Our last for 2015. Thank you to all staff who have participated this year, welcome to new participants and I hope I will see more staff taking part next year. You don’t have to send me much – just a title and author is more than enough to get someone else out there on an unexpected reading journey!
Merry Christmas and, for those who are having one, happy holidays – may the days be long and relaxed.
The little Paris bookshop – by Nina George. Lovely story – 4/5
The peculiar life of a lonely postman – by Denis Theriault – didn’t see the ending coming – enjoyable reading – 4/5
The princess bride: S. Morgenstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure-the ‘good parts’ version, abridged by William Goldman – “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Anyone who loved the film will at least like the book. They are remarkably similar, which isn’t surprising since the author was a screenwriter, and wrote the script for the film. The introduction is hilariously un-PC and rude towards his not quite accurately depicted family. Defiantly grounds for a divorce if he meant it.
The heart goes last by Margaret Atwood – always nice to get a feminist take on our seemingly inevitable dystopian future.
Australia Under Surveillance: How Should We Act? – Frank Moorehouse (A book that scares you) – I don’t enjoy scary films or books so I read a book about ASIO. The power and secrecy they have scares me. 5/5
Surveillance – Bernard Keane (A book with a love triangle) – I enjoy Bernard’s journalism so I thought I would check out his book which is about ASIO, hacking, politics and the links between private companies and government. All of those things were not a bad story… but the sex scenes and dirty talk were terrible. Mostly unnecessary and the female characters were very one dimensional. Many other reviews at Goodreads thought so also, so I hope he takes this on board as he has the potential to write some really great techno thrillers. 2/5
How Music Got Free: What happens when an entire generation commits the same crime? – Stephen Richard Witt – Fantastic book that follows three threads that all play a part in the rise of digital music and pirating. It follows the team of German scientists that invented the MP3 technology, one of the most successful record executives ever and a guy who leaked the most pre-release music CDs to the internet. The author was about my age and he also wrote some of it from his perspective of experiencing all this as it happened which I could relate to. Highly recommended. 5/5
Seveneves – Neal Stephenson (A book with more than 500 pages) – One of my favourite authors. This book did not disappoint. I loved it that two thirds of the way through the book it just states “One thousand years later”, I don’t know if many authors could pull that off but Stephenson does it flawlessly. 5/5
Zombie Apocalypse! Endgame (Zombie Apocalypse! #3)
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain – Oliver Sacks
The Walking Dead, Vol. 23 & 24 – Robert Kirkman 5/5
The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks – Alan Moore 3/5
Saga, Volume 4 & 5 – Brian K Vaughan 5/5
OINK – John Mueller 4/5
Batman, Vol. 5: Zero Year – Dark City
Batman, Vol. 4: Zero Year – Secret City
Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth
Batman and Robin, Vol. 1: Born to Kill
Batwoman, Vol. 1: Hydrology
Detective Comics, Vol. 1: Faces of Death
Catwoman, Vol. 1: The Game
Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin
Kick-Ass 3 – Mark Millar and John Romita – I’d heard of the movies but didn’t realise it had been based on a graphic novel! If you loved the movies then you will definitely like the graphic novel series. This was the last volume in the series and it was basically more of the same; OTT violence and gore, foul mouthed 11 year olds and mafia men. I was sad it was the last one but felt it tied up the story well. 4/5
Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others – Robert Trivas – Written by an evolutionary biologist the book looks at how and why we deceive ourselves and others. I was mostly interested in the idea of how we unknowingly deceive ourselves in order to survive. The author gives interesting case studies and examples such as how self-deception has led to numerous aviation and space disasters or how 65% of people think they are better looking than they actually are! Though being interesting, I couldn’t finish it. The books arguments felt disjointed and the author would make sweeping statements and then follow it up with 2 sentences of evidence. That, and using his own personal (sometimes inappropriate) behaviour as an example was off-putting. 2/5
Legion and Legion: Skin Deep – Brandon Sanderson – I was thrilled when the library got in two new books by my favourite author!! I had been planning to read these for a while. Both are novella’s so I was able to finish them in one sitting. The books follow Stephen Leads AKA ‘Legion’ who has a unique mental condition which allows him to generate multiple personalities; hallucinations all with highly specialised skills to solve bizarre cases. If you’re looking for a twist on the classic detective story or like Sherlock Holmes you’ll probably enjoy these books. 4/5
Chew, Volume 1 : Tasters Choice – John Layman – In this graphic novel the main character has ‘cytopathic’ powers, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It’s basically about a detective who eats murder victims to track down their killers. I made the mistake of reading this one over lunch! Both the story line and the art didn’t appeal to me in this one. I don’t think I’ll try the second volume. 3/5
Elantris – Brandon Sanderson – This was the first audio book I had listened to since listening to the ‘Muddle Headed Wombat’ in the car when I was a child. I absolutely loved the story and the narration. Brandon Sanderson is a master at writing about ‘believable’ magic systems (if that’s such a thing) and sneaking in killer plot twists. Really enjoyed this one. 5/5
Nimona – Noelle Stevenson – I’d seen some good reviews on Goodreads about this one and a few pages in I realised this book was targeted at teenage girls…. but kept reading anyway and actually didn’t mind it. It’s a great light hearted read. Later I found out this was originally a popular web comic which had been compiled into a book. 3/5
Slaine: The Horned God – Pat Mills – A colleague recommended this one to me. Knowing he had excellent taste in graphic novels I borrowed it immediately! It is an epic Celtic tale about a Slaine the warrior King who seeks out heroic weapons and battles the powers of darkness to save his people. It’s worth borrowing this book for art work alone! 4/5
A Place for Us by Harriet Evans – it had all the makings of a good character-based saga except I hated all the characters! Nasty and self-centred, I did not want to spend time with them. This book reminded me of how shallow and mean families can be to one another. 2 stars.
