- 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 The Rosie Project this is for book group and although I haven’t finished it I would recommend it – 4/5
- Jenny M
- 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
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.
- Soup’s Song: Mark O’Flynn. There’s more than a soupçon of word-play in the new collection of poems by this Blue Mountains writer. I’ve long admired the wit, humanity and glorious language he brings to all his work.
- The Natural Way of Things, by Charlotte Wood. Ten young women wake from a drugged state to find they have been kidnapped and dumped in a large enclosure surrounded by an electrified fence. Two men and a woman keep them subjected, filthy and starving, until they find ways to reclaim their strength and will. Only gradually do we understand why the women are held captive; the reasons are frightening, the mode bureaucratic, Kafka-esque. There is no easy redemption here. Wood’s prose has a visceral bite and a power that keeps you reading. You may view modern life differently once you have read it.
- The Simplest Words: a storyteller’s journey, by Alex Miller. This is a collection of essays, excerpts and reflections by an Australian writer I have honoured for many years, especially for his Journey to the Stone Country.
- The Secret Fate of Mary Watson, by Judy Johnson. 1879, Cooktown, far north Queensland. Definitely frontier country. Mary Watson, having no resources but her intelligence and taste for adventure, goes to do secret work on Lizard Island (even further north) as the wife of a redneck named Bob Watson. Great story, especially on Talking Book.
- Master of Shadows by Neil Oliver – the first novel from Scottish archaeologist & historian familiar from the Coast series, among others. Not unsurprisingly this is an historical novel. Set in Scotland and Turkey, based very loosely on actual events, but with an element of magic. Not my usual but not bad and I gave it 3 ½ out of five stars. And I was going to put it onto the 2016 Reading Challenge list under A book with a blue cover but have just spotted A book written by a celebrity and reckon this might be my only chance to tick off that category so I’ll save the blue cover for later.
- Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith – the latest in the Cormoran Strike series by JK Rowling under her crime writing pseudonym. PI Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robyn Ellacott are both likeable characters. A shade darker than the previous two I thought, the villain more menacing. 4 stars and let’s pop it onto the 2016 Reading Challenge under A murder mystery.
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – set before and during WWII this beautifully written novel follows the parallel stories of blind French girl Marie-Laure in St Malo, and German orphan boy Werner Pfennig. Although Marie-Laure doesn’t know it, she’s harbouring a priceless jewel which the sinister Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel is searching obsessively for. 5 stars and I shall tick off A book set in Europe with this one.
- Looking at my list (I record my reading in LibraryThing by the way) I’ve done a fair bit of war-time reading over the holidays. In WWI I’ve read Generals Die in Bed by Charles Harrison – similar to All Quiet on the Western Front. Harrison was an American who signed up to fight in the Canadian army and based this novel on his experiences in the trenches in France – 4 ½ stars – and In Pale Battalions by Robert Goddard 4 stars. And in WWII I read Wartime Lies by Louis Begby – a semi-autobiographical novel about a little Jewish Polish boy hiding in plain sight amongst the Christians with his Aunt (4 stars) and When the Children Came Home by Julie Summers which discusses the various experiences of child evacuees in WWII Britain and the long-lasting effects of those experiences on families (4 stars).
- Also with war as a backdrop is Spike Island: the Memory of a Military Hospital by Philip Hoare which is the history of the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley which was built in 1856 and was used as a military hospital through the African wars, World Wars I and II and on through to its demolition in the late 1970s. The building was vast – on its completion it had, at a quarter of a mile long, the world’s longest façade – the US Army who used the building in WWII used to drive jeeps along the corridors to get from A to B. Even then WWI and WWII saw a vast array of temporary structures being built in the grounds to accommodate patients some of whom stayed for years.
- I also read Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave, a frank and beautiful account of his relationship with John Caleo which was made into a film last year by Neil Armfield. 4 stars and put under An autobiography for the Reading Challenge.
- Paving the New Road by Sulari Gentill – one of the Rowland Sinclair series set between the wars. This time Rowland and his pals are in Germany trying to head off the threat of fascism taking a strong hold in Australia. 3 ½ stars.
- The King is Dead by Susannah Lipscomb – Henry VIII as we know, was a man who liked to get things his own way and thought he could still control what happened after his death via his will. Historian Susannah Lipscomb discusses the background to the will and shows how it took no time at all for most of it to be ignored or overturned.
- Mistresses: true stories of seduction, power and ambition by Leigh Eduardo – I found this a bit dull I’m afraid. 2 stars.
- Hester & Harriet by Hilary Spiers is one of those sweet, quirky little stories the British do so well of two sisters who take in a homeless foreigner one Christmas. 4 sars
- For the A play category of the 2015 Reading Challenge I read the Scottish Play (Macbeth) by William Shakespeare and have ticked off A book you haven’t read since high school – 3 stars. One reason for choosing this one is that in September 2015 I went to Birnam Wood in Scotland -SCENE I. A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come against him.
- And for a bit of Australian history I’ve not long finished Long Bay by Eleanor Limprecht who has written a novel based on the true story of Rebecca McDowell Sinclair who ended up in goal under sentence of manslaughter. I’ll tick off A book set in your home state for this one. 3 ½ stars
- Currently I’m pursuing a recommendation by an ex-colleague which will fit into the A book translated to English category nicely – The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen which has been translated from the Finnish by Lola M Rogers.
