What Library Staff are Reading Uncovered – March 2015
- I have recently enjoyed a huge tome called Life. Art. Words. a biography of the writer Tove Jannson by Boel Westin. It was a great read for a Moomin lover like me as it is full of details and pictures of the evolution of the Moomins and their friends. It is a very large book and suffers a little from a writer who knows her subject very well, there is a lot of detail, some of it repeated and some unusually organised chronology. However, for anyone who loves Tove Jannson’s Moomin books and her adult novels and stories, it is a fabulous in-depth read, I would give it 3.5 or even 4 for sure.
- I also finally got around to reading All that I am by Anna Funder, another largish book but with a style and subject matter that kept me reading. It is about the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany and the fate of those who tried to speak out against them. The story was very engaging because it begins from the point of view of someone still living, a survivor of sorts, and then brings in other voices and characters as it moves back to the pre WWII period. I learnt a lot that I hadn’t known in any detail, I would say 3.5 again I think.
- I then went on to read Stasiland, also by Anna Funder. This is non-fiction unlike All that I am which is a novel. It also uncovers a period of German history that I am fairly unfamiliar with, the East German Democratic Republic. I found the stories that Anna Funder discovered fascinating and horrific and I enjoyed the easy autobiographical style that she used in the writing. Maybe a 3 for this.
- For a lighter read I have been enjoying the Wool series by Hugh Howey, The knife of never letting go by Patrick Ness and Dexter the courageous koala by Jesse Blackadder.
- a memoir – Neil Patrick Harris: Choose-Your-Own Autobiography – I don’t usually read biographies of still living people but the title of this one intrigued me and I have enjoyed his humour elsewhere. This was a very funny book. Occasionally skirting the line of fiction with the funny choose your own adventure endings. He has had an interesting life and he pokes much fun at himself all the way through. 4/5
- a book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet – Emergence – John Birmingham – The first book in the Dave vs the Monsters trilogy. A bit of a change from science fiction to fantasy, but who wouldn’t want to read about monsters being fought using modern weaponry? Switching between the point of view of Dave and various monster characters that usually end up dead. Sometimes the monster point of view went on to long, and I felt that there was often too much unrealistic dialogue for the sake of getting out a pop culture reference, besides those points I loved it. 4/5
- a book with nonhuman characters – Zombie Apocalypse! Washington deceased – Lisa Morton – Another book in the series. Unlike the others this was written by one author and I didn’t think I was going to like it because of the intelligent zombies however the author really pulled it off. I liked it a lot. 3/5
- a book of short stories – The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume 1: Beyond Lies the Wub – PKD’s earliest short stories collected. A few experiments with fantasy that were hit and miss and a few really great sci fi stories that introduced some of the themes that would come to epitomise his later work. Paycheck and The Variable Man were the stand outs for me. 4/5
- a book with a one-word title – Shift – Hugh Howey – How could the story in the first part be improved upon? He did it with a prequel that explored how the situation in the first novel came about. It also makes you rethink what you thought of characters in the first book, helps explain the logic behind some actions that they took. The best kind of science fiction, it makes you think and question. Really looking forward to the final book of the trilogy. 5/5
- And a few notable books that I missed out adding to previous months reading:
- Wool – Hugh Howey 5/5
- Fistography: Newcastle, Australia 1994-2005 – Mark Newlands 4/5
- The Real Chopper – Adam Shand 4/5
- The Rise And Fall Of Australia – Nick Bryant 5/5
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss 5/5
- A funny book – I’ve got your number by Sophie Kinsella. An impossible heroine – Poppy was so ditzy, she drove me wild! But I did come to love her and, as all these feel good novels do, she ended up with the right bloke in the end. 3 stars
- A book that became a movie – The Fault in our Stars by John Green – Not normally one to read about sick people, this is the second book in as many months that I have read about someone dying of cancer (recently finished The Household Guide to Dying). This poignant Young Adult book has been raved about by the YAs in my life so I thought I should read it. It is well written. It does deal with lots of teen issues. It is an angsty “love of my life” typical teen book, with the background story of teens with cancer. I did enjoy it. Plus, like with The Household Guide to Dying, it ended at precisely the right spot for my comfort zone. 4 stars
- A book by a female author – Upstairs at the Party by Linda Grant – This is the story of Adele who managed to change her life by attending a new University. At this University in the early Seventies a glamorous and androgynous couple known collectively as Evie/Stevie appear out of nowhere on the isolated concrete campus. The Evie/Stevie combination is then the underlying theme throughout the novel. For Adele, Evie/Stevie become a lifelong obsession, as she examines what happened on the night of her twentieth birthday and her friends’ actions on that night and afterwards. A set of school exercise books might reveal everything but they have been missing for nearly forty years. From summers in Cornwall to London in the twenty-first century, long after they have disappeared, Evie/Stevie go on challenging everyone’s ideas of what their lives should turn out to be. Great characters. 4 stars
- A book set somewhere you have always wanted to visit – The Temporary Bride: a memoir of love and food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec – I have always been attracted to Iran so to read this book was to travel there vicariously. The only thing missing was the recipes for the food that the author was describing. I desperately went to Jennifer’s website hoping that she would list some of the recipes for me to try – only the amazing rice recipe was listed. 5 stars
Less reading being done in the Colquhoun house now that I am back at work.
