This is quite a long list because not only did we miss a list in October but I have been on holidays so spent a few days along the couch with my nose in books – HC.
- Far from the tree: a dozen kinds of love by Andrew Solomon (score 3/5). I heard the author interviewed on the radio and thought that the book sounded interesting (and it was). This book is about parents who have children who are very different from them in some way, including chapters on: deafness, dwarfism, down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, prodigies, children conceived in rape, children who become criminals and children who are transgender. It was well-written, but for me, some of the chapters were too heart-wrenching and sad (hence only giving it 3/5).
- Splintered (score 4/5) and Unhinged (score 3/5) by A.G.Howard. I really surprised myself and actually enjoyed Splintered, a Young Adult read and the first book in the Splintered trilogy. The main character, Alyssa, is a descendant from the Alice that influenced Lewis Carroll’s character from his novels. Alyssa journeys to Wonderland to fix the mistakes that Alice made and save her family. Of course there is romance (and there should be a big fat red love-heart on the spine of this book)! I quite liked the sinister Wonderland A.G. Howard has created, though I did find Unhinged a little cheesy and way too much romance for me. I do want to find out how it ends – what’s going to happen to Wonderland? And who will Alyssa finally end up with – the dark and mysterious Morpheus or her mortal love Jed? I am looking forward to reading the third book in the trilogy, Ensnared when it comes out in January 2015.
- Fast exercise by Michael Mosley (score 4/5). This was an interesting book. Michael Mosley investigates the ‘fast exercise’ theory. I like the idea that doing three sessions of intense fast exercise a week seems to be just as good (if not better) than lots of moderate exercise a week. It appeals to a time-poor and slightly lazy me!
- Midnight burial by Pauline Deeves (score 3/5). Written as a series of letters, this book is set in 1860s Australia and is quite a good tale. Florence’s older sister Lizzie dies of a fever and is buried straight away. Questions are asked over her death. What is the truth behind Lizzie’s death?
- The living kitchen: organic vegetarian cooking for family and friends by Jutka Harstein (score 3/5). I enjoyed this cook book – especially as it has a recipe for Chestnut puree and other yummy Hungarian recipes that remind me of my Grandmother.
- The CSIRO home energy saving handbook: how to save energy, save money and reduce your carbon footprint by John Wright (score 3/5). Some great tips on how to save energy in the home.
- Zoid by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (score 3/5). I enjoyed this sci-fi adventure story. The story takes place on a huge spaceship. York is a human ‘scavenger’ who hunts and kills Zoids (robots/machine). On this spaceship, Zoids are the dominant inhabitants and are in-control. York has to help save his people – will humans and Zoids ever be able to end their conflict?
- Cadence by Emma Ayres (score 3/5). I enjoyed reading this story about Emma Ayres’ mammoth bicycle trip. I loved the section where she is crossing the border from Pakistan into India. Inspirational!
- Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve (score 3/5). This was a cute book about a little boy called Oliver, whose parents love adventures. Just when Oliver thinks that he is finally going to get to settle down for a while with his parents in their new house, Oliver finds himself in his own adventure.
- Loyal creatures by Morris Gleitzman (score 4/5). This book looks at the role that Australian horses played in World War One and the loyal relationship that the soldiers had with their horses.
- Tigers on the beach by Doug MacLeod (score 2/5). I didn’t really enjoy this one. There were a few moments of humour, but a little too much teenage angst for me.
- The Woven Path by Robn Jarvis (score 4/5). Robin Jarvis is a great writer! Neil Chapman is an eleven year old boy who moves to The Wyrd Museum with his father and younger brother. His father starts his new job as the caretaker of the museum, employed by the three Webster sisters. It is a dark, mysterious and sinister place. Neil journeys back into the past to fight the evil that has been unleashed there. I read this trilogy as a child and I am loving it just as much now.
- Sand by Hugh Howey
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau
- Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall
- I Know why the Caged Bird Sings, part of a multi-volume memoir by Maya Angelou. Maya and her elder brother Bailey lived with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, and were subjected to the many indignities black people endured in 1930s America. One day they were whisked away to St Louis, there to live for a while with their birth mother, who earned a living working in gambling parlours. Although some terrible things happen to these children Angelou is a fiercely intelligent, independent child with a solid moral foundation endowed by her grandmother – so no, it’s not a tale of misery, in the end. Totally recommended.
- The Sound of One Hand Clapping, by Richard Flanagan. Flanagan is often a hard read, so much darkness and pain. No shortage of that here – but the prose is strong and beautiful, the characters authentic, and the author’s sensibility and integrity always merit respect. He shines a forensic light on the inner life of European migrants who flocked to Australia after the Second World War. His “Narrow Road to the Deep North” has just won the Booker prize, but I’m too scared to read it.
- The Coincidence Authority, by J W Ironmonger. Thomas Post, a lecturer in applied philosophy at the University of London, is an authority on coincidence. When he meets Azalea Lewis (coincidentally) he is drawn into the web of coincidences of which her world seems composed, and which then challenge him in a way he has never before been challenged. Intriguing. Just a little mannered, but a good read.
- Orfeo, by Richard Powers. I’m quite enjoying this one, with its bracing prose, and will simply steal some commentary from Steven Poole of The Guardian (11 April 2014): “Our protagonist is Peter Els, a 70-year- old composer, of some obscure renown among the cognoscenti. One day before the events of the novel’s present-day timeline unfold, he reads about the DIY biology movement – people tinkering with DNA in their garages – and orders the appropriate equipment himself from the internet. Unfortunately, when the cops turn up for an unrelated reason, they become very suspicious on seeing Els’s lifehacking toys. Then something happens and Els becomes a wanted man, a bioterrorist on the run.”