- A rip-roaring insomniac, I listen to talking books all night so that when I wake up I can drift off to the sound of someone telling a soothing tale rather than start thinking about all the stuff I need to do. I have been listening to Bill Bryson books, At Home which is narrated by Bill Bryson himself, I could listen to him forever and Down Under which is narrated by American William Roberts who is valiantly giving his all to Aussie accents.
- Digital Gold: The Untold Story of Bitcoin – Nathaniel Popper 4/5 and The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order – Paul Vigna & Michael Casey 3/5 – I read these two books one after the other and I think I read them in the right order. Digital Gold follows Bitcoin from its very beginnings right up until recently. It follows the major players on the development side and the finance/business side. Excellent introduction if you feel the need to know how and why Bitcoin was created. The Age of Cryptocurrency focuses a lot on Bitcoin but also gives more in depth explanations of cryptocurrency in general and some of the possible competitors to Bitcoin. This book talks a lot more about the Blockchain and other uses that it might have. I wouldn’t say one book is better than the other, they both complement each other well.
- Gilliamesque: A Pre-posthumous Memoir – Terry Gilliam 5/5 – My earliest memory of film is watching Monty Pythion and the Holy Grail on TV in Perth, which means I was six years old or younger. The scene I remember is the black knight having his arms and legs chopped off. Gilliam was one of the directors of this film and went on to be a very successful director (depending how you measure success). I really love all his films and some of them are my all-time favourites. This book looks back on his life with a focus on the art he was producing at the time. It spends little time on the Pythin years which is covered in great detail elsewhere. If you are a Gilliam fan then this is for you.
- Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection
- Batgirl, Vol. 2: Knightfall Descends
- Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1: Demon Star
- Batman: Detective Comics, Vol. 2: Scare Tactics
- Batman: The Dark Knight, Vol. 1: Knight Terrors
- Batman: The Night of the Owls
- Batwing, Vol. 1: The Lost Kingdom
- Batwing, Vol. 2: In the Shadow of the Ancients
- Batwoman, Vol. 2: To Drown the World
- Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Trouble in Mind
- Birds of Prey, Vol. 2: Your Kiss Might Kill
- Catwoman, Vol. 2: Dollhouse
- I, Vampire, Vol. 1: Tainted Love
- I, Vampire, Vol. 2: Rise of the Vampires
- Justice League Dark, Vol. 1: In the Dark
- Justice League, Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey
- Nightwing, Vol. 1: Traps and Trapezes
- Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 1: Redemption
- Suicide Squad, Vol. 2: Basilisk Rising
- Teen Titans, Vol. 1: It’s Our Right to Fight
- Worlds’ Finest, Vol. 1: The Lost Daughters of Earth 2
- Continuing on with my Tara Moss read-a-thon, this month I tackled – completely out of my comfort zone – Fetish and Split. – Both very well written and it helps that I love “hanging out” with the heroine, Makedde Vanderwall. While I thought reading about serial killers would make me squeamish, it was the character development and the descriptions of fashion, Sydney, Vancouver etc that kept my interest. If you want to cross over into crime from your normal chick-lit read, these are the books to do that with. I am reading the next instalment….4 stars
- Adultery by Paulo Coelho – I always love Coelho’s books – they make me think. Whether I want to or not! This book was no exception. You immediately relate with the main character and start questioning your own decisions in life….4 stars
- Cloudstreet by Tim Winton – how had I put off reading Tim Winton for so long? This book is a gem and I found myself re-reading passages to savour the characters and keep them with me a bit longer. 4 stars.
- Monday to Friday Man by Alice Peterson – very cute story set in London. What happens to Gilly Brown when her fiancee calls off the wedding last minute – how do you go on when you are 34, single and living in London? 3.5 stars
- The Margaret Thatcher School of beauty – by Marsha Mehran – a book chosen purely on its lovely cover. Not really my cup of tea – contained lots of poetry interwoven with the story. 3.5/5
- Animal Farm – George Orwell – something I have never actually read even at school so thought I should. I found it very sad. 4/5
- Gentlemen prefer blondes – by Anita Loos – the original 1920’s novel which inspired the Marilyn Monroe film. Well, the main character may well have been your stereotype ‘dumb blonde’ but only in so far as her spelling and general knowledge went. She seemed to be extremely clever as she knew how to play wealthy men into giving her all sorts of lovely jewels, trips and meals by just batting her eyelids and being ‘blonde’ . I’ll have to track down a copy of the Marilyn Monroe film how the book was interpreted in film. An enjoyable read. 4/5
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 )
The Eye of the Sheep by Sophie Laguna. This novel won the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award. Central character Jimmy Flick is a little boy on the spectrum somewhere. His mother adores and protects him, his father is an alcoholic who can’t manage being the father of such a child, can’t manage much at all really. By and by Jimmy is cast into the treacherous seas of non-belonging. Read this one for the gripping, authentic Jimmy-voice in which the story is told. Beautifully written and compelling.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. The setting is Holt, Colorado. Addie Moore, long widowed and lonely as she ages, walks a block down the street to make a surprising proposal to a man she has known for years, Louis Waters, also a widower. The storytelling is mature and stately, a last statement from Haruf, who died at the close of 2014. A beautiful book, with the elements of joy and sorrow firmly plaited.
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. The setting is ancient England, when Britons and Saxons were at war with each other. The story concerns the journey of old Axl and Beatrice, searching for their son. They meet warriors, traitors and a bewitched boy. I presume the whole is an allegory, whose precise meaning I am not sure of. Is the buried giant the tide of forgetfulness that prevents us seeing the truth? The graceful storytelling rises and falls like poetry. A story with mythical components tells far more than it appears to.