- The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – illicit loves and tragedy in between-the-wars London. An enjoyable read that ticked along quite nicely. I gave it a score of 4/5
- a book from an author you haven’t read yet – A History of Loneliness by John Boyne – the topical story of an Irish priest who manages not to see the terrible things his colleagues are up to. Is the man naïve, or the ultimate unreliable narrator? Beautifully crafted. Scored 5/5
- a book by an author you’ve never read before – Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood – fictionalised account of Ernest Hemingway’s relationships with his 4 wives, Hadley Richardson, Pauline ‘Fife’ Pfeiffer, Martha Gellhorn and Mary Welsh. Fife ‘steals’ Ernest from Hadley, Martha steals him from Fife, Martha steals him from Mary – see a pattern happening here? It’s a good story but I did get frustrated as wives number 2, 3 and 4 were surprised when Ernest had affairs on them. Did they not think he would do to them what he had done to the previous wife? Scored 3.5/5
- a memoir – Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James – this was chosen by someone in book group and I have read it several times already but was happy to read it again. In fact I bought all 5 Unreliable Memoirs books in one go for my ereader. This one covers Clive’s life up to the end of his time at Sydney University. I just love Clive James’ tongue-in-cheek, dry humour. Scored 4/5
- Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns – my pick for book group. This is a gripping tale of a man who stumbles across a coven celebrating one night on his way home from the pub and gets chased. It’s exciting stuff and I love it despite the fact it was a standard punishment to have to learn and recite lumps of it at my Scottish boarding school in Ayr – “Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses, For honest men and bonnie lasses.” My sisters and I can still launch into it – I think Karen knows it better than we other two! Read it here and listen to Brian Cox recite it. My Scottish friend Margaret and I gave it 5/5 although the group scored it 3.8
- Now I’m reading the second of the Unreliable Memoirs – Falling towards England, Above the Fold by Peter Yeldham who will be giving a talk at Springwood Library on 18 April and The House of Silk a Sherlock Holmes novel by Anthony Horowitz.
- I finally finished reading The complete Father Brown mysteries by G. K. Chesterton. (it took me from late December until mid Feb) Despite the extraordinarily long time to read it, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the television series about the Father Brown mysteries so was expecting this to be more or less the same. The only similarity was the Father Brown character ‘s physical appearance and his enemy turned friend who’s name escapes me at the moment. The mysteries were not written as descriptive narratives/typical who-dun-it style, but they were presented more of an intellectual exercise on the part of Father Brown. As far as the reading challenge goes, I put this one can fit into a mystery or thriller, a book of short stories, a book with more than 500 pages, a book based on or turned into a TV show, and a book set in a different country. My rating, 4/5
- Aunt Sass Christmas stories by P. L. Travers – this one was supposed to tick off the “a book set during Christmas” box on the reading challenge list. In reality all it had to do with Christmas was that it was a collection of 3 stories which P. L. Travers wrote for her family/friends as Christmas gifts. Aside from that huge let-down, I found the stories written in a rather dry manner – more like reading a biography than a story. My rating 2/5
- The girl who saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson – a light, fun story spanning several continents and with a diverse cast of characters. My rating 4/5.
- A Graphic Novel – Ghost World by Daniel Clowes – I loved the beautiful, stylised noir drawings. This graphic novel is a perceptive depiction of a couple of self-absorbed, snarky and listless teen girls during the ‘90s. I wouldn’t say the characters are exactly likeable, but they are vulnerable and realistic, so have a soft spot for them. 4/5
- A book by an author you’ve never read before – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig – it’s a bit of a slog in parts, but beautifully elegant in others. The descriptions of the motorcycle road trip were my favourite parts of the book, they become a rhythmic meditation of sorts. 3.5/5
- A Trilogy – The Hunger Games Trilogy (Young Adult) –
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – a fantastic dystopian adventure story, with great characters – I couldn’t put it down. 4/5
- Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. 3.5/5
- Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. 4/5