Books staff have been reading over the past month or two. Here’s the rating scale used:
1 star ~ I hated it / Don’t bother / It felt more like homework than reading for pleasure
2 stars ~ I didn’t like it / Not for me but worth trying / This book needed something different to make me like it
3 stars ~ I liked it / Recommended / This book was good. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.
4 stars ~ I really liked it / One of the best books I’ve read this year / I’m glad I read it
5 stars ~ I loved it / One of the best books I’ve ever read / I will probably read it again
- The way back home by Freya North – I didn’t really like this wishy-washy heroine and it frustrated me that there was a big secret in the plot line that I had to wait to find out. But it was still a page-turner and I had to find out what happened. 2 stars
- Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod – This book was recommended to me and I LOVED it. If you are familiar with the Artists Way, then this book will appeal to you too. Well-written and entertaining – so jealous that she managed to change her life! We should all downsize, stop going out, save up and run away to Paris – here is the guide: 4 stars
- Now is the time to open your heart by Alice Walker – I have always loved the writing of Alice Walker – this was quite different but still intriguing. If you like journeys, physical and spiritual, this is the story for you. 3 stars
- Ours are the Streets by Sunjeev Sahota – Not a comfortable read, but very compelling. If you are interested in exploring the idea of home and how an isolated youth can become radicalised… This is a sensitive and poignant story of our time. 4 stars
- Fall Girl by Toni Jordan – Very original storyline – never sure where it was going to end up. Really enjoyed the ride. Romantic comedy/chicklit at its witty best. 4 stars
- No one ever has sex in the suburbs by Tracy Bloom – catchy title but then I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. But once I got to know the characters I was sad to leave them at the end. I didn’t realise it was a sequel as it does work as a stand-alone read. I found it a fun, light read. 3 stars
- The Commitments by Roddy Doyle – this was a re-read as I wanted to see how it held up after all these years. Still a raucous and entertaining read. It captures a slice of life in Dublin at the time. 4 stars
- You had me at hello by Mhairi Macfarlane – (Mhairi is pronounced ‘Vari’ by the way) Ben and Rachel were a couple at university, when they cross paths again 13 years later will the old spark still be there, and what will they do about it? I’ve had this on a to-read list for quite some time. I either read or heard a review that said it was absolutely hilarious. I didn’t find it that amusing. 2 ½ stars
- The Toymaker by Liam Pieper – Adam Kulakov runs the family toymaking business which appears to be going well, but Adam has made a mistake which threatens his business, his marriage. Adam’s grandfather, Arkady, was imprisoned in Auschwitz and given an impossible choice. The past is catching up with both men. A compelling story with a twist I didn’t see coming. 3 1/3 stars
- In the dark room by Susan Faludi – a biography and discussion on gender politics. The subject of the biography is Susan Faludi’s father Steven Faludi who, after twenty-five years absence, invites Susan to get to know her now as a woman after sex change surgery. She’s a slippery character though and the truth is not easy to get at. 3 stars
- Springtime: a ghost story by Michelle De Kretser – a very disappointing novella. Not even suspenseful and not much in the way of a ghost. 1 star
- Sheila: the Australian beauty who bewitched British society by Robert Wainwright – an interesting biography of Sheila Chisholm, born into a wealthy squatter family in Australia who who arrives in England just before the outbreak of the First World War, married a lord and finds herself mixing with the aristocracy including the Prince of Wales and Duke of York (the future George VI) with whom she had an affair. Well written and interesting. 3 stars
- Nora Webster by Colm Toibin – Nora is newly bereaved and trying to get on with life and do her best for her family. This is usually the type of book I hate with no beginning, middle or end, just a meandering along through a few years but Colm Toibin is such a beautiful writer the language carried me along and I was at the end before I knew it. 4 stars
- The woman who walked into the sea by Mark Douglas-Home – I found this book somewhere and had it on my bookshelf for a while. Cal McGill is an oceanographer and one who assists families find the bodies of loved ones involved in drownings, man overboard situations, etc. In this book he is helping a young woman find out what really happened when her mother walked into the sea 20+ years previously. This is the second in the Sea Detective series, I think I’ll take a look at the first one too. 4 stars
- No 2 Feline Detective Agency by Mandy Morton – had some amusing plays on human names and concepts, but as it was about cats running a detective agency and living human lives I couldn’t quite get into it – 2 stars
- The readers of Broken Wheel recommend by Katrina Bival – a light and fluffy, happily ever after – was a good Christmas holiday read as it was not at all taxing – 3.5 stars
- Papadam preach by Almas Khan – I persevered to the end but did not enjoy it at all – 1 star
- A Christmas carol and other Christmas stories by Charles Dickens– read it right the way through over the Christmas break – enjoyed A Christmas Carol the best – 4 stars
- The Better Son, by Katherine Johnson. This novel is set in the vicinity of Mole Creek, which is east of the Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair area of Tasmania. We are in limestone (karst) country, where water has, over the centuries, hollowed out huge caves. Those caves are central characters in this story. In 1952 two brothers find a secret cave, and one day only one of them returns home. Great storytelling, suspenseful, and best of all for me, I meet some brilliant Tasmanian wild country I didn’t know existed. I even contacted the author to congratulate her!
- Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy. Very funny, micky-taking. Struan Robertson leaves his home in Cuik, Scotland, to look after a London-based playwright who has been disabled by a stroke. Brilliant portraits by Clanchy of a cast of characters, each one of whom is engaging and gently satirised.
- Reckoning, by Magda Szubanski. This well-known Australian comedian/actress has written a memoir which searches for the truth of her father’s history, and examines her own troubled existence. The charm of this work is Szubanski’s honesty.
1 ~ I hated it / Don’t bother / It felt more like homework than reading for pleasure
2 ~ I didn’t like it / Not for me but worth trying / This book needed something different to make me like it
3 ~ I liked it / Recommended / This book was good. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.
4 ~ I really liked it / One of the best books I’ve read this year / I’m glad I read it
5 ~ I loved it / One of the best books I’ve ever read / I will probably read it again
Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Brackman – I wasn’t sure I was going to like this novel, written with a distinct Swedish flavour, but the character Britt-Marie and the author’s sparse writing style somehow drew me in to this strange, funny, sometimes confronting story about a rather difficult character. Almost against my will I came to barrack for Britt-Marie. An uplifting tale of the value of belonging and community, and that it is never too late. Scored 4 stars.
Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach – the film is due to be released soon so I thought I’d give this another read. Set in Amsterdam in the 16oos there are plenty of references to Dutch art of the period – the story revolves around the parallel romances of wealthy young woman, Sophia, married to a much older and that of her maid, Maria. Atmospheric and evocative of both time and place – 3 ½ stars
Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta who usually writes YA fiction. This thriller is about the suspected terrorist attack on a bus of school children on tour in France. Suspended policeman Bish ends up investigating the bombing when he goes to fetch his daughter who has survived. Questions start to be asked when it is revealed that one of the other students is the granddaughter of a man that set a bomb of in a supermarket whose mother is currently in jail as an accessory. A page turner – 4 stars
The Yalda Crossing by Noel Beddoe – a book group read. This is the story of white settlers to the Murrumbidgee River in the 1830s/1840s and their interactions with the aboriginal peoples. It has parallels with the much more famous The Secret River by Kate Grenville which is also the better book. It took two goes to read this. I tried it several months ago and, despite it ticking a number of my appeal boxes – history, Australia – I couldn’t get into it. With a deadline I did a bit better – 4.5 stars
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet – about a murder set in the remote north west of Scotland in the late 1800s and told in the form of a confession by the perpetrator, court documents and newspaper articles. The authentic-seeming presentation of this is apparently confusing some who are reading it as true crime. This is another book that seems familiar – this time it reminds me of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – perhaps because of the similar time setting and the similarities between the lives of Icelandic peasants and Scottish crofters of the same time? Scored 4 stars
Unsuitable Men by Pippa Wright. Fun chick-lit book – great concept – what to do when you get out of a long term relationship? Date the unsuitable men. 3 stars
Unbearable Lightness by Portia di Rossi. Do you want to know more about anorexia? The intricate, nitty gritty thoughts and day to day gruel? This was an eye-opener for me. Not recommended for teenage girls with low self-esteem as Portia goes into way too much detail on how she learnt to survive on eating very, very little. 3 stars
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Fantastic characters – could not put this down. 4 stars
Stories I only tell my friends by Rob Lowe – like I was sitting with Rob with a wine (except he no longer drinks) and he was telling all his funny stories from the movie industry. 4 stars
Everywhere I look, by Helen Garner. This is a set of essays and observations. What IS the magic of Helen Garner? I’ll try to describe it: she is devastatingly honest, she is a central pole of quiet wisdom in a noisy world, she approaches difficult subjects in a spirit of curiosity and without moral judgement. Compassion, and a desire to understand, drive all of what she writes. She pares her writing back until it says just what she means it to, no more, no less. She is a literary hero for me.
The Mud House, by Richard Glover. If you’re a sucker for Kevin McLeod’s Grand Designs, if you just get off on the building process, you will bathe luxuriously in this memoir of Glover’s, in which he details how he and his wife join with two friends, to build a house of mud brick on a remote and difficult block somewhere in the general area of Wombeyan Caves, central NSW. Glover is habitually entertaining, but he is also on a voyage of discovery. He has never built anything in his life. He learns as he goes. So, eventually, do his children. The house isn’t perfect, says Richard, but we built it ourselves!
Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty. Three couples meet in a backyard for a barbeque. Their three kids and a dog are there too. Nothing very startling about that? But start reading the book and I guarantee you won’t want to do anything else until you get to the last page. Riveting. Moriarty sustains tension to the last.