The loveliest chocolate shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan – It took a while to get into but then I didn’t want it to end. It made me want to go to Paris to taste all their lovely chocolates! – 4/5
Villette by Charlotte Bronte – (from the reading challenge a book over 100 years old – the second I’ve read this year from this category) It was quite a difficult read as it was written in old-fashioned English (of course!) and it had lots of French conversation in it which I was not able to follow, but it was well worth the effort. 5/5
The love song of Miss Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce – (not a reading challenge book) Loved it!!!!!!! 5/5
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn – (not a reading challenge book) – Very, very clever 5/5
Book by John Agard – from the reading challenge a non-fiction book (my 3rd for this challenge) and a memoir – A children’s book about the birth of writing and books told by Book – it is after all a memoir of its life – a really fun read. 5/5
A book your mum loves:
Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri – This is an Inspector Montalbano mystery, a great crime thriller with a minimum of gore. Set in Sicily, there is lots of talk of delicious food and seaside atmosphere amid the mystery. Fun for both the armchair traveller, foodie and the crime lover. 3.5/5
A book with a love triangle:
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner – set in the 1970s, this book follows a young female artist/motorcyclist trying to make her way in New York art world. She falls for an Italian motorcycle empire heir, and becomes caught up in political tensions, social unrest and terrorism in Italy. Unflinching and gritty, though beautifully written. 4.5/5
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit:
Mezza Italiana by Zoe Boccabella – The author resisted her Italian heritage during her youth, growing up in 1970s and 80s Australia. She just wanted to fit in with the other kids, but encountered racism every step of the way. But as she got older, she realised the significance of her heritage and family. She and her partner Richard decide to explore her ancestral homeland, Fossa in Abruzzo. What unfolds is a wonderful acceptance and embracing of her family’s history and legacy. 3.5/5
Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas – loved it – highly readable and revolting characters that test your ethics. 4 stars
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George – hard to read which was a shame as I thought it had all the elements I would normally enjoy. 2 stars
Heat and Light by Ellen Van Neerven. A collection of stories interwoven. An interesting slice of Australia. 3 stars
A book published this year:
Anzac Voices Gallipoli from those who were there – ABC Classics
Recorded between 1953 and 1990, the compelling and deeply emotional first-hand accounts drwn from the ABC Archives recall in graphic detail the circumstances and events of the Gallipoli campaign, from the innocence of enlistment to the horror of the landing and – for those who lived to tell their story – the bitter relief of homecoming. 3 stars
Dancing to the Flute by Manisha Jolie Amin – such a beautiful story about a boy, his flute and how it changed his life living on the streets of India. 4 stars
The Crossroad by Mark Donaldson VC. Worth reading just to know the level of involvement Australia had in Afghanistan. 4 stars
Noah Barleywater runs away by John Boyne (4/5) – A lovely story, I really enjoyed it (though it may make you cry). Noah Barleywater runs away from his home. He finds himself in a village and in front of a mysterious and magical toy shop. The toy maker tells Noah the story of his life and slowly, Noah reveals his own story and what it was that made him run away.
The Pause by John Larkin (3/5) –Suicide is a difficult theme and I really liked the beginning of this story and John Larkin’s bravery in tackling this topic. But the ending was disappointing and cliché.
Interview with the vampire by Anne Rice (3.5/5) – This was written wonderfully, but I just didn’t like the characters.
The ice dragon by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Luis Royo (3.5/5) – A sweet little tale about a young girl born in the winter and her relationship with the ice dragon and her family.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
- I have just read The elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. When I finished it I wanted to immediately reread it. I found it so beautifully written and the English translation from the French so well done, and the way the story was portrayed so poignant, I laughed and cried as I read it.
- A Graphic Novel: Last Kiss – Casual Fridays by John Lustig – I cannot recommend this graphic novel highly enough – funny and clever captions on pop art graphics. Well worth delving into. 4 stars
- A book of Short Stories: Breaking Beauty – edited by Lynette Washington – a clever marketing ploy in that an excerpt of one of the short stories was published in the Jan-Feb 2015 Australian Book Review. I had to borrow the book to find out how the story ended. It was worth it. Each story in this collection explores the idea of beauty, warts and all. The stories challenge your perception and ideal of normal. My favourite story in this compilation was by the sci-fi writer, Sean Williams “The Beholders”. All have twists and all are clever. Worth reserving the library copy today. 5 stars (and I never give 5 stars).
- A book with a love triangle: One Night in Italy by Lucy Diamond – Okay stretching this one a bit – love triangle in the form of one character, Catherine – her husband was seeing a much younger woman on the side and she kicked him out. This is my preferred genre – chicklit, great characters that all bond and have a happy ending. Tick in all departments. The characters meet in an Italian night class. Easy, fun read. 4 stars
- A book with Bad Reviews: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy – So much promise, but I didn’t love it. Beautifully written, interesting characters but doesn’t really lead anywhere except in a circle. 2 stars. The bad reviews can be found here – one person wrote it was going to be the worst book they would read all year!
- A Book based entirely on its cover: The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman – I didn’t love it and I thought I would – set in Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles in the 1930s. Possibly because the main character was so unlikeable. Had a nice little twist at the end so I am glad I persevered. 2 stars
- A book written by someone under 30 – Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham – I enjoy her TV series and I wanted to see what you get for a 3 million dollar book advance these days. Apparently a lot of complaining. There were a few funny stories, some you could tell she had worked into the show or used as a base for some characters. These were interesting. The rest seemed to be complaining about how it is to be a relatively privileged New York girl. The potty humour saved it from a 1 star rating. 2/5.