The Blood Countess by Tara Moss – if you love a good supernatural novel with a New York backdrop, this book is for you. I want to move to the fictitious suburb of Spectre now!! 4 Stars
The Spider Goddess by Tara Moss – The next book in the Pandora series – I am hooked and will have to read all of them….4 stars
The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling – really hard to get into. I really want to like it so persevered and finally am now enjoying it – but took more than 200 pages into it to be able to say that J. . . 3 stars
The Lost Daughter, by Elena Ferrante. Leda, having raised two daughters and divorced her husband, leaves her work-life behind and takes a holiday on Italy’s Ionian coast. She spends her days at the beach. There, she becomes involved with a Neapolitan family. What follows throws into sharp relief the way she has lived her life. Ferrante writes with ferocious honesty.
Island Home, by Tim Winton. I see Tim Winton becoming an Elder, someone who has the ability to stand outside our human maelstrom and see it truly. This set of essays explores Country, both in the South-Western corner of Australia where he has spent most of his time, and further north into the Kimberley, and further east across the Nullarbor. The last essay is for the First People, with good reason. It is they who understand the gift of country, a gift many of us have ignored and undervalued. I hope that is becoming less the case.
Flesh Wounds, by Richard Glover. I listened to this riveting memoir on Talking Book. You will know Richard Glover from ABC Radio. A terrific piece of work, interesting to the end, and spiced always by Glover’s wit – though his parents were a nightmare.
Last Chance Café, by Liz Byrski. Another entertaining and thoughtful Byrski novel whose characters are older, and have experienced life. I enjoy her work for that reason.
I am reading Christians, Muslims, and Jesus by Mona Siddiqui. I have found it to be a respectful and leisurely comparison of theological viewpoints from Muslim and Christian faith perspectives through history. There is no commentary on current issues, nor on issues of peaceful coexistence or conflict through history, simply a comparison of viewpoints, citing respected voices from both faith traditions. However the author demonstrates a thoughtful and empathetic understanding of both Islam and Christianity and in the last chapter speaks of how exploring the differing Christologies deepened her own Muslim faith journey. 3/5
A book I read with glee each night was Gulp : adventures on the alimentary canal by Mary Roach. Every chapter was fascinating, and rather humorous. 5/5
Two books that expanded my mind, from the children’s picture book collection, are The Complete Guide to a Dog’s Best Friend by Felicity Gardner and David West and York’s Universe by Heidi Goh, 5/5 and 4/5.
A book from the Young Adult collection that I found very moving is Woolvs in the Sitee by Margaret Wild and Anne Spudvilas. It is a short read, brilliantly written, and in reading it I entered into the mind of another. 5/5
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett (3.5 / 5) – The final discworld novel. This is the last book in the Tiffany Aching series too. I enjoyed it for sentimentality reasons and even though this wasn’t up to Pratchett’s usual superb standard, it was still enjoyable and I love the characters.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (3 / 5) – A young adult fantasy love story about faeries. A little too gory and soppy for me. I did like that the faeries were nasty, as they should be. Sarah J. Maas wrote the much acclaimed Throne of Glass series.
The Vanishing of Billy Buckle by Sally Gardner (3.5 / 5) – The fourth instalment in the Wings and Co. series. A jolly fine case of a vanishing giant for the fairy detective agency to solve.
Fangirl: a novel by Rainbow Rowell (3.5 / 5) – This was actually quite fun and I liked that there was a novel within a novel. Cath and Wren are identical twins who have just finished high school and are about to start college in a new town. This book is about their experiences – love, college life, and family issues (as well as fanfiction).
