What Library Staff are Reading Uncovered – February 2016
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.