- A book started but never finished – A fraction of the whole by Steve Toltz – It wasn’t bad, just too long and there was much more I wanted to read. 2/5.
- A book with a number in the title – 50 popular beliefs that people think are true
- A book from an author I love that I haven’t read yet – Vulcan’s Hammer by Philip K Dick – An early book with many of his great themes running through it, written right before his most award winning book, This wasn’t outstanding but highly enjoyable for a fan. The main themes included are one world government, AI, conspiracies, religion and overthrowing the powers that be.
- A book you can finish in a day – You Have to F**king Eat by Adam Mansbach
- A book that was originally written in a different language – The three-body problem by Liu Cixin – This was originally published in China and is the first part of a trilogy that was apparently quite popular over there. A very original sci fi story that I enjoyed a lot and can’t wait for the rest to be published in English. Themes involved are game theory, maths, astronomy, aliens, VR, politics, nano technology and more. 5/5.
- A trilogy – Resistance by John Birmingham – This is part 2, part 3 is out soon. 3/5.
- A nonfiction book – World’s Best Jazz Club: The Story Of Bennets Lane by David James.
- A mystery or thriller – Consumed by David Cronenberg – I love Cronenberg’s films except for a few recent ones and this book has all the themes of the good ones. If you loved Videodrome, eXistenz, Dead Ringers and Crash then this book is for you. 4/5.
- A book at the bottom of your to-read list – Mustaine: A life in metal by Dave Mustaine – Creator of the band Megadeth of which I was a small fan many years ago. Re listened to the music while reading the book which I enjoyed. Not the best music biography, too much focus on the rehab and band politics and not enough on the making of the music for my tastes. 3/5.
- Nicholas Sparks – At first sight – I didn’t enjoy this one as much as some of his others I have read in years gone past. Maybe my tastes are changing???? (couldn’t fit it into one of the reading challenge categories) 3 stars.
- A book with non- human characters + A book based on a true story – James Bowen – Bob : no ordinary cat. This is the JNF version of “A street cat named Bob”. I loved it! Bob the street cat adopts James Bowen and joins him in his busking on London streets and gives James a reason to get off drugs and look after himself better. Bob has his own website and is very famous on You Tube as well from tourists and Londoners who have come across him and James on the London streets. A lovely, inspiring real-life book. 5 stars
- A book started but not finished – Graeme Simison – The Rosie effect. Really disappointing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading “The Rosie project” last year and waited with great anticipation as my reserve got closer and closer to the top of the list. When it was finally my turn, I got set to sit and read all weekend, but only got through a couple of chapters before I decided to give up. Just not as entertaining as the author’s first Rosie book. 1 star
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt- a fabulously implausible page-turner. I have happily stayed up far past my bedtime all week for this one. I read a review of the book dismissing it as full of clichés, and indeed it is, however it doesn’t seem to bother me. Everything that happens, and everyone in it, seems so unlikely, including the scenarios that propel the storyline, but I am still hooked.
- Still reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton…just copy and paste this email for the next few months!!
- Wife on the Run, by Fiona Higgins. A marriage in trouble in our social-media-ridden world… There are lots of ways people can be dishonest, when they can hide their true identities behind a facsimile. Apart from being a well-paced story, this is a comment on how life is currently being lived. I like her dialogue, and unsentimental representations of human character.
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I avoided reading this one for ages because I thought it would be pop literature, manipulative, slight. But having read her big novel, The Signature of all Things, I changed my mind. Listening to Gilbert’s journey-story on Talking Book is a great pleasure. I love to see how thoughtful, honest people make their way from one identity to another, and what they encounter on the way. It’s the eternal human story, how we change and what we learn.
- The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I know this one has been around a long time, but I have just got to it. Stevens, the butler at Darlington Hall, is a complex creature who has been bought and sold by the British myth of inherited class difference. He belongs, he feels, in the butler class; his true mind, his authentic self, is buried beneath the weight of expectations of his ‘class’. It is ‘not his place’ to be a fully-realised human being. When he loves, he doesn’t know or admit that he loves. What a powerful book this is.
- The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (Junior Fiction) – 4 / 5 stars – This was an excellent adventure story about a little girl who is orphaned, her cousin and the horrid guardian who comes to look after them. The landscape is ruggid, the wolves very scary and the female heroines fantastic. It was a really enjoyable read – I want to read the rest of the series now. Joan Aiken is an awesome writer!
- Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Junior Fiction) – 4.5 / 5 stars – Having seen the animation by Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) years ago, I only recently learned that it was based upon the book by Diana Wynne Jones. Sophie is a young woman who works in her step-mother’s hat shop when the Witch of the Waste puts a spell upon her. To everyone else she appears an old woman. Additionally, Sophie can’t tell anyone that she has a spell on her. Thinking that her step-mother won’t recognise her as an old woman, she sets off to seek her fortune and finds herself at the Wizard Howl’s Moving Castle. I loved this book, I definitely recommend it!
- Ottoline and the Yellow Cats and Ottoline goes to School by Chris Riddell (Junior Fiction) – 4 / 5 stars each – Ottoline is a little girl who lives with her pet, Mr Munroe, while her parents travel the world collecting interesting things. Ottoline is a very likable character and Mr Munro is this cool dog-like ‘thing’ that is very sweet and helpful. He and Ottoline are the best of friends. Ottoline is very adept at solving mysteries. These stories are fantastic and are brilliant for kids who are just up to chapter books – there is a great mix of text and Chris Riddell’s amazing illustrations.
- Where Song Began: Australian birds and how they changed the world (Adult Non-Fiction) – 3.5 / 5 stars – I have only just started this one, but I’m finding it very interesting. I have learned that: Australian Birds are quite aggressive, play an important role in the pollination of certain trees and are very noisy in a harsh sort-of way (think Wattle-Bird calls). I’m looking forward to learning more.
- A book that became a movie – The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. This was an adjunct to a library ebook I had out called simply Hyde by Daniel Levine. Levine tells the story from the monster, Hyde’s, point of view. I actually enjoyed it more than the original I think – am I allowed to say that? 3 stars for RLS’s story, 4 stars for Levine’s book
- A book that made you cry – A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness but built upon an idea by Siobhan Dowd. This was a book group read but I’d read it before on a recommendation from a friend. This really got the group going and there were all sorts of shenanigans as members tried to change the date of the meeting so they could come after all. Catherine listened to it on talking book and blubbed to and from work in Penrith for several days. 4 stars
- Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty – McKinty lives in Australia now but his character Sean Duffy is a catholic detective in the almost exclusively Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Gripping stuff that I think will be enjoyed by those who like Tartan Noir writers like Ian Rankin and Stuart McBride. 4 stars
- The Ghost of the Marie Celeste by Valerie Martin – Historical fiction with ships, sailors, spiritualists and Arthur Conan Doyle. 3 stars
- Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith – the most thrilling thriller I’ve read in a while. Set in 1950s Russia where the Stalinist regime does not allow that crime could take place because everyone was too content to commit crime. So when it dawns on NKVD officer Leo Demidov that a serial killer is at work just investigating brings the threat of being denounced as a traitor. Although the time period is the 1950s this is based on a real-life serial killer of the 1970s and 80. 4 ½ stars
- Mathew’s Tale by Quintin Jardine – I picked this up because it was an historical novel set in 17th Century Scotland in a very small town in Lanarkshire called Crossford. One of my friends at school came from Crossford and I stayed a weekend there once. The story of justice for the little man was OK but I’ve read better. 3 stars
And what about you, dear colleague?
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- 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
- The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco – really hard to get into but a good story once you do.
- The Wild One – the life and times of Johnny O’Keefe by Damian Johnstone. JOK was a favourite of my Dad’s. It was good to read about the man behind the songs. Another tragic rock n roll story.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I wanted to read this again before sitting down and watching Baz Luhrmann’s version of the film. I also wanted to see how the story had held up in my mind. I remember enjoying it as a teenager, and then again in my twenties. I had a more jaded view of the book this time around and certainly viewed it with less romantic eyes. However, it is still a great and tragic story that I again enjoyed. I did watch the Baz Luhrmann movie and enjoyed it as well – even more so for recognising the Mt Wilson landscape scattered throughout. I want to re-watch the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version now….For more information on the book and subsequent movies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby
- Eternity Gate by Traci Harding. I have enjoyed Traci’s books in the past but unless you have read her earlier books, this next series “The Timekeepers” wont make too much sense to the casual reader. A further chapter in the next reincarnation of the original characters.
- Upstairs, Downstairs by John Hawkesworth – a novelisation of the much loved original television series. I knew my mum loved this series and if the book is anything to go by…no wonder! Full of gossip and scandal. A fun snapshot of London at the turn of the 20th Century.
- Fragrant Harbour by John Lanchester – A lovely novel with the intersecting lives of four people in Hong Kong from the 1920s to the late 1990s when Hong Kong was handed back to China.
- Fludd by Hilary Mantel – an odd tale of a small community with a non-believing priest (the eponymous Fludd) and the spell cast by the new curate, Father Angwin. I’m still not sure whether I liked it or not.
- The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – now we all know that Robert Galbraith is a nom-de-plume of astoundingly successful children’s author, JK Rowling. This is a fun start to a new series with Private Investigater Cormoran Strike and his side-kick Robin Ellacott who comes to Strike as a temporary secretary and somehow makes herself indispensible. Strike and Ellacott are looking into the apparent suicide of a supermodel/actress, hired by her brother who doesn’t believe she killed herself. I can see this being televised – I can quite clearly see Robbie Coltrane as Strike. I’m not so good at imagining female side-kicks. Anyone got any ideas?
- A Country Too Far edited by Rosie Scott and Thomas Keneally – I had to leave this anthology of short stories, excerpts, essays and poems by leading Australian authors using the power of words to fight the weasel words of government against the way asylum seekers are treated at work for lunch time reading as some of the writing is very affecting.
- In Falling Snow by Mary Rose Maccoll – a novel set in WWI in the Scottish Women’s Hospital at Royaumont Abbey in France where young nursing sister, Iris Crane ends up while trying to find her very under age soldier brother. Looking into the Scottish Women’s Hospitals after reading the book, I was surprised to find that Stella Miles Franklin had worked with them in Croatia at that time.
- So now I’m getting into this WWI theme and my next book was Toby’s Room by Pat Barker whose Regeneration Trilogy I have also enjoyed this year. The Toby of the title has joined the army and has gone Missing in Action, his sister Elinor, with whom he was disturbingly close is consumed by grief and is there some dark secret between them?
- From there I mooched on to Goodbye to All That : an Autobiography by Robert Graves which was surprisingly interesting, funny and dark by turns, as you might expect of men fighting in the trenches in WWI.One story was about the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, my grandfather’s regiment (he was WWII vintage though) which mentioned a battle they went into with, say, 905 men and came out of the battle with, say, 906 men – one of the bugle boys had turned 18 on the day of the battle! I’m hoping to balance all these books written from the Allies point of view with All Quiet on the Western Front this coming month.