Clarice Bean spells trouble (3 / 5) by Lauren Child. I enjoyed this, but not as much as I enjoyed Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola series.
The trouble with Beezus and Ramona and The unstoppable Ramona and Beezus by Beverley Cleary (3.5 / 5) – I loved these books when I was little and it was great to go back and revisit them. Ramona Quimby is a great character!
Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ by Giulia Enders (4.5 / 5) – This was an excellent book about the gut and how important it is to maintain good gut health. It even tells you how to sit on the toilet properly! Fascinating.
Emergency: real stories from Australia’s Emergency Department Doctors by Simon Judkins (3 / 5) – Amazing what Emergency staff have to deal with and the situations that they can find themselves in. I had a few tears in my eyes reading this book.
The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: the truth about OCD by David Adam (4 / 5) – Thoroughly fascinating. An inside into what it is like to live with OCD.
One life: my mother’s story by Kate Grenville (3 / 5) – I enjoyed reading the story of Kate Grenville’s mother. What a strong woman!
I finished off the Insurrection trilogy about Robert the Bruce with Renegade and Kingdom both scoring 4/5 each. The series ticked off my history, Scottish history, character and plot boxes nicely.
For the 2015 Reading Challenge ‘A book that came out the year you were born’ category I read Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak – 4/5
My favourite Scottish crime writer, Ian Rankin, brought the protagonists of his two series together in Even Dogs in the Wild – 4.5/5
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks was slightly disappointing, not sure why. Perhaps it was the misogyny and violence as a colleague pointed out last month? 3.5/5
For ‘A book written by an author with your same initials’ I read Missing You by Harlen Coben, a competent enough thriller but I’ve forgotten the plot already – 3.5/5
For book group I’ve just had to read The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. Even the author must’ve got bored with this one because the resolution took all of 5 pages at the last! – 2/5
Now I’m reading Fashion Victims: the Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David as my at-work, lunch-time read. We all know about internal organ crushing corsetry, mercury in hats, arsenical greens and lead-based complexion potions in days gone by but did you realise danger is still all around the fashionista? Today platform soles inhibit the ability to brake a car within safe limits, botox and plastic surgery present obvious danger and did you know that lipsticks can still contain lead? Because it is a ‘contaminant’ not an ingredient, lead is not listed on lipstick labels – a 2011 study by the US FDA found lead in all 400 of the lipsticks tested! (p.24) Sobering reading indeed.
And I’m a few pages into Elvis Costello’s biography, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink which I think I will put on the Reading Challenge List under ‘A book based entirely on its cover.’ It’s got way more pages than I usually like but I’ll see how I go.
And I listened to Magda Szubanski reading her autobiography, Reckoning. First on CD in the car and then on my iPad using the Bolinda app trial we’ve had. Wonderful stuff.
How are you going with the 2015 Reading Challenge by the way? I’ve only got half a dozen to go I think – unless we are allowed to pop books under more than one category . . .
Looking forward to seeing more of what you’ve been reading in 2016 – HCRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Divas by Rebecca Chance – Wonderful, glorious chewing gum for the eyes. Fashion, gossip, friendship and betrayal feature in this book best suited for a holiday on the beach. The rise and fall of Lola Fitzsimmons that spans London and New York with a few other glamorous destinations thrown in for good measure. 3 stars.
The Empress of Ice Cream by Anthony Capella – Everything you wanted to know about the development of ice-cream in Italy, France and England, cleverly woven around a fictional story that involves the ice-cream maker, the courts of Italy, France and then England – including the English King Charles II and his mistress, the French Louise. A real page turner that will make you seek out those exotic ice-creams at the supermarket to complement the story – salted caramel & macadamia with a dash of white pepper, anyone? 4 stars.
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – a modern American fairytale. So good to re-read this as an adult and it has not lost any of its wonder. 4 stars.
The Schumann Frequency by Christopher Ride – An Australia SF writer – well worth it. 4 stars.
Antarctica on a Plate by Alexa Thomson – this story was a mixed bag – some bits I loved – especially hearing about the other bases and the characters that are attracted to work in Antarctica – but some bits I was left scratching my head. The build up to the first meal that Alexa had to cook when she got to Blue 1 (her camp) was a HUGE anti-climax. We heard about how the ordering had been messed up, how the kitchen had not been set up properly, how food was taken out to defrost – how would she pull a meal together? I wanted to hear about the first triumphal meal. I also found it unprofessional how Alexa would sleep in and not cook breakfast. And I wanted to hear about the meals at the bases she visited – what did the Russians cook (besides drink vodka), what was the Indian food like (mentioned briefly as curries). Could have made my mouth water so much more with details. 2.5 stars.
Karl Ove Knaussgaard, A Death in the Family – A Death in the Family is book one of his six volume memoir, My Struggle. One of my favourite contemporary writers – highly recommended.
(I have severely culled what’s comments here as I plan to post his full commentary as a separate post in Readers in the Mist – sign yourself up to the blog and get the post in your inbox.)
The Wonder lover by Malcolm Knox – I was hoping to enjoy this more. A man has three different families in three different countries, and it all falls apart when he falls in love with a fourth woman. Told in the first person plural perspective of his multiple children, it charts his rise and fall as an unlikely polygamist. Thumbs up for being Australian and having a Madmen style cover, thumbs down for being boring at times. 3/5
The Age of reason by Jean- Paul Sartre – an enjoyable book about revolting people set in Paris shortly before WWII. 3/5
The Peripheral by William Gibson – I have only just begun this as it was stolen from my bedside table by My Significant Other, but so far I am enjoying it. There is no hand holding in this one. Set in the near future and the not so near future, the reader is left to puzzle over the vocabulary and scenarios with no explanation of what is going on. I can only assume it will make sense later on.
I’ve been reading William Napier, first his two books Clash of Empires: the Great Siege about the Siege of Malta and Clash of Empires: the Red Sea, on the Battle of Lepanto, which arguably changed the course of European history. My appetite whetted, I am now half way through his Attila the Hun trilogy, which also includes, just as a side plot: The Fall of the Roman Empire. Score: Gripping historical reads = 5/5 But be warned – Blood and Gore quotient = 6/5
(Again, comments culled in anticipation of a separate post in Readers in the Mist.)
The trivia man by Deborah O’Brian – really enjoyed it. 5/5
The world according to Bob : the further adventures of one man and his streetwise cat by James Bowen – 5/5
Wide sargasso sea by Jean Rhys – from the reading challenge list – A book which came out in the year you were born. A book in 3 parts which purported to be based on “Jane Eyre’. It wasn’t until half way through part 3 that I worked out what the connection was and I got really disappointed. I won’t spoil it for anybody else, but as huge fan of the original “Jane Eyre”, I was very disappointed. Why can’t people leave the classics alone? 3/5
Thornfield Hall by Jane Stubbs – Once again a book about Jane Eyre, this time told from the point of view of the housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax. Once again I was very disappointed at the negative portrayal of one of Mr Rochester which put the blame on him for causing his first wife’s madness. I repeat, why can’t people leave the classics alone? 2/5
Go set a watchman by Harper Lee – from the reading challenge A book with bad reviews. It was a very slow paced book – nothing really ‘happened’ just a lot of description really until near the end of the book, and I was wondering why such a celebrated author had published this book after such a great book as To kill a mockingbird, but the last few chapters explained what it was all about. 4/5
I’ve been on a lovely fantasy fiction ride:
Glenda Larke The Lascar’s Dagger and The Dagger’s Path – I just drank them in and now have to wait some months for the third in the trilogy. 5/5 for both
Robin Hobb Fool’s Assassin and Fool’s quest – Robin Hobb is always very readable. Again I have to wait for the third in the trilogy. 4/5 for both.
I had a bit of a long train trip in October (Perth to Sydney) so I read a few books with a Western Australian connection that I bought at the King’s Park shop in Perth. I checked and we do have the ones that I’m going to mention in the Library too.
So, ‘The life and loves of Lena Gaunt‘ by Tracy Farr – I had fun reading this book about a woman of twenties and thirties Sydney who became famous playing the Theramin, a strange new electronic musical instrument of the time. Much of the book takes place at Cottesloe Beach in WA but also ranges around Singapore, New Zealand and Europe following her life, loves, times, and ups and downs, from beginning to end. 3/5
‘Becoming Kirrali Lewis‘ by Jane Harrison is a Young Adult book about an Aboriginal foster child coming of age in the 1980’s. We also flash to her mother’s life in the 1960’s and the book is an interesting look at issues of social justice as well as a fairly believable teenage coming of age story. 3/5
I was inspired by Alison’s review last time to read ‘Book’ by John Agard, a joyful Junior read of the autobiography of ‘the book’. Great illustrations, poems, quotes and a nice cheeky voice for Book. 3/5
I recently saw the movie of Timothy Conigrave’s book (and play) ‘Holding the man‘, so I decided to have a read of the book itself. It was a no holds barred portrait of young love and the difficulties of growing up gay and a visceral history of the era of AIDS in Sydney and Melbourne. I cried in both the movie and the book! 3/5
I also read ‘Go set a watchman‘ by Harper Lee and followed it with a reread of ‘To kill a mockingbird‘. I was prepared to be very disappointed by ‘Go set a watchman‘ as it had had some fairly bad reviews so I found myself pleasantly surprised. It is not engrossing and moving in the way that ‘To kill a mockingbird‘ drags you in every time, but I enjoyed reading it as a stand alone novel and was very interested in it as a clear precursor to the better book. ‘Go set a watchman‘ may well have been a first attempt that was unpublished for good reason, but now that it is out there it is an enlightening interesting read. 2.5/5 and 4/5
Finally I read the LAST Discworld novel ‘The shepherds crown‘ by Terry Pratchett as I had been reading the Tiffany Aching witch series. It is clearly unfinished in parts but a good finish to the series and comes back to the great theme of the oneness of all things in very nice ways. 3/5
I was on holiday so my reading was slowed somewhat – getting into bed late and very, very tired meant I read the same page several nights in a row. At the beginning of my holiday things weren’t helped by the fact that I was reading The Empress Lover by Linda Jaivin – a book group read. I’ve read it again since getting back and I still don’t know what it’s for! I doubt it’ll make 2/5.