If you’re eternally curious about Aboriginal culture and are looking for a wise, unsentimental understanding of it, read Kim Mahood’s Position Doubtful. She was raised on a cattle station in the Tanami desert country, and returns to it on and off, because this is her blood’s country, as Judith Wright puts it in South of my Days. As aboriginal paintings look down on country from above, Mahood seeks to do something similar, engaging in a mapping exercise of sorts: mapping country, mapping relationships, mapping the black/white nexus. An extraordinary book, from an artist working across several disciplines.
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When Hitler stole pink rabbit by Judith Kerr (4/5) – This was recommended by one of my colleagues and I really enjoyed it. An autobiographical tale of Judith Kerr’s escape from Nazi Germany.
A grief observed by C.S. Lewis (3/5) – I enjoyed reading parts of this book and it was heartfelt. For me, there was too much religious reference, but I appreciate and respect that the death of his wife made him question his faith.
Stuffocation: living more with less by James Wallman (4/5) – Preaching to the converted with this one!
Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville (4/5) – This is the sequel to The secret river. A wonderful writer and an interesting tale, showcasing the bravery and passion of the female protagonist and the hardship of life in colonial Australia.
Blueback by Tim Winton (4/5) – A lovely tale of a boy, his friendship with a fish and his love of the sea and country where he grew up.
Robe of skulls by Vivian French (4/5) – A fantastic book and the first in the Tales from the five kingdoms series. Wonderful characters and a nice little adventure.
The 9 lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemel Marciano (4/5) – A cautionary tale, macabre and very enjoyable.
Murder most unladylike and Arsenic for tea by Robin Stevens (4.5/5) – These were wonderful! Daisy and Hazel start a schoolgirl detective society to investigate the murders that occur at their boarding school and Daisy’s family home.
Run, Pip, run by J.C. Jones (3/5)
Darth Vader and Son by Jeffery Brown (3.5/5) – Very funny and if you like Star Wars, you should check this out.
Operation Bunny by Sally Gardner (4/5) – Emily Vole is adopted, but her new parents are mean and cruel. She befriends her neighbour, Mrs String and her cat called Fidget. Mrs String unfortunately dies and leaves Emily a mysterious inheritance of an old shop and a bunch of small golden keys. A great little detective story.
Nanny Piggins and the race to power by R.A. Spratt (4/5) – Another wonderful and giggle-some Nanny Piggins story.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 5/5
A great new science fiction author, I really enjoyed this book. If you watch or read a lot of scifi particularly Star Trek you would be aware of the cliché of having a character that is obsessed with 20th/21st Century pop culture. This book takes the cliché and builds the whole plot around it, and does it well. I imagine the author is about my age or a bit older because there were lots of references to 80s video games and music and films. Almost the whole bopok takes place inside a virtual world. Highly recommended.
Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of US by Matt Fitzgerald 4/5
Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone to Tell All by Philip Houston 5/5
Ascendance by John Birmingham 3/3
The final book in a trilogy. Not enjoying this series anywhere near as much as his previous ones. There are going to be more apparently and I am really not into this world at all.
The Mongoliad Book Three – Neal Stephensen et al. 3/3 A long drawn out ending to a trilogy. I think I enjoyed it but I was glad when it was over.
The peripheral – William Gibson 5/5
Great near future science fiction from Gibson. I thought all the themes he had in it were very well
Dust – Hugh Howey 5/5
Loved the whole trilogy, great finale.
For the reading challenge – a trilogy – Small World and Nice Work by David Lodge numbers 2 & 3 of the Small World trilogy – academic life in the 70s and 80s. Mildly humorous but not as funny as I expected – 3.5/5
A book with bad reviews! Go set a watchman – Harper Lee – not a patch on Mockingbird. Large sections of boring with snatches of lovely 3/5
A funny book – Mrs Harris goes to Paris and Mrs Harris goes to New York by Paul Gallico – saw this on a visit to Lawson Library and, as I will be visiting Paris in October, thought, “I’ll give that a go.” Charming stories about Char lady Mrs Harris who wins over all she meets. 4/5
Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale – set in the Blue Mountains and loosely based on Mark Foy and the Hydro Majestic this kept me turning the pages. It has some nice plot twists -there’s me thinking I knew what was coming . . . I look forward to him appearing at Katoomba Library later in the year – 4/5
The Port Fairy Murders by Robert Gott. A sequel to the Holiday Murders which I haven’t yet read, fine as a stand alone story. Detective and mystery set in 1940s Victoria 4/5
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene A book group read. Oh dear, not enjoyed by many in the group but by gum the discussion was lively! 2.5/5
A book with nonhuman characters – H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald – a memoir of a year or more following her father’s death when Helen Macdonald retreated from the world and took on a goshawk called Mabel to train. (Mabel is the nonhuman character for the purposes of the reading challenge). Interspersed with Helen’s story is that of TH White who wrote, among other things, The Sword in the Stone. I just couldn’t feel any sympathy for Helen I’m afraid and got completely bored and irritated by her unrelenting grief and I found TH White’s story much more interesting. This was a book group read and I was in a definite minority, in fact I was the only one who didn’t like it. 2/5 for me but the group scored it 3/5 (without my low score that would have been higher).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )