What Library Staff are Reading Uncovered – February 2016

Posted on February 29, 2016. Filed under: 1 | Tags: , , , |

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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:

Susan

  • 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

Vicki

  • 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?

Jenny M

  • 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

Linda T

  • 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

Michael

  • 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

Anna

  • 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

Alison

  • 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.

Heidi

  • 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.
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What Library Staff are Reading Uncovered – February 2014

Posted on February 14, 2014. Filed under: Libraries and Librarians | Tags: , , |

library lovers day 2014

Susan A

  • I’ve been enjoying the dogs eye view of the Chet and Bernie series of detective stories by Spencer Quinn. It is real holiday fare with some fun observations about the relationships between humans and dogs, the ways that dogs might be understanding what goes on, and the failings of humans, especially in the nose and ear department.
  • I picked up the Grimstone series by Asphyxia to see if I might give them to my nieces for gifts and thoroughly enjoyed their whimsical world and the artistry with which they are put together.
  • A lovely YA book called Wonder by RJ Palacio was recommended to me and I did enjoy reading about a young boy with a facial disfigurement encountering school for the first time. The young peoples voices were great and the situations pretty realistic, and uplifting.
  • I also decided to give The Hunger Games a try as it is so popular. I was expecting it to be all about young people having to murder each other, but it was only half about that so I was pleasantly surprised. The world that is set up is an interesting one and some aspects of it are unfortunately chillingly believable.
  • Another bit of holiday reading was the Mara – Brehon of the Burren series by Cora Harrison. I am finding it quite fascinating as it brings to life the Brehon Laws of 16th century western Ireland and the lives that people may have been living. There are some comparisons with the viciousness of 16th century English laws and I must say that some of the Irish laws do sound preferable to the hanging of people who have stolen due to poverty and starvation for example.
  • And now back to some more serious reading with The Swan Book by Alexis Wright, I’ll let you know more when I’m done.

Melanie

  • I’ve read Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites for book group – beautifully written.
  • I’m currently engrossed in Edward Rutherford’s Paris.
  • I’ve also started Khaled Husseini’s And the Mountains Echoed for book group, as with his other books I’m enjoying it.

Adam

  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change by Charles Duhigg. A scientific approach to habits, how they are formed and how they are reprogrammed. Some great very interesting case studies, lots of data and concludes with some practical instruction.
  • Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind by V.S. Ramachandran. Another book about the strange workings of the brain. This is by a neuroscientist and he is studying phantom limb syndrome and other similar conditions. Sometimes feels like he is trying to be too much like a fiction author with elaborate descriptions setting the scene of meetings, didn’t become too annoying though and I enjoyed the book. He isn’t afraid to propose theories that other neuroscientists shun and that’s probably why it is so interesting. Many of his theories proved accurate and he has been able to create procedures that phantom limb patients can use to decrease or sometimes get rid of their pain.
  • This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death by Ryan North. The second book in the machine of deaths series. Early stories started slow but then I got into it with a story about a society that is trying to put to use people who die from cancer in an invincible army and a mad scientist that employs people based on their death predictions. Another great read like the first volume, I hope there will be more.
  • Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Volumes 7 – 10

Naomi

  • I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan by Alan Partridge (with ‘help’ from Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Rob Gibbons and Neil Gibbons) – I loved this e-book autobiography of fictional character Alan Partridge, DJ of the North Nolfolk Digital Radio program, Mid Morning Matters. I could hear Alan’s voice in my head as I read, and I have to admit to laughing out loud a number of times. A must for Partridge fans!
  • Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty – the entertaining story of three sisters, triplets, and their quite volatile relationship. It’s a very funny and relaxed read.
  • The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty – a hypnotherapist is dating a wonderful new man, only to find out they are being stalked by his strange ex-girlfriend . . .

Alison

  • A History of Silence, by Lloyd Jones. His earlier novel, Mr Pip, makes it very clear that Jones is a writer of intense conviction, emotional depth and poetic sensibility. He brings those qualities to this memoir, in which he gradually uncovers what truly happened in the two generations of his family that preceded his. As in many another family, skeletons were jammed into closets in an effort to promote an image of respectability. He is horrified to discover the cruelty to which his grandmother Maud was exposed, and gives a sympathetic portrait of her, and the way she negotiated in order to survive.
  • The Roundabout Man, by Clare Morrall. Quinn is a middle-aged man living in a down-at-heel caravan in the middle of a roundabout. He is desperate for the world at large NOT to find out who he really is, and his connection to the very famous writer of a much-loved series of books – his mother. I was very impressed by this novel, eager to unravel it. There’s wisdom here, and authentic human beings trying to work things out.
  • The Chemistry of Tears, by Peter Carey. Well, he just gets better. He’s a great yarnspinner, with a combination, here, of wry social comedy and a Dickensian flair for drama and hyperbole. Catherine, the central character in this most recent novel, is a highly-skilled conservator, and has for years enjoyed a secret affair with her colleague, Matt. As the story opens, Matt is pronounced dead. Her world unravels. He was her universe. Then her boss gives her a special project, to help her recover: boxes of oddly-shaped pieces, and several diaries along with them. Pieces of what? Whose diaries? The story remains intriguing, as Catherine tries to understand what’s before her.