A friend back in Scotland recommended a trilogy by Robyn Young based on the story of Robert the Bruce. As I’ve just come back from Scotland and during that time visited the Bannockburn Centre my nationalist juices were up and I thought I’d give it a whirl and have read the first in the Insurrection series called Insurrection. In this novel, Robert Bruce knows he has a claim to the Scottish throne which is vacant because of the deaths of Alexander III and then his heir, Margaret of Norway, but is still a vassal of Edward I of England. I enjoyed it and have given it 4/5.
Another book group read was The Cleansing of Mahommed by Chris McCourt. Set in Broken Hill in 1914 this story was based on a true event where a picnic train was fired upon by Afghan cameleers. The story is told from the point of view of one of the men, Gool Mahommed and touches on a lot of the problems we are seeing today with muslim youth – racism, isolation. At our discussion I was disappointed to find there was another book with almost the same story (Oddfellows by Nicholas Shakespeare) and we were agreed at the meeting that the novel just didn’t punch as hard as it could have. I gave it 3/5
I finished The Road to Little Dribbling: more notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson on Saturday morning. I stayed in bed all morning I was enjoying myself so much. Laughed out loud. Lots! I would give this book 5/5 except for two things a) he disses another favourite travel writer of mine, HV Morton (p.167) who was doing much the same as Bryson does only in the 1920s and 1930s and b) his is dismissive in his treatment of Scotland. Bryson starts out marking out a line that goes south to north from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath as the line of the greatest length north-south in Britain – he modestly calls it the Bryson Line and states he will roughly follow the line on his travels in this latest book. Now, by my calculations with a ruler and the map at the front of the book, the Bryson Line spends about 44% of its length in Scotland yet Scotland takes up only 10 not-very-complimentary pages of this book (2.6%). So I’ve given it 4/5
Meanwhile I was also reading The Real Peter Pan: the tragic life of Michael Llewelyn Davies by Piers Dudgeon. I’ve given it 3/5 as I enjoyed most of it but there were some bits that were obscure and possibly relied on previous knowledge to understand. Anyway it’s about one of the Llewelyn Davies boys befriended by JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan, the younger brother of the possibly more famous Peter. There are grave doubts as to the healthiness of the relationship and indeed Michael Llewelyn Davies ends his life drowning – the official report says by accident but the author isn’t so sure.
I’m cantering my way through the second Insurrection book now – Renegade.
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks – Thank goodness Geraldine has redeemed herself after Caleb’s Crossing (in my opinion anyway). Skip over the gore and enjoy the writing and narrative. 4/5
The Red Shoe by Ursula Duborsarsky – Set in 1950s Australia The Red Shoe is beautifully written but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. 2.5/5
The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry – Roseanne is 100 years old, and has been living in an asylum since the days of her youth. We see clearly she is not unhinged: we soon understand she has been incarcerated against her will. This story slowly unravels in all its pain and glory, in Irish-accented prose of great beauty. Barry is painting a picture for us of an Ireland racked by political and social torment. A beautiful book, and a story that needs telling.
Goodbye Sweetheart by Marian Halligan – William, a successful Canberra lawyer, dies suddenly in the swimming pool. His grieving wife discovers his other liaisons after his death, those secrets he had managed to keep from her. Great writing by Halligan, wise and trenchant and unsentimental.
Flesh Wounds by Richard Glove – A fantastic autobiography, riveting. Richard grows up a dysfunctional household, finds his own satisfying way eventually but continues to be haunted well into adult life by his parents’ difficult behaviour, and the need to unravel their secrets.
