 3 ½ stars
Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta who usually writes YA fiction. This thriller is about the suspected terrorist attack on a bus of school children on tour in France. Suspended policeman Bish ends up investigating the bombing when he goes to fetch his daughter who has survived. Questions start to be asked when it is revealed that one of the other students is the granddaughter of a man that set a bomb of in a supermarket whose mother is currently in jail as an accessory. A page turner – 4 stars
The Yalda Crossing by Noel Beddoe – a book group read. This is the story of white settlers to the Murrumbidgee River in the 1830s/1840s and their interactions with the aboriginal peoples. It has parallels with the much more famous The Secret River by Kate Grenville which is also the better book. It took two goes to read this. I tried it several months ago and, despite it ticking a number of my appeal boxes – history, Australia – I couldn’t get into it. With a deadline I did a bit better – 4.5 stars
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet – about a murder set in the remote north west of Scotland in the late 1800s and told in the form of a confession by the perpetrator, court documents and newspaper articles. The authentic-seeming presentation of this is apparently confusing some who are reading it as true crime. This is another book that seems familiar – this time it reminds me of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – perhaps because of the similar time setting and the similarities between the lives of Icelandic peasants and Scottish crofters of the same time? Scored 4 stars
Unsuitable Men by Pippa Wright. Fun chick-lit book – great concept – what to do when you get out of a long term relationship? Date the unsuitable men. 3 stars
Unbearable Lightness by Portia di Rossi. Do you want to know more about anorexia? The intricate, nitty gritty thoughts and day to day gruel? This was an eye-opener for me. Not recommended for teenage girls with low self-esteem as Portia goes into way too much detail on how she learnt to survive on eating very, very little. 3 stars
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Fantastic characters – could not put this down. 4 stars
Stories I only tell my friends by Rob Lowe – like I was sitting with Rob with a wine (except he no longer drinks) and he was telling all his funny stories from the movie industry. 4 stars
Everywhere I look, by Helen Garner. This is a set of essays and observations. What IS the magic of Helen Garner? I’ll try to describe it: she is devastatingly honest, she is a central pole of quiet wisdom in a noisy world, she approaches difficult subjects in a spirit of curiosity and without moral judgement. Compassion, and a desire to understand, drive all of what she writes. She pares her writing back until it says just what she means it to, no more, no less. She is a literary hero for me.
The Mud House, by Richard Glover. If you’re a sucker for Kevin McLeod’s Grand Designs, if you just get off on the building process, you will bathe luxuriously in this memoir of Glover’s, in which he details how he and his wife join with two friends, to build a house of mud brick on a remote and difficult block somewhere in the general area of Wombeyan Caves, central NSW. Glover is habitually entertaining, but he is also on a voyage of discovery. He has never built anything in his life. He learns as he goes. So, eventually, do his children. The house isn’t perfect, says Richard, but we built it ourselves!
Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty. Three couples meet in a backyard for a barbeque. Their three kids and a dog are there too. Nothing very startling about that? But start reading the book and I guarantee you won’t want to do anything else until you get to the last page. Riveting. Moriarty sustains tension to the last.
If you’re eternally curious about Aboriginal culture and are looking for a wise, unsentimental understanding of it, read Kim Mahood’s Position Doubtful. She was raised on a cattle station in the Tanami desert country, and returns to it on and off, because this is her blood’s country, as Judith Wright puts it in South of my Days. As aboriginal paintings look down on country from above, Mahood seeks to do something similar, engaging in a mapping exercise of sorts: mapping country, mapping relationships, mapping the black/white nexus. An extraordinary book, from an artist working across several disciplines.