Anna PS

  • Wool by Hugh Howey – a novel set in a dystopian near future, where the air is poisonous and the remaining people live in a vast underground silo. The plot is teased out nicely, with the reader’s assumptions often overturned.
  • Shift by Hugh Howey – a prequel to Wool, where the history of the silo is explained. I was initially dubious about going back in time for the second book, but it allows for a slower “reveal” of the world Howey has created.
  • You’ll be sorry when I’m dead by Marieke Hardy – a largely humorous autobiography of someone who hasn’t really been alive long enough to justify writing a book about themselves.
  • The wilderness garden : beyond organic gardening by Jackie French- it’s hard to have a wilderness when your garden is a desert, but I can continue to dream.

Soula

  • I’m reading RAFA by Rafael Nadal with John Carlin. It is one of the most fascinating autobiographies of one of the world’s most famous tennis players. Just learning about his strict coaching by his famous uncle Toni, to his diet and exercise regime’s, is truly mesmerising! Discipline-Discipline-Discipline is all that comes to mind. What makes a champion?, well this book does give you a few clues; & how you see it from a champions mind.

Vicki

  • Lessons in Heartbreak by Cathy Kelly – love a good saga and this is an author I had not read before – I now have a whole new author to read through – great plots and characters. Highly recommended as holiday reading. http://www.cathykelly.com/
  • Gypsy Boy on the Run by Mikey Walsh – powerful insight into a section of community not well known. Found it fascinating learning about expectations and pressures growing up in the gypsy community for boys and what happens if they are unable to conform to the norm. http://gypsyboymikeywalsh.blogspot.com.au/p/on-run.html
  • The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane – This was given to me as a Christmas present and really not a book I would have picked up and read ordinarily – however, it is such a powerful insight into old age, the thought processes, loneliness of old age, people who prey on old age . . . I could go on. The story really surprised me by slowly drawing me in until I had to keep reading until I found out what happened in the end! The main character Ruth, deteriorates before your eyes. Read if you have aging parents and you would like an small insight into their world. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/book-review-the-night-guest-by-fiona-mcfarlane-9052185.html

Jenny M

  • Perfect by Rachel Joyce – A much more serious story than her previous novel (The one hundred year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared) with a twist towards the end which I was not expecting. I enjoyed it.

Heidi

  • For book group I tried to read Kill Khalid by Australian journalist Paul McGeough. I tried really hard but I was overwhelmed by the history and politics of the middle east with the factional in-fighting, interference and side-changing by foreign governments and in the end all I could think of was Monty Python’s Life of Brian (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb_qHP7VaZE . All this was not helped by a poorly formatted Kindle edition which had new paragraphs where there shouldn’t be and words running together all over the place. Before I bailed I tried reading just the first sentence in each paragraph, a tip a Library user had given me, but it did no good, I was driven nuts and gave up.
  • I had way more success with Pat Barker’s Regeneration which I have scored 5/5 on LibraryThing. Pat Barker and this book has been recently been the subject of the BBC’s World Book Club http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/wbc/all ). This novel is set in the Craiglockart War Hosplital in Edinburgh where shell-shocked soldiers were sent for treatment by, among others one Dr William Rivers. Among the patients are WWI poets Siegfried Sassoon whose Finished with the war : A Soldier’s Declaration led to his being there and Wilfred Owen. This is the first in a trilogy and I will definitely be following the other two up.
  • Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall – another war story this one set in Poland during WWII and involving a woman trying to get to her Jewish husband.
  • I have also been reading 101 Poems Against War edited by Matthew Hollis and Paul Keegan. I’m not usually into poetry but I am thoroughly enjoying these anti-war poems which cover conflicts from earliest times and from all corners of the globe.
  • In the car I’m listening to Raw Spirit : In search of the perfect dram by the late Iain Banks. It’s all about whisky – not my tipple at all but I am thoroughly enjoying it. Banks is very humourous and his digressions into the Scottish landscape, history, people and politics (of the mid 1990s) pad out the information on whisky making and whisky drinking.
  • Fun Home : a family tragicomic by Alison Bechdel – a graphic novel about Alison’s childhood in a funeral home which was overshadowed by the death, possibly by suicide, of Alison’s father.
  • After all that I’ve needed some cheering up and got that with To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Willis writes novels where historians in the 2050s are able to do action research by going back in time to their specialist period in history and there is much to do about not changing history incase there are unintended and disasterous consequences for the future. The trilogy I read a while back – Black Out, All Clear and Doomsday Book have been quite serious but To Say Nothing of the Dog was much more humorous and I enjoyed it immensely.
  • Next on the list is the Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay which I started and then left at work and then I started Regeneration so I am just getting back to it a week later.
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