Thank you to everyone for your contributions, they are all really appreciated – HCRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
A Mystery or Thriller: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – I had seen the movies (yes, both the Hollywood and the Original) but not read the book. And as Mystery/Thriller is not my preferred genre I was a bit worried as to what I was going to read to fulfil this part of the Reading Challenge. I am glad I chose this book as it fleshed out some of the bits in the movies I did not quite grasp. From a fairly dry beginning, this book took on a life of its own once the characters and story was firmly established. 4 stars.
A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet: The Woman who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes – one of my favourite authors. Marian Keyes always manages to bring you into her stories and love her characters very quickly. This is a wonderful rags to riches story via a debilitating disease. I kept wanting to flick to the end to see how if finished! 4 Stars
A book set in a different country: Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy – a wonderful collection of short stories based around the one street in Dublin. These stories were written over decades and have been posthumously collated into a novel/collection of short stories. Wonderful little snapshots into people’s lives. 4 stars.
A book that came out the year you were born: The Foot Book by Dr Seuss – who doesn’t love a rhyming book of opposites? 4 stars
A book written by an author with your same initials: The Military Operations at Cabul, Which Ended in the Retreat and Destruction of the British Army, January 1842 : with a Journal of Imprisonment in Afghanistan by Sir Vincent Eyre – Okay, I was really stretching it to find an author with the same initials as me – but here it is! A book published in 1843, goes into great graphic detail on the British Army attempt at takeover of Cabul (sic) and was written to relieve the boredom of incarceration in an Afghan prison. I can’t say I read every word of this 442 page tome (not including preface pages and glossary), Leiut. Vincent Eyre, of the Bengal Artillery has outshone himself in giving a blow by blow account of this military manoeuvre. Plus it is an interesting snapshot into British colonialism. 4 stars.
A book by an author you have never read before: Amy, My Daughter by Mitch Winehouse – a tragic biography – warts and all – of Amy Winehouse written by her father. This is a train-wreck of a story that shows the day to day tedium of drug addiction and how powerless family and friends are throughout. I came to appreciate the talent of Amy alongside the terrible story of her addictions. 3 stars
A book with a one word title: Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil – a book set in 1970s/80s Bombay based in the underbelly of the city. Interesting characters described in a poetic language. This is a first novel written by poet, Jeet Thayil. Narcopolis was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize, it won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2013 at DSC Jaipur Literature Festival and was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize (2012) and The Hindu Literary Prize (2013). A haunting book that will stay with you long after finishing – but not for everyone. 3 stars
A play: The Iron Hand of Mars by Lindsey Davis – okay this was a BBC Radio Full cast dramatisation (yes I listened to it). The story is the fourth novel in Lindsey Davis’s series featuring the Roman private eye Falco. It has been dramatised by Mary Cutler. So highly entertaining that I now want to go back and read the original books. Apparently there are 18 in the series. Anyway, thoroughly enjoyed myself with this one. For for more on the radio plays visit this link here. 4 stars.
A classic romance: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen – this is one I had not read before. It was a lovely vignette into life at Mansfield Park. Apparently it is the least loved novel by her fans. I really enjoyed it. 4 stars
This House of Grief : the story of a murder trial by Helen Garner – a harrowing read about the trial of Robert Farquarson who went on trial for the murder of his three young sons – he was accused of their drowning deaths after his car went off the road one night and into a dam. His motive? Revenge on the wife he had fairly recently separated from. 4 stars I borrowed this from the Library’s eBook collection.
The Poisoned Chalice by Bernard Knight – a medieval mystery in the Crowner John series. Another Library eBook. I was reading it on a trip to the UK and I don’t think I gave it the attention it might have deserved but it was the right kind of easy read after This House of Grief. 3 stars
Mr Phillips by John Lanchester – one day in the life of Mr Phillips who has recently been made redundant and spends all day out of the house because he hasn’t been able to tell his family. Again, a Library eBook (much easier to carry 3 eBooks in my iPad than the ‘real’ thing). 3 ½ stars
My History : a memoir of growing up by Antonia Fraser – nothing really startling in this memoir but it was well-written so I gave it 4 stars
Fatal Rivalry, Flodden 1513: Henry VIII, James IV and the Battle for Renaissance Britain by George Goodwin – a dense history only for real history nuts. 3 stars
Not My Father’s Son : a memoir by Alan Cumming – I don’t usually go for memoirs by film stars as they usually just end up as a tedious list of films they worked on and don’t reveal much of the person. This memoir is different and I read it (Library eBook) after listening to Alan Cumming In Conversation with Richard Fiedler on the ABC. Not for the faint-hearted though, Alan Cumming’s father was physically and emotionally violent with his sons. 4 ½ stars
I’m working on my trilogy and have just finished Changing Places by David Lodge, the first in his Campus Trilogy. 3 ½ stars
The Philosophy of Walking, by Frederic Gros. Committed walkers will find this one interesting. The author discusses walking, not as a sport but a way of life. He also examines the walking lives of a number of philosophers, including Kant, Rousseau, Proust, more… where they walked, why they walked, how walking enriched their lives, or indeed made them bearable. A number of them sounded more than a bit crackers! But I had an immediate urge to go put on my walking boots and get out on a track. Maybe I’m crackers too.
Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes. I’m listening to it on TB, and quite liking it. The actual theme is not funny at all – the lead character’s husband has been killed in a car accident, which also damages her quite a bit. She refuses to believe he’s dead; then when she does believe it, haunts clairvoyants so she can communicate with him. Lots of black Irish humour, a fast-paced story with a great variety of amusing characters.
The Children Act, by Ian McEwan. Fiona Maye, a respected British High Court judge, is given a case to adjudicate on which proves to be an ethical minefield – at exactly the same time as her 59-year-old husband of many years tells her, “I love you, but before I drop dead I want one big, passionate affair.” McEwan’s writing is graceful, powerful, measured. It’s such a pleasure to take a literary/ethical journey with a writer of this calibre.
A Short History of Richard Kline, by Amanda Lohrey. In (very) brief, Richard Kline finds an emptiness at the core of his comfortable, middle-class Australian life and seeks to fill it, by looking to the East. Geordie Williamson’s perceptive review (see The Australian, Mar 7 2015: I commend it to you) sees Lohrey’s book as an allegory. It’s a discomforting read, but a good one.
Still going on the Luminaries on my ebook. I am going for a world record for the longest time ever to read a book.
In between I let myself read something slightly easier…
The Last Time We Said Goodbye by Cynthia Hand, a young adult title which was an excellent read. If I say that the narrative is about teen suicide that makes it sound like a sad and trying read but it was a perceptive book that is both moving and funny in parts. If you like John Green’s writing and The Fault in Our Stars then you will probably enjoy this.
The returned – by Jason Mott – from the reading challenge A book based on or turned into a TV series. Well. What can I say? Apart from the names of the 4 main characters (i.e. the little boy, his parents and the FBI agent) and the name of the town in which it took place, the TV series bore very little resemblance to the book. I didn’t finish watching the TV series either part 1 or part 2 and am curious to see how they wrapped things up, but……… 3 stars.
Sadako and the thousand paper cranes – by Eleanor Coerr – from the reading challenge A book with a number in the title. Excellent. Even though it was a quick read, being a children’s book, it was really powerful. 5/5
The room – by Jonas Karlsson – from the reading challenge A book based entirely on its cover. The cover of the book had me intrigued so I gave it a go. I did finally get to the end but am unable to say whether it was a good read or not…. If anyone else has read it and can tell me what it was about ….. baffling
Hard times – by Charles Dickens – A book more than 100 years old. Apart from finding the language/style of writing a bit difficult, I enjoyed the story. 4/5
Book by a female author: A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill. The first in a series along the lines of Phryne Fisher but set in Sydney, and our hero is the filthy rich and artistically sensitive bohemian Roland Sinclair. Roland solves a murder against the backdrop of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, meeting members of the New Guard organisation including Eric Campbell and Francis de Groot along the way. Really interesting at least for its historical content, I wasn’t aware that such a fascist-leaning group was so prominent here between the wars.
Pulitzer-prize winner: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. A collection of short stories set in a small New England town, with a narrative arc held together by the character of Olive Kitteridge who makes a more or less prominent (sometimes merely glancing) appearance in each. Olive is a tough and not particularly warm character who is hard to like (her friends and neighbours find this too) but she is quite magnificent and these stories are melancholy and beautiful.
Final in my trilogy: The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson. I finished this one on the day the dawn arrests of all those FIFA officials was announced, so that was pretty neat. I ended up enjoying each of these books more than the last and got quite attached to Lisbeth by the very satisfying end.
Graphic Novel: Black Hole by Charles Burns. A dark allegory of teenage angst set in the 1970’s, with a mysterious plague spread by sexual contact causing varying degrees of deformity. Critically acclaimed and personally recommended by two people I know, this was not my favourite read of the month – too grim, but the black and white art is fantastic.
Book with a one-word title: Nest by Inga Simpson. This is a slow-paced mystery, where the actual whodunnit takes a back seat to the protagonist’s personal renewal. Moving back to her small Brisbane hinterland home town, a recently heart-broken wildlife artist has to revisit her tragedy-struck childhood when another local child goes missing. Uses the passing of the seasons and changes in the natural environment to terrific effect. Ties for favourite with Olive Kitteridge this month!