- Letters of note : correspondence deserving of a wider audience / Shaun Usher – 4/5
- Fear and loathing in Las Vegas : a savage journey to the heart of the American dream / Hunter S. Thompson – Crazy! But interesting. 3.5/5
- Telling true stories : a nonfiction writers’ guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University / Mark Kramer – Excellent resource for people interested in non-fiction writing. 5/5
- Currently reading: Undaunted / Hugh O’Brien – who will be talking at Katoomba Library on Saturday 8 November, 2pm
Quite a bit of reading done this month, this is what happens when the boyfriend hits exam time and I have to entertain myself. There were a few other not on the list but I wasn’t too impressed by them so I didn’t put them down.
- Delirium Trilogy : Delirium, Pandemonium & Requiem – Lauren Oliver – I read the whole trilogy and I must say I really enjoyed this series! The whole “dystopian controlling government” has been done a million times but I finally found one that I liked. This particular series plays on the idea of “what if love was a disease?” The ending was left a little bit open, I think it could have done well to continue the story a little bit further. The only real complaint I have about this series is the unnecessary love triangle, like a lot of things they have been way over done. But overall I loved this series. 3.5/5 stars for me
- Panic – Lauren Oliver – After reading the delirium trilogy I just HAD to read another book by Lauren Oliver and I was not disappointed. To me the idea of Panic was new. I don’t know if something like it has been done before but I found this story very original. The story takes place in a small town, and I mean a very small town. They must really have nothing to do because someone (supposedly decades ago) creates this game called “Panic”. The graduating class participate in the game for prize money. The game basically involves a series of life threatening or just plain dangerous challenges. I’m sure if parents were to read this they would just sit there cringing through the majority of the book as these kids almost destroy their lives. I however found I felt just as much of a rush as the characters. I felt with the characters and fell in love with their stories (with the exception of the protagonist’s best friend Nat who drives nearly everyone insane). Overall I give it 3 out of 5 stars.
- Matched Trilogy : Matched, Crossed & Reached –Ally Condie – This dystopian book series was also a good one. I am finding it very rare to find ones that actually have good endings but I’ve been pleasantly surprised this month. In this series you pretty much have a highly advanced civilization, they’ve cure all the major and minor diseases and everyone lives to 80. The only thing is the “Society” determine everything (who you marry, what you read/watch, what job you do, how many children you have, what you eat… you get the point). Our protagonist is perfect citizen in the eyes of the society, but when her grandfather dies and leaves her a forbidden poem, it makes her start to question what society really is and whether or not they are as right about everything as she’s been taught to think. I can’t say too much more about the series but I think you get the idea. All and all it’s a good series and even though the ending was left a bit open I think it’s clear where the story was headed. 4/5 stars!
I don’t normally read a lot of standalone books as I prefer series but I got around to a few this month, they were reasonably good as well
- Thirteen reasons why – Jay Asher – This book is a little bit depressing. If you’ve ever been a victim of bullying or have ever been depressed it might be a bit of a trigger book. The story is about this girl who commits suicide, beforehand though she records a series of tapes explaining why she did what she did. She organizes these tapes to be sent around to those who she considers to be responsible for her death. Morbid I know. It’s actually a really great story and shows people the impact of their actions, not matter how small. It’s an interesting take on your average “moral of the story” tale as the damage has been done and they can’t fix it. This reminds me of a little quote I saw somewhere…
“Pick up a plate”
“Now throw it on the ground”
OK *plate breaks*
“Now say sorry to it”
“Did you fix it?”
I really loved this book and the message it spoke 5/5 stars I recommend this book to anyone 13+ everyone should read it.
- We were liars –E. Lockhart – I came into this book a bit sceptical, when I read the blurb I was bit intrigued but mostly I just though “wow a book about rich kids and the problems ugh” however the goodreads community insisted it was good a book and I should read it. I actually found this book quite interesting. The story is based around four cousins and their families. Every summer they all go to their private island we’re the mothers compete for the grandfather love and inheritance whilst the fours cousins are left to whatever they want. This is every summer till our protagonist falls ill and misses a couple of summers. Upon returning to the island she realizes that everyone one is on edge and more secretive than ever. No one will talk to her or tell her what happened during the summer she was gone and if no one will talk she will find out herself. I really enjoyed this book and the great twist I didn’t see coming till the end 4/5 stars.
- The truth about Alice–Jennifer Mathieu – This book wasn’t all that long, it only took me about 4 hours to read. This book wasn’t overly special. Basically we follow the POV stories from a few students as they tell you all the things they know/heard/made up about another student “Alice”…. That’s it… I honestly can’t think of anything else to say. Only reason I kept reading was to figure out which stories were true. It wasn’t a bad story just nothing that stood out. 2/5 stars.
I have just finished reading The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner. This author was recommended to me by a library patron and I am very grateful. This author captured in this book what it can be like as you grow old and your world contracts and reinterpretation of past events from the perspective of reflections at that later time. The story, developed through rereading Joe A’s diary and conversations with his wife and others, is fascinating. More than all this, the way Stegner writes is wonderful. I never needed to look at his metaphors or turns of phrase twice, except just to enjoy them.
- This House is Haunted by John Boyne – classic gothic ghost story with a governess to two children with no parents in a remote mansion set in ‘pages and pages of fog’ feels a malign presence that obviously isn’t pleased she’s come along. Quite atmospheric and I enjoyed this novel and gave it 4/5
- Disgrace by JM Coetzee – I thought years ago when this came out, and again when Coetzee won the Nobel Prize for Literature, that I ought to read this book but I am kind of averse to worthy authors and so I resisted. This book was chosen by someone in my book group and the pre-reading chatter did not inspire – too depressing, couldn’t we read something more upbeat? But you know what, I was hooked from the first page. You don’t ‘enjoy’ this story, there are not many likeable characters and yes, the story has some unpleasant themes but by gum the prose is wonderful and I’m glad we were asked to read it. The book group gave it a score of 3.8/5. I personally gave it 4/5
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote – I both read the book and watched the film (I could watch George Peppard all day). This is another read for book group and I will be leading the discussion at our mid-November meeting so I will be reading it again. While I had seen the film before of course, I hadn’t read the book and what struck me was how modern the story and the language is. I quite enjoyed it and gave it 3.5/5
- The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson – This novel is one in a series commissioned by the Hammer Horror film people. It is based on the true story of the Lancashire witch trials in Pendle in 1612 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendle_witches). I mostly enjoyed this slim volume and gave it 3.5/5
- Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid – Val McDermid is a master of her art; the thriller but this retelling of Jane Austen’s comic novel did not do it for me. In this version, a mobile phone touting 21st Century Catherine Morland visits the Edinburgh Festival with family friends and runs into the Tilneys, charming Henry, lonely Eleanor and scary Colonel Tilney. Northanger Abbey is translocated into the Scottish Borders and I thought that Austen, the borders and Edinburgh would make it unbeatable. I was disappointed. Without Jane Austen’s prose the story just isn’t write. I give it 3/5 – a bit generously I think?