- And I’ve been dipping in and out of The Wipers Times : the famous First World War trench newspaper – a facsimile of the newspaper amazingly put together by soldiers in the trenches at Ypres where my great-grandfather served.
- The News: a User’s Manual by Alain de Botton – interesting enough but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did A Week at the Airport.
- For book group I’m reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – I say I’m reading, actually I’m falling asleep over it a lot. 100 pages down, only another 450 or so to go! My boys rave about it though.
- Twelve years a slave : narrative of Solomon Northup a citizen of New York, kidnapped in Washington City 1841, and rescued 1853 by Solomon Northup – Don’t let the long-winded title put you off. It was a really powerful read. It is a biographical account of Mr Northup’s life as a free man, his kidnapping and his subsequent years in slavery. It is written in old style English so it reads easily like a novel, but it is none-the-less a very powerful account.
- I’m currently making my way through Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. We have the books in the library. It’s an Epic Fantasy series with the idea of “What if the bad guy won and ended up ruling the (fantasy) world?” It’s about a group of thieves attempting to overthrow the evil empire using special magical powers derived from various metals. Lots of action and adventure combined with magical abilities (my three favourite things), though the fight scenes are quite bloody. A good read for the avid Fantasy reader.Brandon also gives some excellent Fantasy Writing Lectures on Youtube
- I have been reading The Opal that turned into fire : and other stories from the Wangkumara edited by Janet Mathews. The stories draw on the knowledge and memories of Indigenous people alive during the 1970s, who are acknowledged. Authenticity seems to be a significant and valuable feature of this book.
- The Beloved, by Annah Faulkner – She was a guest at the recent Writers Festival sessions here in Katoomba, and liking the sound of her conversation I bought the book. It’s set in New Guinea, mostly in Moresby, and the story comes to us through the consciousness of Bertie, a young girl who is early struck down by polio. Bertie sees auras round people, sees colours where most of us see nothing – the condition known as synesthesia. Conflicts arise between mother and daughter when Bertie finds that art is what she is drawn to. I loved this book, the story, the prose style, that curiously indefinable something that a writer can give a reader: a window to look through, perhaps.
- Infidelity, by Hugh Mackay – Australian psychologist Tom Harper goes to London, anxious to kick over the traces of a professional indiscretion that has compromised his position. He meets and falls desperately in love with Sarah Delacour. Trouble is, she’s already married, to someone very rich. The prose sparkles, the conversations and characters are fascinating. Clever, and insightful. I liked this novel a lot.
- Balancing Act, by Joanna Trollope – I always read Trollope’s novels. They’re about family ructions and dysfunctions, working out how to live. This one centres on a family pottery business, and the matriarch who wants to retain control. Trollope is obviously fascinated by family dynamics, as who would not be? Enjoyable read.
- The Conversation, by David Brooks – Stephen Mitchell, an engineer, has been posted to a job in Monfalcone, a city in Italy’s north-east, just north of the Gulf of Venice. He’s wandering about this particular afternoon, missing his wife and daughter, when he decides to dine at the Caffe Cosini. He is seated outside and is writing some postcards when a sudden gust of wind changes the nature of the evening he thought he was going to have. The novel is as its title suggests – a conversation, about the complex life experiences we all try to make sense of. Its ending may surprise you though.
- The Idea of Perfection,by Kate Grenville – This was published (1999) about 6 years before Grenville’s The Secret River, and I’m re-reading it, for its humourous take on country Australia, its satirical portraits of the residents of Karakarook, its lampooning of pretension. Go, Kate.
- Verbal Judo: the gentle art of persuasion by George J. Thompson – Useful tips and techniques for managing difficult situations, and some amazing stories of how they have worked! It’s one of those books you’d have to read over and over as you learn to actually apply the ideas, because most of them go against your instinct in high conflict situations.
- The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – This YA read really got me in and I was desperate to know how it was going to end. Until it ended. That was very unsatisfying, but luckily the Library also has books 2 and 3 in the series, so it’s not really over yet. Loved the characters and the fast pace of action.
- Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut – This book is not your ordinary read. It goes back and forth in time, seems very auto-biographical and explores some interesting themes. Despite it’s unusual format I really enjoyed it.
- Rivers of London by Ben Aarondovitch – This was a quick read I picked up because I didn’t have any other books with me at the time. The storyline follows a new policeman in London who discovers he can speak with ghosts- and that the police have a department who deal with the more mystical residents of London. It’s a pretty straightforward read, just enough to keep you interested, but not too much thinking involved.
- At the moment I’m reading Stories II by T.C. Boyle which is a huge collection of short stories that are really well written. I’m only a tiny way through it proportionally, but the stories really suck you in to the emotional situations of the characters.
- The Suspicions of Mr Whicher; or the Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale – My first (and I think last) true crime read.
- Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi – I thought that this book had promise at the start, but it quickly became ridiculous, unbelievable and almost laughable at the end –seriously?!
- Gem of a Ghost by Sue Ann Jaffarian – I could only flick through this after the first chapter – not my cup of tea.
- On Death and Dying: What the dying have to teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and their own families by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross – This is the seminal book on death and dying (it was referenced in another book that I read). The author interviewed patients who were facing their own death to learn and understand how they felt about it and how the medical profession and families could better help them in the process. It also describes the different stages that a person may/will go through when they learn that they have a terminal illness.