Calming down after the silly and school holiday seasons, getting back to what passes for normal and celebrating Library Lovers Day, these have been enjoyed by your colleagues:
- I saw the stage version of Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey and very much enjoyed it so it spurred me to get around to reading the book. It was interesting to see the scenes and storylines that had been incorporated in to the play and to find out the extra background and information that had been left out. I enjoyed reading the book, the writing style was easily flowing and the characters and story drew me in even though I knew what was going to happen next. 3/5
- My grandmother sends her regards and apologies by Fredrik Backman is another of those slightly fantastical novels from Scandinavia. I haven’t read his earlier novel A man called Ove but the title and cover caught my eye. It was a good read, dealing with some deep issues of parenting, social conscience and war through the relationship between a young girl and her grandmother and an imaginary world the grandmother creates for them to inhabit. 3/5
- I had to read The secret chord by Geraldine Brooks, even though there were some less than rapturous reviews, as I always love her writing. This was certainly a story of a violent and misogynist time and yet the unfolding stories and lives were fascinating. I learnt a lot about the biblical period of King David. 3/5
- I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy Give the devil his due, the latest in the Raymond Sinclair series by Sulari Gentill, as much as the six previous books in the series. I think that it was probably just that car racing was the background subject matter and the story was not quite as clear and held together as the last ones. There are still great characters, Sydney and NSW in the thirties being one of them, and great discussion of subjects such as feminism and women working, and also the rise of fascism in Germany. If you haven’t tried this series it is a great historical detective/crime series set in a very alive 1920’s + 30’s world. 3/5
- I finally got around to reading the original Mateship with birds by Alec H Chisholm, the book that Carrie Tiffany’s award winning book of the same name was inspired by. It might not be for everyone as the writing style is very old fashioned and flowery, but I just loved his enthusiasm and passion for the birds of Australia. He looks mostly at the birds of the east coast and there are some surprising and some sad stories, and some great photos, in this non-fiction collection. 4/5
- Covet by Tara Moss – the next instalment in my Tara Moss read-a-thon
- Grief Girl by Erin Vincent – Oh my goodness – how do you deal with losing both your parents in an accident while you are a teenager?
- Shining : the story of a lucky man by Abdi Aden – a young Somalian man’s incredible journey of escape from the violence and bloodshed in Somalia to eventually reaching Australia as a refugee,attending school, gaining citizenship, attaining university qualifications, getting married and having a family. An amazing book. Well worth reading. 5/5
- The reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didier Laurent – a lovely read. 5/5
- Recently I read Books 1 and 2 of Karl Ove Knausgard’s series, entitled A Death in the Family: my Struggle and A Man in Love: my Struggle. I couldn’t put them down. I am waiting for the next book, and am keen to read other titles by him. I know there must be controversy over him writing so accurately and honestly about the people in his family life and friends in such a public way…I would have concerns too…except that I find his writing so brilliant and the portrayal of life as he experiences it so revealing of myself that I can only praise it. 5/5
- Half the World & Half a War by Joe Abercrombie – These are the second and third books in the Shattered Sea Trilogy. This was a YA fantasy Trilogy where each book focused on a handful of different maturing characters. I really enjoyed seeing how the characters grew and changed (some for the better, others not) throughout the series. As with his other books Joe Abercrombie writes fantastic battle scenes with plenty of blood and gore. The series surprised me with a great plot twist at the end! 4/5 stars
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre by Darwyn Cooke, Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair by Len Wein & Before Watchmen: Night Owl/ Dr. Manhattan by Michael J. Straczynski – These graphic novels focus on the background stories of the main Watchmen characters and even some of the more secondary characters who are only mentioned in passing in the original story. It felt like these books weren’t really necessary and that they were just cashing in with the original Watchmen hype. Still they were an entertaining read and I enjoyed the artwork. 3/5 stars
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – This book was fantastic! Its set in the future where most people live their lives in a virtual reality. The creator of the virtual world (who is obsessed with the 80’s) dies and leaves his fortune as an Easter egg in the game. Whoever can solve the clues and beat the challenges he leaves behind with inherit his multi-billion dollar fortune. Anyone who’s a bit of a geek and enjoys 80s/90s pop culture will really love this book. 5/5 stars
- Mad Max: Fury Road by George Miller – This graphic novel gives some background to the characters from the latest Mad Max: Fury Road movie. It actually helped clarify a few things that weren’t explained in the movie. It’s written by the director of the Mad Max movies himself, so you know it’s part of the canon! I’d recommend watching the movie first . 4/5 stars
- Generation A by Douglas Coupland – in the near future a disparate group of people become the focus of government and media attention. “life after bees” 3 stars
- The Martian by Andy Weir – an astronaut is stuck on Mars, and uses his wits to stay alive. ”boys own adventure in space” 3.5 stars
- The Lunch Witch1 by Deb Lucke – a junior comic about a witch trying her best to be bad and failing. “undiscovered gem” 4 stars
- Johannes Cabal series 1, 2 & 3 by Jonathon Howard – a necromancer seeks to perfect his art. “tries very hard to be funny” 3 stars
- The First Bad Man by Miranda July – guaranteed to polarise opinions, a woman fantasizes, has fist fights, falls in love, and finally gets what she needs (maybe). “not for the faint-hearted” unrateable
- Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene – the moon men rise up against the disciples of the sun – “if you have ready any fantasy, you have read this” 3 stars
- Winter be my Shield by Jo Spurrier – a woman uses the pain of others to fuel her own power in a harsh, wintery landscape. “lots of lovely (blood stained) snow,” 3 stars
- The Women’s Pages, by Debra Adelaide –This novel plaits together three seperate realities: Emily Bronte and her novel, Wuthering Heights; a contemporary woman named Dove, and her life experience; and Dove’s fictional creation, Ellis, who came to young womanhood in the late 1960s. It’s a book whose sub-text is the creative process, and whose frontline action reflects on the lives of women and men in post-war Australia. Though this plaiting can get confusing, I loved the book, and honour Adelaide’s intentions in writing it.
- Ransacking Paris, by Patti Miller – Patti and her husband lived in Paris for a year after their children had left home. This is her memoir of that year, during which time she ‘meets’ various French writers, her favourite being Montaigne. As always with this writer, I enjoy her honesty and the grace of her prose.
- One Fifth Avenue, by Candace Bushnell – Excellent fun, especially on Talking Book. Bushnell satirises the inhabitants of a posh New York apartment block. Great storytelling.
- The Truth According to Us, by Annie Barrows – I’m not far into this, but it shows the same lively, humorous vitality you’ll remember from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. She’s setting this one in West Virginia, USA.
- The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey – about John Manners, 9th Duke of Rutland who died in 1940 at Belvoir Castle. Ms Bailey gained access to the castle archives. She was hoping to write a book about the men from the estate who served in WWI but fell across a more intriguing story – she found the rooms wherein the archives were kept had not been open to anyone since the 9th Duke’s death, that the 9th Duke had spent his last weeks there frantically working on something – frantic to the point of not seeking medical help – and that there were several significant gaps in the archives. The mysteries are a little bit of a let down once they are revealed – present day sensibilities are so different – and Ms Bailey inserts herself into the narrative a little bit too much for my liking. I gave this 3 stars out of 5
- The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff – I wanted to read this before seeing the film. It’s a novel based on the true story of Lili Elbe who was born Einar Wegener and who was one of the first people to undergo gender reasignment surgery. The book was certainly better than the film which I just found tedious and over-acted, but I struggled to maintain interest and I gave it 3 stars.
- Bellwether by Connie Willis – Connie Willis writes humorous science fiction novels and this one is typical. In it stressed-out researcher Sandra Foster is trying to understand how and why crazes like the hoola hoop start by attempting to track down the source of past fads. At work she runs into Bennett O’Reilly who is doing research on chaos theory. Finding their research may overlap, they begin some experiments working with sheep. Confounding all their efforts is anarchic girl Friday Flip. A fun book. I gave it 3 ½ stars.
- England’s Queens from Boudicca to Elizabeth of York by Elizabeth Norton – a densely packed book of brief biographies of, as the title says, English queens from the 1st Century AD to the very early 1500s. Until I was back on familiar ground with the medieval queens it was quite confusing with several names recurring or sounding similar – Edith, Elfleda, Elfrida, Elgiva, Ethelfleda, Ethelgiva. There were also lots of Isabella’s, Elizabeths, Matilda’s, Henry’s and Louis’ – often at the same time. 3 stars
- The Courtiers: splendour and intrigue in the Georgian court at Kensington Palace by Lucy Worsley – so with that title we know exactly the scope of the book – court life at Kensington Palace during the reigns of the Hanoverian kings George I, II and III. I have enjoyed Lucy Worsley’s forays into history on TV and this book is delivered in her familiar lively prose, eg. “In the 18th century, the palace’s most elegant assembly room was in fact a bloody battlefield. This was a world of skullduggery, politicking, wigs and beauty spots, where fans whistled open like flick knives.” I gave it 4 stars
- The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt. When I finished this book I had no idea what to make of it. I really wasn’t sure whether I enjoyed it or not. It’s what might be called Western noir, a darkly comic book set in Gold Rush era America and is narrated by Eli Sisters, the younger of the infamous hired assassins Charlie and Eli Sisters. I found it a bit confusing initially and laid it aside happy to be distracted by something else for a while but it’s a book group read so I had to finish it. It was simultaneously so different to anything I’d read before yet kind of familiar. It was quite filmic and I was thinking the Coen brothers would do a film with a story like this – think Fargo or The Sopranos. I was very interested to find out what the rest of my book group made of it. Oh, the joy of being able to discuss a book with insightful people who can articulate what you can’t yourself. One astute member of the group likened the story to The Odyssey. After the discussion I scored the book 3 1/2 but was bordering on 4.
- I’ve tried and given up on two books at least this month, another book group read, Washington’s Spies by Alexander Rose – I know nothing about the American War of Independence and this book was not the gentle introduction I think I need; The Lost Princess by Alison Weir – about Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox who was mother of Henry Lord Darnley, Mary Queen of Scots’ second husband and in her youth very high in the English succession. The length of the book defeated me.