- The Unexpected Professor : an Oxford Life by John Carey – as the title tells you, this is by an Oxford academic. He was asked to write his memoirs and did so by concentrating on his reading life; he was teaching, editing and critiquing English literature after all. This was my lunch time read for the 6 weeks or so of the last Springwood Library closure and I savoured every moment. He is an interesting man, in Oxford with a lot of the greats of 20th Century – Tolkien, CS Lewis, WH Auden, Philip Larkin and many more.
- The Two Faces of January by Paticia Highsmith – I read this because I’d been listening to a podcast where Patricia Highsmith had been praised very highly. It’s a novel that’s been made into a movie starring Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4YgVlb2s-U ) Another book with not particularly likeable characters and I really only continued to the bitter end because I wanted to know what happened. Perhaps that’s a sign of a good plot? Scored 3/5
- The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory – more historical fiction and another installment of the Cousin’s War series. This novel is based on the life of Margaret (de la) Pole (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Pole,_Countess_of_Salisbury#Execution) who was the niece of Edward IV and of Richard III. She survives all the upheavals and bloodiness of the Wars of the Roses and the reign of Henry VII but is finally, brutally and with little warning executed on the orders of Henry VIII who fears her royal blood. In fact it was this royal blood that drove me mad throughout the book. If Philippa Gregory had Margaret Pole mentioning once she was a Plantagenet and therefore more royal than any of those who wore the crown, she said it too many times. Every other page it felt like. I give it 2/5
- The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel – we haven’t had the final installment in the Wolf Hall trilogy because Hilary got side-tracked with this (get on with it Hillers!) At university in Scotland while Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, I just had to read a book with such a gleeful title (I will get over it one day). It’s a collection of short stories about ordinary lives but Hilary Mantel makes ordinariness extraordinary and although short stories are not my thing at all I enjoyed this collection. I gave it 4/5
- Whisky Galore by Sir Compton Mackenzie – another book group book. It was a joy to read this, again based in fact, novel about two tiny islands in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland where after suffering several weeks without whisky a ship containing thousands of cases is run aground and suddenly there is whisky galore! Mackenzie’s larger than life characters are great and the story is a hoot, I can thoroughly recommend it. I score it 4.5/5. Book group gave it 3.7/5 – they’re a tough crowd.
- The Hollow Crown by Dan Jones – Non-fiction about the Wars of the Roses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wars_of_the_Roses ) during which two branches of the House of Plantagenet fought over the crown of England. It was a little turgid and academic in places but I love my English history and scored it 3.5/5
- All the Colours of the Town by Liam McIlvanney – first in a series of thrillers featuring journalist Gerry Conway who is Political Editor for Glaswegian newspaper, The Tribune on Sunday. In this first one Gerry goes across the watter to Northern Ireland to follow a lead on a Scottish Nationalist Party politician accused of a murder during Northern Ireland’s Troubles. In the years leading up to the Referendum on Scottish Independence this has the potential to be an explosive story. Tense, gripping and real I give this 4/5
- Where the Dead Men Go by Liam McIlvanney – If you enjoy Ian Rankin you’ll enjoy McIlvanney. This time Gerry Conway is investigating the involvement of Glasgow gangland bosses in contracts for the Commonwealth Games (held in Glasgow earlier this year). Another 4/5
- The Quarry by Iain Banks – a favourite Scottish author of mine, Iain Banks sadly died last year and this was his last novel. Ironically the story revolves around a man with terminal cancer and a long weekend he and his son spends with old university friends. Lively and laugh-out-loud funny I wish I’d read this sooner. Score 4/5
- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Perfect – another book group book. This is my second reading of this charming story of a retired man who leaves home way down in darkest Devon to post a reply to a letter sent by a dying former colleague in Berwick Upon Tweed on the Scottish border. On the way we learn about the disintegration of Harold’s marriage, how he lets people down, the sad estrangement and tragedy of his relationship with his son and we follow Harold on his journey. Poignant and funny by turns I give this one 4/5
- The Unknown Unknown; bookshops and the delight of not getting what you wanted by Mark Forsyth – this is an ebook I’ve borrowed from the Library to practice downloading ebooks. It’s a very short book which took all of 20 minutes or so to read but it is fun. The book starts with Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous quote “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know”. While Rumsfeld was talking about the Iraq war and the lack of evidence for chemical weapons, Forsyth is talking about book shops and the delights of browsing and finding some gem you didn’t even know was there. Score another 4/5
- Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor – Reminded me of “The Slap”. Gritty, real characters with a story set in Sydney. Not for the faint-hearted. 3 stars
- Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera – Lovely story about a Mother/Son relationship set in Britain with a cross-cultural background story. 2 stars
- Sapphire Skies by Belinda Alexandra – I always love Belinda Alexandra’s historical fiction – I come away much more knowledgeable about aspects of history – this time, Russia, Germany, WWII, Stalin and Artic Prisons. I also believe the atrocities of WWII need to be spoken about so we never forget. Wonderful, strong women characters. 2.5 stars
- Damascus – Taste of a City by Marie Fadel as told to Rafik Schami. Rafik Schami lived in Damascus for twenty-five years before going into exile and becoming a prize-winning novelist. But he never forgot Damascus, the Pearl of the Orient, the city he loves most in the world. As Rafik is far away in Germany, barred by “time and geography” from taking the culinary-cultural walk through the Old City himself, his sister Marie enthusiastically volunteers. The result is a thoroughly intriguing journey, nearly every step and turning there is somebody to visit, a particular dish to cook, or funny anecdote to tell. And then the next surprise: at the end of each visit or story a recipe, with the Arabic and English names of the dish at the top, and full instructions for preparation and cooking. I wanted to be reminded of the city I visited in 1993 and not the one we see on the news currently. This book is a keeper. 4.5 stars
- The Farewell Waltz by Milan Kundera – Didn’t love it as much as other works by Kundera but once I got into the story, and the characters got more selfish and nasty, I couldn’t stop reading! 3 stars
- The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes – written from the point of view of Alex, a teacher and Mel, one of the students, this story subtly weaves the past and present together into a page-turner! Clever use of Ancient Greek tragedies too. 4 stars
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Last Night at Chateau Marmot by Lauren Weisberger – I love my trashy nightime reading – this month it was the latest by The Devil Wears Prada author. Not as great as some of her other novels but still worth the read. It doesn’t end up as I predicted : http://www.laurenweisberger.com/
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – 2011 Booker Prize winner – a story of mystery, of memory and missed opportunity. Tony Webster, a cautious, divorced man in his 60s who “had wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded,” receives an unexpected bequest from a woman he’d met only once, 40 years earlier. The mother of his college girlfriend, Veronica, has bequeathed him £500 — a legacy that unsettles Tony, pushing him to get in touch with Veronica (their relationship had ended badly) and seek answers to certain unresolved questions. Beautifully written and a joy to read.