- The smallest things: thoughts on making a happy family by Angela Mollard
- Osbert the Avenger by Christopher William Hill – The first in the Tales from Schwartzgarten series (illustrations by Chris Riddell). This was great, a well written and interesting story. I did feel a little irky at the age of the killer, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
- The Woebegone Twins by Christopher William Hill – Another book from the Tales from Schwartzgarten series. This one wasn’t as graphically murderous as the first in the series (thankfully) – it was an enjoyable little story.
- The Language Of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – set in San Francisco, this book focuses on a troubled young woman who has had a tough life. It is her obsession with the Victorian meanings of flowers that becomes the catalyst for a change in her fortunes. I really enjoyed this book and hope the author writes more in the future.
- All of It by Bev Aisbett – a colourful, creative and inspiring memoir by the author and illustrator of a number of popular books dealing with mental health, such as Taming the Black Dog: A Guide to Overcoming Depression and The Book of It: 10 Steps to Conquering Anxiety. There are illustrations and photos throughout, which I love, I just wish they’d been a bit larger.
- On Seeing and Noticing by Alain de Botton (Audiobook) -a collection of short philosophical essays on many facets of life, such as art, travel, work and romance.
- The News: a user’s manual by Alain de Botton (Audiobook) -the author investigates the daily news and our relationship to it. This book is needed in a world where we can be consistently connected to information, and not all of it helpful or healthy for us.
- Kiss and Tell by Alain de Botton (Audiobook) – this book is billed as fiction, but often feels more like de Botton’s philosophical non-fiction writing. Very enjoyable nonetheless.
- Disharmony #1 #2 & #3 – great concept, had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Felt like the ending was a bit rushed and flat but still a good series.
What a difference a day (in bed) makes . . . I was ill with a sore froat last week and got a bit of extra reading done in between the snoozes. Looks like others have been busy too. A lot of good reading has been done this month it seems.
What have you had your nose in this month?
- Did She Kill Him? A Victorian tale of deception, adultery and arsenic by Kate Colquhoun – an impulse buy when I saw the author’s name! I enjoyed it though; a narrative non-fiction account of a woman accused of poisoning her husband. If you liked The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, you’ll likely enjoy this one too.
- The Lie by Helen Dunmore – my sick bed read. Daniel returns to his native Cornwall following The Great War.
- A Second Wind : the true story that inspired the motion picture The Intouchables by Philippe Pozzo di Borgo – my favourite film of 2013
- The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman – another post WWI read for book group. Set in WA this is a beautifully written novel.
- Disobedience by Naomi Alderman – set in the Orthodox Jewish community in London the cat is set among the pigeons when the rabbi’s lesbian daughter returns for her father’s funeral.
- One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson – a fun read set in Edinburgh – a crime seen from all sorts of angles.
- Wee Macgregor Enlists by JJ Bell – Written (in broad Scots) in 1916; I downloaded this from the Library’s Project Gutenberg list of books.
- Just now I’m reading A Country Too Far : writings on asylum seekers edited by Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally – essays, poems and short stories from 27 of Australia’s finest wordsmiths.
- And for some light relief from that – 44 Scotland Street by Alexander Maccall Smith – not even MY mother is as bad as Irene, Bertie’s Mum!
- Enduring Love by Ian McEwan- I avoided this because of the soppy title, but I was rewarded with a strange little tale which revolves around deciding who exactly has lost the plot- the protagonist or the bit players.
- Reunion by Andrea Goldsmith- the most boring book I have ever finished. It took over six months, but I became strangely determined to see it out.
- Lexicon by Max Barry- exciting from the first page.
- Hotel Kerobokan by Kathryn Bonella – Hotel Kerobokan is the ironic nickname for Kerobokan Jail, Bali’s most notorious prison, and home to a procession of the infamous and the tragic: the Bali bombers, Schapelle Corby and the Bali nine among many others. Good insight into how the Bali and Indonesian Jail and judicial system work and puts a human element to those you have only read about in newspapers. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7380006-hotel-kerobokan
- The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin. The wonderful next chapter in the Tales of the City series. Loved it. But only for those familiar with the original series. http://armisteadmaupin.com/BooksDOAM.html
- To My Best Friends by Sam Baker – a real tear jerker. Loved that you could not help but put yourself somewhere in the scenario and imagine what you would do. http://www.sambaker.co.uk/books
- The Eve Continuum Book 1 by Storm JK. Wonderful effort by new writer – lots of fun elements, supernatural, mystery, racy! Also love that she is a local writer.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – this classic was my #reelread for the month – I wanted to read it before I watch the Baz Luhrmann film. Fitzgerald examines a privileged section of American society in the 1920s (including both ‘new money’ and ‘old money’), bursting with the energy of vacant excesses (wealth, parties, free-flowing alcohol, reckless behaviour), and holds it up to the light.
- Zelda & Scott Fitzgerald : sometimes madness is wisdom by Kendall Taylor – a comprehensive biography, focusing mostly on Zelda’s life and her relationship with her famous author husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I learnt from this book that Scott took chunks of Zelda’s diaries, verbatim, and put them into his own stories.
- The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (e-book).
- Free-falling by Nicola Moriarty – Nicola’s first book is about grief and its impact on relationships; despite the emotionally-heavy subject matter it is an entertaining read from the younger sister of authors Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty.
- Last Tango in Toulouse by Mary Moody (audio book) – following on from her first memoir, Au Revoir, this book charts Mary’s discontent with her seemingly perfect life, and how this discontent culminates in a romantic affair. Then there is the fall-out when she tells her husband and family what she has done. It is a very open and honest story, uncomfortably so at times.
- The Philosopher’s Doll by Amanda Lohrey (audio book) – this book is well-written and I enjoyed the descriptive language very much.
- A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snickett – I really enjoyed this tale about the Baudelaire children.
- The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley – I love Chris Priestly. He is a wonderful creator of suspense and gothic horror. This ghostly tale did not disappoint.
- Mister Creecher: A Novel in Three Parts by Chris Priestley – Written about the character of Frankenstein’s monster (I loved the original by Mary Shelley). This was an interesting take on the tale with a surprising ‘twist’ at the end.
- Medical Firsts: From Hippocrates to the Human Genome by Robert E. Adler – I enjoyed reading about different medical breakthroughs and the people who were pioneers and made the discoveries.
- The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart – This was my favourite book that I have read this month. It was refreshing to have a children’s character who is intelligent and not ‘just ordinary’. I liked that the children who are supposed to be friends in this book actually get along and seem to care for each other. The mystery to be solved is intriguing. I thought it was written beautifully and enjoyed the adventure so much that I am going to read the next books in the series (this one being the prequel), The Mysterious Benedict Society – I can’t wait!
- Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop by Rupert Kingfisher
- Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. This book is not actually in our YA collection(it’s in Adult Fiction) but is a fantastic book for that age group. I loved it, it’s a retro love story with a gritty background story set in the 1980s. If you like John Green’s writing then you will enjoy this.
- Big Brother by Lionel Shriver. If you like her writing and have the stamina for it (think We Need to Talk About Kevin; high school mass murder, So Much for That, terminal illness) then you will enjoy – if that’s the right word – this. It’s about obesity and our cultural love affair with food told through a moving and interesting story. An amazing and thought provoking read from the author as usual.
- Summer Lies, by Bernhard Schlink – Here are seven stories exposing, as the book jacket says, “the many faces of love.” Schlink probes quietly the routes through which people connect with each other, then break away. The difficulty of commitment is a theme here. The last story, The Journey to the South, begins disturbingly in this way: The day she stopped loving her children was no different from other days. When she asked herself the next morning what had triggered the loss of love, she could find no answer. Maternal love is one of those sacred cows mostly unquestioned, but Schlink is fearless in examining this mother’s alienation, and the painful losses that led her there. This is a thoughtful, intelligent collection.
- The Road to Middlemarch: my life with George Eliot, by Rebecca Mead – George Eliot’s Middlemarch being the book that, for me, sits at the apex of English literature, I was delighted to find that someone who’s equally smitten has written a leisurely, thoughtful account of Eliot’s unconventional life, musing on the ways in which Eliot’s work has informed Mead’s own life and attitudes. Mead goes to those places Eliot lived in or visited, and puts Eliot’s friends under the microscope to see which of them inspired characters in Middlemarch. Like the novel itself, this is a book I would like to visit more than once.
- Mr Loverman, by Bernardine Evaristo – I’m listening to this entertaining story on Talking Book, narrated by the versatile James Goode, who is master of accents from the Caribbean to London to posh English boys’ school. Two refugees from Antigua live in material comfort in Hackney, while their marriage of many years spits and fizzes like ill-made fireworks. The hostilities escalate as Carmel suspects Barrington of carousing with other women; little does she know that her husband is actually gay, but firmly locked in the closet, and terrified to step out of it lest his life and relationships are destroyed. His boyfriend Morris has suggested that they, now in their seventies, should live together. Can Barrington tell the truth to Carmel after all this time? I’ll see how the story ends!
- The Making of Us, by Lisa Jewell – Another Talking Book. A Frenchman, in his young and thoughtless days, becomes a sperm donor to raise some cash. Only when old and close to death does he realise he’d really like to meet the four children he knows resulted from that. Does he find them? You’ll have to read it and find out! Enjoyable storytelling.
- Astronomy photographer of the year 2013 by Royal Observatory Greenwich – absolutely stunning photographs, even from the beginners and young photographers.
- The Novel Cure: An A-Z of literary remedies by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin – reading truly is the answer to ever ailment, and this book proves it. My “to-read” list has grown enormously since reading this one. Might need to take some sick leave!
- Sane new world: taming the mind by Ruby Wax – an honest, funny look at managing mental health issues with mindfulness (and other tips and techniques).
- Blackboard blunders: spelling slip-ups and homework howlers by Richard Benson – literally laugh-out-loud funny, this book had my whole household in stitches as we took turns reading parts of this book out loud to one another.
- Happier at home by Gretchen Rubin – really simple, constructive ideas on enjoying life more.
- The prophet by Kahlil Gibran – a beautiful story full of wisdom.
- And currently reading The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron and The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.
- Nefertiti in the flak tower by Clive James – I really enjoyed this collection of poetry by Clive James. Having watched his recent interview with Kerry O’Brien it was easy to engage with his thoughts, reflections and a certain preoccupation with ageing and loss. Other than the occasional classical illusion there is nothing fanciful about his writing and no paring down of the text to make it obscure to the reader, as is the case with so much poetry. I loved his tribute to his wife’s scholarship, the image of what happened to the Nefertiti bust during the war and his ability to express the dichotomy of having lived his life in two places. If you leave the writer and journalist renowned for his comedic barbs out of your equation when reading this volume you discover a man who just loves to write poetry – making no claim to any scholarship of his own. A very engaging read.
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