That’s all for just now but according to my spreadsheet it brings me up to 22 of the 50 categories – time to rest on my laurels for a bit before I tackle Shakespeare’s Richard III 🙂
A book set in High School: Paper Towns by John Green (Young Adult) – a fun book with lots of twists and turns. Sometimes reads a bit like an American sitcom in the pace of the zippy, witty dialogue, but I always enjoy Green’s books. This one is an easy read – a heartfelt, lightly philosophical and amusing mystery-romance; the type of book you can’t put down until the end. 3.5/5
A book set during Christmas: Zac and Mia by A. J. Betts (Young Adult) – a heartbreaking tale of two teens trapped in limbo as they fight cancer in hospital. It is a gentle romance and coming-of-age story. This book has drawn lots of comparisons to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, because of the similar themes – teen romance, the main characters having cancer…but there are many differences, too. Zac and Mia is set in Australia and the characters are very different to Green’s protagonists. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I actually enjoyed this book a bit more than TFIOS, and found it more believable. 3.5/5
A book that made you cry: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed – a well-written advice column like no other. Sugar’s answers are wise, raw and cathartic; dealing with issues such as grief, addiction, relationship problems and career aspirations. This would be a good book for someone going through a hard time. 3.5/5
A classic romance: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – this book is an epic, melodramatic romance, but it’s so much more than that; it looks at personal moral conviction, the disparity of the class system, and seeds of feminist thought. Perhaps it’s a little heavy-handed occasionally with the moralising, but I really loved this book and the characters. The descriptive language is lavish and transporting. I already miss the landscapes of Jane Eyre’s world – I didn’t want to leave! 4/5
A book that became a movie: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – Expecting a gothic, windswept romance, I was suprised to find this classic novel to be a stew of horrible characters being cruel to each other. Heathcliff is more sociopath than romantic lead. Without much relief, the pages flow with animosity, injustice, cruelty and bad behaviour. I wouldn’t want to stay the night in Wuthering Heights. 3.5/5
Dracula by Bram Stoker (4.5 stars) – The classic vampire book! The character of Dracula is so powerful, creepy and evil. Some of the other characters can be a little annoying in their simpering and cloying behaviour – but overall it is a fantastic story.
True history of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (4.5 stars) – Written in diary format by Ned Kelly to his daughter, this story tells the tale of Ned’s life and how he came to be one of Australia’s most famous bushrangers. It is wonderfully written – the characters are believable and you feel such empathy for them. I have really enjoyed this tale.
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James (2 stars) – I just didn’t like this book. I think it is because I absolutely love Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’. I felt that the characters that I knew so well from the original, were wooden and unsubstantial in this book and I didn’t like what the author did with them. I have enjoyed other P.D. James books though to be fair, just not this one.
Northern lights: the positive policy example of Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway by Andrew Scott (4 stars) – A very interesting book, Australia could learn a lot from these Scandinavian countries. Definitely worth a read.
Mothers and others: Australian writers by Maggie Scott (3 stars) – A collection of essays/stories from Australian writers on the topic of Motherhood.
The Door that led where by Sally Gardner (3.5 stars) – The main character is AJ Flynn, a 16 year old boy with a horrible home life. At his new job, AJ finds a key with his name and birth date on it. AJ eventually ends up in nineteenth century London and must decide where, or when he really belongs.
One life : my mother’s story by Kate Grenville. I really loved reading this book, it was a very deep, understanding and loving story of the life of one “ordinary” woman of the depression and World War II era and right up to the twenty-first century. Kate Grenville has based her work on her mother’s journals so you get a sense of her mother’s thoughts and feelings about her life, which is both ordinary and extraordinary, as well as a chronological spread of information and background. Nance Gee and her family were directly affected by the depression and the war, and Nance became a pharmacist when she was one of only six women in her year at University and went on to own two pharmacies. So far this is my ‘book with a number in the title’, though that may change, and I rate it a 4/5.
As a tribute to Terry Pratchett I read The truth, one of his Discworld novels. I have read quite a few of the series but not all of them, and every time I read another I enjoy the world that he has created and his clever, and gently satirical, writing style. This story covers the beginnings of tabloid journalism in the city of Ankh-Morpork and is full of recognisable characters from that world. A pleasure to read and a good antidote to the real world 3/5.
I also read An ordinary epidemic by Amanda Hickie, I found it a thoughtful and insightful look at an ordinary person and her family facing, what is to us so far and luckily, an extra-ordinary situation. An outbreak of an new unknown virus comes to Australia, to Sydney and specifically south of the Harbour Bridge. Areas are locked down in quarantine, families hide in their houses, water and power are lost and return, and the threat of danger and death hovers and grows. How Hannah and her family cope with the various stages of the tragedy, with each other and their neighbours, and the outside world, is fascinating, ordinary, compelling and really rings true. My Goodreads rating was 4/5.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
- 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