44 Charles St by Danielle Steele – I had not read Danielle Steele since I was a teenager. I remembered her books as love stories with a bit of a storyline to them. The blurb made this book sound interesting – based around a house in New York. To keep the house and pay the mortgage, Francesca gets in boarders – a lively interesting bunch. What I didn’t remember about Steele’s style of writing was how repetitive, middle class and preachy it was! Steele made her main character, Francesca an extremely patronising, no-sex-before-commitment character and of course one of the boarders who used Internet dating ending up in a sticky mess – all her own fault according to Francesca. I actually found the whole story an interesting insight into how Babyboomers may view the happy-go-lucky Gen Y who have grown up with gadgets and have no sense of privacy. The story, even though repetitive, kept me interested to the end – I wanted to see if Francesca ended up with the Babyboomer dream of white wedding, happily every after with the love of her life (“as if!” says the cynical Gen X in me)
The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville – Lieutenant Daniel Rooke sails into Sydney Cove with the First Fleet, hoping to advance his career. Instead his life is unimaginably changed. A young Aboriginal girl visits and begins to teach him her language. As they learn to speak together, they build a rapport that bridges the gap between their dangerously different worlds. Then Rooke is given a command that forces him to choose between his duty as a soldier and the friendship that’s become so precious to him. Inspired by the First Fleet notebooks of William Dawes, The Lieutenant is about a unique moment when one world engaged with another, and the two remarkable individuals who found ways to share understanding. I loved the exploration of the Aboriginal language throughout this novel.
Bad Girls by Rebecca Chance – a wonderful holiday read of trashy chicklit! Supermodel Amber Peters should have the world at her feet. But her secret addiction has led her down a dangerous path. Lap dancer Skye Ellwood is desperate to get out of the life she’s living, but has no idea how – until a client makes her an unusual proposition. Following an ultimatum from his fiance, A-list movie star Joe Jeffreys is finally heading to rehab to sort out his sex addiction – and save his squeaky-clean image. Spoiled daughter of a legendary rock god, Petal Gold is convinced she’s a huge star in waiting, and she’ll trample on anyone she thinks is standing in her way. Passion, jealousy, betrayal, revenge and scandal: during their tumultuous thirty days at Cascabel clinic, the lives of Amber, Skye, Joe and Petal will be transformed forever. But for one of them, the stakes could not be higher – or more dangerous.
Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald – this was a work of fiction but I had to keep reminding myself as it was written in the first person and really seemed to be about someone’s life – it was that realistic! Tamila was from Iran and went to visit her sister in the US. From there it is a story of how she tries to stay in the country. Great little read full of drama.
Labels by H.C. Carlton – Could this be the novel that inspired The Devil Wears Prada? Written in the 80s, by a man who was there. From the wild sixties to the sexy seventies, they ruled the world of fashion – and fashion ruled them. Mackenzie Gold – outrageous, racy, shocking, yet desperately yearning for what she can never have. She’s fashion’s pop queen, obsessed with designing the hottest threads on the scene. Mia Stanton – gorgeous, refined, but tormented by the most shattering hang-up a passionate woman can possess. Her designs set trends that reap fame, wealth, and the undying envy of the person who should love her the most. Coral Stanton – uninhibited, unscrupulous, untrustworthy. She’s Mia’s mother, the hellfire editor of a top fashion magazine, a woman prepared to pay any price to get what she wants. Set against a canvas of free love, passion, ambition and betrayal, Labels draws you into the world of three women determined to stop at nothing to fulfil their dreams of fashion.
In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar – this Libyan author writes beautifully about his country and exiles. I cannot recommend him highly enough. He gave the opening address at the Sydney Writer’s Festival this year.
Why be happy when you could be normal? by Jeanette Winterson – so said Jeanette Winterson’s adoptive mother when Jeanette told her she was a lesbian. A very interesting autobiography about a very complex relationship.
Bereft by Chris Womersley
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – I read this again so I would be ready to go with the sequel, Bring up the Bodies, which, by coincidence,I started to read on the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s execution!
The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do – a lovely, upbeat memoir from a lovely, upbeat guy. My daughter (11 and not a big reader) read it too.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – I was inspired to read this after listening to Alison wax lyrical about it during her Listeners in the Mist interview. All I can say is I couldn’t stand the spoiled, nasty Emma Bovary. I’m sure the untapped potential and the ennui of the lives of 19th century women is the whole point of the book but I just found it all too tedious. I duked it out with Emma for two thirds of the book but if I’d been made to finish it I would have lost the will to live.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe – two quirky British books where the protagonist goes on a journey. Harold Fry goes to post a letter to a dying former colleague in the post box at the corner of his street in Devon and then finds himself walking all the way to Berwick on Tweed to deliver the letter by hand and Maxwell Sim leaves the ruins of his personal life to drive a Prius and a box of toothbrushes from Luton to the Shetland Islands with only the SatNav lady for company.
Defy Gravity by Caroline Myss – Caroline Delves delves into a journey beyond logic, beyond reason, and into a mystical consciousness. Inspired by ordinary people who overcame a wide array of physical and psychological ailments—from rheumatoid arthritis to cancer—Caroline delves into the works of the great mystics to gain a deeper understanding of healing’s spiritual underpinnings. Based on these studies, she demonstrates how conventional and holistic medicine often fall short in times of need. Both systems rely upon a logical approach to curing illness when there is nothing reasonable about the emotional, psychological, or spiritual influences behind any ailment. Integral to this mystical healing approach is the engagement of the soul, which we experience through exploring our seven shadow passions, building an empowered inner self around our seven inherent graces, and learning how to work with the mystical laws that govern it. This knowledge holds the key to understanding what it means to defy gravity and break through the boundaries of ordinary thought. You can channel grace. And you can learn to live fearlessly’.
Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
The girl with the glass feet by Ali Shaw – a lovely modern fairytale/love story with a not so happy ending.
Revelation by C.J. Sansom – the author was recommended by a customer. Lovely historical detail around a whodunit.
Be the pack leader by Cesar Millan – because my dogs don’t know that I am the pack leader
A feast for crows by George R.R. Martin – part of an ongoing fantasy series and I’m getting a bit fed up trying to keep track of all the characters
Flock by Lyn Hughes – for my book group (it didn’t fare very well, only 2.2 out of 5)
I’ve recently read Stillwater Creek by Alison Booth – an easy to real Australian novel set around the late 1950’s, it deals with a large number of contemporary issues and prejudices that bubble within a small town situation. Subjects such as same sex morality, refugee assimilation, paedophilia, and the treatment of aborigines, all swirl around in this little coastal village.
I’ve also read Why be happy when you could be normal? which was an amazing read in that it made me think about how warped adults can be, and the effect this has on their children, and the direction this will then take them into adulthood. Not an uplifting biography that’s for sure.
I have just finished reading all the available titles in Andrew Martin’s Jim Stringer, Steam Detective series, set in Edwardian Yorkshire and surrounds. I liked the cast of genuine characters, the authentic language and settings, plenty of real locomotives and told in the first person of course. Can’t wait for the next book. Murder at Deviation Junction was short-listed for the Ellis Peters Historical Crime Award in 2007. “The snow falls on the Cleveland Hills; the mighty Ironopolis of Middlesbrough pumps out its strangely coloured gases, and in the midst of a feud with his immediate superior, Jim Stringer is sent north to investigate the disappearance of entire carriage-load of wealthy passengers on the Whitby-Middlesbrough line.. “
- (2003). The Necropolis Railway.
- (2005). The Blackpool Highflyer.
- (2007). The Lost Luggage Porter.
- (2008). Murder at Deviation Junction.
- (2008). Death on a Branch Line.
- (2009). The Last Train to Scarborough.
- (2011). The Somme Stations.
A Lover of Unreason: the life and tragic death of Assia Wevill by Yehuda Koren. The drama-filled life of the mistress of Ted Hughes. Some of it is well-written, but there are parts that (annoyingly) aren’t. It is an interesting saga, however, and I was interested the whole way through. If you are a Sylvia Plath / Ted Hughes fan, or a fan of the bohemian 1950s – 60s era in London, it is worth a read.
My Mom, Style Icon by Piper Weiss. A nice exploration of fashion through family generations.
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda – very entertaining, and what delighted me most was Alda’s unflagging enthusiasm for all that came his way. That’s a precious human quality.
Selected Stories by William Trevor – he writes beautifully about ordinary lives – which never are ordinary.
Four letter word: new love letters edited by Rosalind Porter – I picked this up at random when I needed to read something during tea break, and found it was a collection of fictitious love letters composed by well-known writers. I’m loving it, some of them are hysterical, some dark, all well written. The love letter is a rich genre, I imagine it will be with us forever.
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.
The Small Hand by Susan Hill – a creepy ghost story! Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter has just starred in one of her earlier books the Woman In Black!
The Freudian Slip by Marion von Adlerstein – a witty novel set in Sydney in 1963. If you grew up in the 1960’s you’ll chuckle with the memories of Great Western champagne, princess line dresses, gloves, seamed stockings, Tanya Verstak, Beppis, and Cahills. This story tells of three women, Desi, a television producer, Bea, a copywriter and Stella, a secretary, all working in an advertising agency. A quick read.
Inheritance by Nicholas Shakespeare
The Soldier’s Wife by Joanna Trollope
Worse things happen at sea by William McInnes
The Erased by Grant Piercy – This was the first eBook I have read, I did it on the iPhone and didn’t mind the experience at all. A lot better than I expected. This book was also self published on Amazon by a friends husband and is a good dystopian story if you enjoy that kind of book.
Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism by Douglas Rushkoff
A.D.D.: Adolescent Demo Division by Douglas Rushkoff (graphic novel)
SuperFreakonomics by Steven D Levitt & Stephen J Dubner
Angels Of Vengeance by John Birmingahm
A Billion Wicked Thoughts by Sai Gaddam and Ogi Ogas
I have just started reading Sulari Gentill’s detective series, I enjoyed the historical settings of the first two books, A few right thinking men and A decline in prophets, and the chance to get more information about NSW in the 1930’s.
I also reread The grapes of wrath, a beautiful and terrible read – and unfortunately still very relevant in terms of monoculture farming, the small farmers/business people being pushed out by the bigger corporations, and the way we convince ourselves that “others” are different and therefore less worthwhile than “us” and can be treated badly.
And while the Phryne Fisher murders are on the tv I’ve been rereading the series and enjoying the greater depth and detail that doesn’t appear in the one hour tv version.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
So Library peeps, what have you been reading to keep your heads above all this water?
(I had a week and a half in bed this month so read my self silly)
- Pure by Andrew Miller – it so happened I finished this book just as it was announced as the winner of the Costa Book of the Year. The Judges comments were that Miller had created a “structurally and stylistically flawless historical novel” – I think that’s going too far. It was OK but if I tell you I read at least two other books while I had this one on the go you might get an idea of what it did for me . . .
- Flock by Lyn Hughes – set in Mount Victoria and Blackheath, about families and wallpaper. A book group read, I quite enjoyed it.
- This is Not About Me and All Made Up by Janice Galloway – I downloaded these after listening to a Radio Scotland Book Café podcast interview with the author. Set in Ayrshire where I went to school these are misery memoirs with a sense of humour.
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett – another read for book group, and my second time with it. Well worth the reading.
- The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey – gentle murder mystery set in country England in the 1950s.
- Bereft by Chris Womersley – a really good read about a young man’s return to rural Australia post WWI to the scene of a crime he was accused of committing.
- The Ghost at the Wedding by Shirley Walker – non-fiction this one but a nice pair to Bereft. This is the story of brothers who go with the AIF to WWI and then of their sons and nephews who go off to WWII and the women they leave behind.
- I re-read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel because the sequel is due out later this year. Un-put-down-able.
- Status Anxiety by Alain de Boton – the most readable philosopher I know.
- In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar – set in 1970s Libya and told from the point of view of a 10 year old boy – so good I’ve ordered another book by this author, Anatomy of a Disappearance. Can’t wait!
- Dress Your Family in Corduroy – more snort-inducing family observational stories from David Sedaris.
- Code Name Verity – YA novel set in WWII and following two female protagonists, one a spy, one a pilot. Gripping stuff.
- The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt – violent, action-packed Western story – loved it!
- As a pair to The Sisters Brothers I’m trying Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian but I think I’m going to have to take this one slowly . . .
- Kitchen Confidential: adventures in the culinary underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. Not for the squeamish, this culinary memoir is full of commercial kitchen anecdotes to make your toes curl! Bourdain manages to make cooks and kitchen staff look like a strange breed of unruly rebel pirates, and kitchens like steamy, fiery, dangerous and relentless pressure-cookers. As an ex-waitress, there are a few stories I can relate to (minus the sex, drugs and celebrities).
- What I would do if I were you: dispatches from the frontline of family life by Mandy Nolan. Dry humour about contemporary family life. A little like a Richard Glover book, only from a mother’s perspective.
- Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham. Well-written, funny and absorbing. The story of an author’s attempt to write the biography of a respected Victorian writer – only to uncover a scandalous hidden past.
- Winter Trees by Sylvia Plath. It’s been so grey and rainy outside, I thought I’d cheer myself up with a little Plath…so continued on with more and read The Bell Jar too – A feminist classic; ultimately a very sad, but important story about mental illness and being a creative woman in contemporary society.
- How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. The book that shocked Germaine Greer!
- Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin – What a compelling story. Li was born into bitter poverty in rural Qingdao, China. Despite the harsh reality of life, his childhood was full of love. One day, a delegation from Madame Mao’s Beijing Dance Academy arrived at Li’s commune school to find suitable children to study ballet and serve in Chairman Mao’s revolution. At first they passed Li without taking any notice, but just as they were walking out of his classroom, the class teacher hesitated, and suddenly tapped the last gentleman from Beijing on the shoulder and pointed. `What about that boy?’. And that boy was Li. And so began Li’s remarkable journey. He was 11 when he left home to begin a seven-year harsh training regime from 5.30 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week at the Beijing Dance Academy…and I never realised that he ended up in Australia.
- The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes – I have been putting off reading this book as I love, love, love Marian Keyes books. And I knew as soon as I read it, I didn’t have another one of Marians’ books to read….so it was kind of like a little secret reward to myself to read this book. The story is based around a group of people all living in the same house – 66 Star Street, Dublin – and it’s narrated by someone mysterious (and you don’t find out who until nearly the end). Great read, great characters, and now I am sad I have finished it.
- The Winds of Heaven by Judith Clarke – Awards for this book include being Shortlisted, 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – Young Adult Fiction Honour Book, 2010 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year – Older Readers. A beautifully written and deeply moving story of two young women, and how their childhood experiences and the choices they make as teenagers determine their fates. Reminded me of the Australia I grew up in. The only thing I didn’t like was the 1960s encounter one of the characters had with her local public librarian….but it was all forgiven when in the acknowledgements, the Librarians of Lithgow, Blackheath and Katoomba Libraries were thanked by the author – take a bow everyone. (Book dates from 2009).
- The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter – retellings of classic fairy tales. Angela Carter revises “Puss-in-Boots” and “Sleeping Beauty,” for example, from an adult, twentieth-century perspective. Her renditions are intended to disturb and titillate her audience, instead of lulling it to sleep. The title story recasts the legend of Bluebeard, the mysterious French nobleman who murders his many wives. The legend, as recorded by the seventeenth-century author Charles Perrault, begins with the marriage of a girl to an eccentric, wealthy man. Called away on business, the newlywed husband leaves his wife the keys to every room and cabinet in the house. This keyring includes one key that she must not use: the one to the ”room at the end of the great gallery.’’ Of course, she eventually enters the room forbidden to her. In it she finds the corpses of her husband’s previous wives, all with their throats cut. Startled, the girl drops the key, which is enchanted and permanently stained by the blood on the floor. From this stain, Bluebeard discovers her disobedience. He raises his scimitar, but just in time, her brothers arrive to slay the murderer.
- Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett, a young Australian writer. I believe this is her first novel, and it’s a good one. A father and his sons are attempting to negotiate life after the death of the boys’ mother. The father is a fisherman with his own boat, and a dodgy off-sider named Jeff. The story is told from the viewpoint of the boys. How did their mother really die? How can they sustain themselves when their father has lost the plot? How dangerous is Jeff? There’s terrific writing here about the sea in all its phases, that Tim Winton would appreciate. Excellent read.
- Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout. A minister in a small parish in Maine, USA, encounters prejudice. His daughter Katherine suffers a trauma and stops speaking for quite a while. The natural goodness in the man is almost not enough to save him. I know I’m making this sound grim, but Strout’s writing is wonderful, insightful. She goes to the heart of what it is to be human. I will keep reading Strout for her wisdom and perception.
- Foal’s Bread by Australian writer Gillian Mears. Another novel I loved and was impressed – and educated – by. I never have been a “horse person” but Mears takes me to the world of horse high-jumping in the earlier part of the twentieth century, in northern NSW. Rolly Nancarrow is the champion jumper in the district; he sees a scrap of a fifteen-year-old girl (Noah Childs) flying over jumps others couldn’t do, and falls for her. Rolly has an odd tendency to be struck by lightning. He is struck more than once, which affects the fortunes of Rolly and Noah, and their children George and Lainey. Mears is a terrific storyteller, and brings the horse world to life with the vividness of one who knows and loves it.
- Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. I’ve just begun this one, but anyone who could write People of the Book and The Year of Wonders is going to deliver something good. So I’ll report on this next time.
- Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. Set in New York in 1937.
- I finished The Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux – I dipped into it over a few months. I got it after it was referenced several times by Bill Bryson in Notes From a Small Island which I have loved for years. Not as charming or humorous as Bryson, in fact Theroux started to sound more British than the British and the whole thing became a bit of a whinge-fest. Less ‘amazing’ than annoying!
- Waterline by Ross Raisin – this moving story of a man’s descent into homelessness following the death of his wife had me amazed because the authentic ‘Weegie’ (Glaswegian) voice of the main characters was written by a Yorkshire man.
- Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg, translated by the appropriately named Sarah Death is a novel set in the Lodz Ghetto during WWII. It amazes on a number of levels – I’m always amazed at what the Jews lived through and survived. Sem-Sandberg, taking his time over 651 pages, has done some amazing research and weaves contemporary documents into the novel and gets the reader totally immersed in this awful tale.
- Magnificent Obsession : Victoria, Albert and the death that changed the monarchy by Helen Rappaport – I’m amazed no one took Victoria aside and gave her a good slap! I bet Albert would have; he’d seen how Victoria had behaved after her mother’s death and disapproved. I haven’t suffered the death of a partner or spouse so I don’t know how it feels but I would imagine it better to honour your lost one with a full and useful life than years and years of isolation and selfishness.
- Using my iPad I’ve made a start on The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester which is, according to a podcast I listened to, the first in a series commissioned by the Oxford University Press on ‘haunting pictures’. This one takes a picture of a very young Alice Pleasance Liddell photographed by Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll and tells the tale of the great author and his supposed muse.
- Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier. I generally love fiction set in London during the 17th and 18th centuries, and this book is no exception. Based around the life of a shy teenage boy who has just moved to London from a cosy country town, it flows nicely – the interesting characters are what make this story really come to life.
- Bossypants by Tina Fey. Fans of television comedy 30 Rock (especially Liz Lemon’s character) will enjoy this funny and supremely nerdy memoir.
- I read Life, liberty and the pursuit of sausages : a comedy of transimensional tomfoolery by Tom Holt – Not what I usually would read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. A book full of people who turn into chickens ; a pig who turns into a very successful business man ; houses which are built, sold, then disappear ; a dry cleaners which is here one day and gone the next and a pencil sharpener which started out as a pig’s nose ring, but which is really the hub to a box which can do extraordinary things….. all add up to, as the subtitle of the book says … a comedy of transdimensional tomfoolery.
- The Book of Rapture by Nikki Gemmel – Twins Tidge and Mouse and their older sister Soli, who wake up in an unfamiliar room. They don’t know how they got there or where their parents are. As the book goes on, we discover that their scientist mother was working on a secret project to create a weapon of mass destruction capable of targeting members of a particular race. Her maternal love caused her to quit the project before it was completed, but now with her country torn apart by civil war and ethnic hatred, she has been kidnapped by those who insist on her finishing what she started. The children’s father also worked on the project, but his crisis of conscience came earlier, and so his knowledge is not in demand. The children are told by a messenger that being hidden away in this basement room is part of their father’s plan to keep them safe, but as the days wear on and they become hungrier and more frightened, they begin to doubt they will see either of their parents again. Not a book I loved and found it difficult to read. Not my usual problem with Nikki Gemmels books.
- Tea with Arwa by Arwa El Masri – an absolutely delightful story by Arwa El Masri, married to the ex-Canterbury Leagues Club player, Hazem El Masri. This book has all my favourite ingredients (pardon the pun) – a story with recipes scattered throughout, a family story and scatterings of the Middle East. It was lovely to hear how Arwa and her family had come to end up in Australia, and then the last part of the book was her sharing her love story with Hazem. I really heard her own voice throughout the whole book and loved her honesty, care and love. Thanks for sharing Arwa.
- The Harp in the South by Ruth Park – as one of the books listed on the voting form for the NSW National Year of Reading Book, I thought I should refresh my memory with the story. It was as good as I remembered. How can you not love hearing about early life in Sydney (post World War II) – Surry Hills – with a struggling family doing normal, everyday things. This book got my vote.
- Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy – I hadn’t ready any Maeve Binchy for a few years as I overdosed on her. This story took me a little while to get into as it was based around a hospital. I hate hospitals – hate hospital TV dramas, comedies and books. But once I got to know the characters and they spoke less and less about the medical stuff and more about their lives, I became wrapped. Usual high standard, great storylines and interwoven with previous characters too. I can highly recommend this as a book you want to go to bed with.
- Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch – After hearing the rave reviews given by fellow library staff, I couldn’t resist. It was well worth the time; I finished slightly bemused, but thoroughly entertained, by the antics (and stream-of-consciousness style ranting) of narrator/protagonist Peter Grant.
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – I honestly don’t think there is anything Safran Foer could write that I wouldn’t like. I expected this novel, following 9-year-old Oskar Schell in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, to be simply depressing. It is, but only due to the topic of content. It is also very clever; the style of narration is reminiscent of John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Once again, a writer who writes from a child’s perspective so well it is truly believable, and all the more poignant.
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Poor Emma Bovary, married to a man who is the salt of the earth but lacking flair, subsists on a diet of romantic fiction, to which she adds her own full-blown fantasies. Life consistently fails to meet her expectations, until… Well, you can discover what happens to Emma yourself. Flaubert’s portrait of an ill-educated and under-exercised young woman is brilliant, and reminds me (as if I needed reminding) what can happen when you deny people a proper education and the chance to use and extend their abilities. Written in the 1850s.
- The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. His most recently-published book is a beautiful thing. The main character, Tony/Anthony Webster, shuffles carefully through life. He takes few risks, seeing himself as essentially good and peaceable, though he comes across as rather bloodless, his relationships guided more by politics than passion. In later life he is made to remember a cruel and vitriolic act of his own in the distant past. Clearly he has smudged over his own history, with time. Do we all? Now he is galvanised. What really did happen forty years ago to his intelligent, thoughtful friend Adrian?
- Ghastly Business, by Louise Levene. This is shaping up to be light-hearted and entertaining, a whodunit of sorts, but I haven’t read much of it yet.
- A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman by Margaret Drabble, best known as a novelist. This is a collection of her short stories. Loved them. Nice observations of human nature.
- Five Bells by Australian writer Gail Jones. I enjoy novels set in Sydney, you’ll recognise lots of the places she talks about. The action centres round Circular Quay. The lives of four separate people intersect on a fine summer day in Sydney. Some meditations on Sydney’s multi-cultural population implicit in the story.
- My Lover’s Lover by Maggie O’Farrell. Why did she bother? This is boring and pointless, not a patch on her other work which I have enjoyed.
- The Misogynist by Piers Paul Read. Nicely-written, absorbing portrait of a man whose glass tends to be half-empty.
- Reamde by Neal Stephenson – Great book. I could leave it at that but the book deserves much more praise. I am a little biased after a friend convinced me to read one Stephenson book last year and then I read everything he had written in six months from cyberpunk to historical fiction. I like his characters and the way in which he weaves technological developments into the story, a common theme of all of his books. This book takes place in the present and involves creating virtual worlds, gold farming in RPGs, wikipedia, jihadists, drug running, survivalists, Russian mafia, MI6, FBI and much more. I might call it a techno-thriller except I have never read one so don’t how accurate the description is. I think his books defy genres.
- Invented Knowledge: Fake History, Fake Science and Pseudo-religions by Ronald H Fritze – Way more academic then I had hoped it would be. The book focused on only a handful of topics and went very in-depth into them and often repeating information. Excellent reading if you want to know the history of belief in Atlantis or where the racist beliefs of some American Christian fundamentalists or the Nation of Islam comes from.
- Batman and the Mad Monk by Matt Wagner – A novel about the early career of Batman which takes a very similar path to most tales of his early career. He is determined, he gets hurt doing things he hasn’t had practice doing yet, it references the deaths of his parents, it shows Alfred’s concern for his wellbeing and it shows that he can’t juggle a personal life and being the Batman. Not the worst early Batman tale but far from the best.
- Currently reading the autobiographies of two Australia comedians: The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do and Me of the Never Never by Fiona O’Loughlin. While of different backgrounds (Vietnamese refugee family and Irish Catholic 3rd (I think) generation), these 2 Australian artists both base their comedy on their family dynamic and history. Both books are easy read that can make you both laugh and cry.
- Symphony Training Guides – While instructional, they do lack in character and plot development. For aficionados of the genre only.
- The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides: I have a theory that when writers start writing about writing then they are officially out of plots and are reverting to what they know. I get pretty bored by these novels, and so I was filled with apprehension when The Marriage Plot seemed to be about the next worst thing- a book about reading. I soldiered on however, and the philosophy subsided to a dull roar. The setting is Brown University in the early 80’s, and the novel follows three young graduates in their first year out of college. There is a love triangle, mental health crises, existential angst and a fair bit of navel gazing from our protagonists, none of whom I cared a jot about- but I still enjoyed the novel. Having greatly enjoyed his previous novel Middlesex, I was looking forward to The Marriage Plot, however I was underwhelmed with the scope and theme of this novel (who cares about privileged College graduates?), but Eugenides’ writing won me over in the end, and I am giving it the thumbs up.
- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom – I enjoyed this one, especially Professor Morrie’s message about giving, which is exactly what he did in allowing this book to be written and shared.
- The Guardian Angel’s Journal by Carolyn Jess-Cooke – The story of Margot, now ‘Ruth’, who has died (we don’t know how until the end) and returns to Earth as a guardian angel to watch over herself. I think I like the premise more than the delivery. I sometimes found the narrator’s humour a little distracting; perhaps if it was more complimentary of the sentimental aspects of the novel I would have found it easier to like the main character/narrator.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I’ve been reading this on the Library’s Sony Reader as part of the eReader Training. I must admit, reading a classic on the Reader’s E-ink pages isn’t quite as satisfying as the tactile nature of, say, gold trimmed paper ones!
- PS – The Somnambulist was so good, I completely forgot the author, then got the wrong author when I looked it up on the catalogue!!! The one I (didn’t) read was by Essie Fox.
- Reading The Queen of New Beginnings by Erica James
- Making Stuff For Kids by Victoria Woodcock – fantastic crafts for kids to do, contemporary and fun
- I have read Inheritance by Nicholas Sparks, a really good read with a good storyline. Also read Herman Melville’s ‘Billy Budd’ which I found a chore to read, very slow and dissects the morals of the 1780’s era, this was a book club book and not my choice but glad I perservered and finished it.
- Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger – the author who brought us The Devil Wears Prada….not as good as that book but still a highly readable chicklit/chewing gum for the eyes. Set in New York and based around three girlfriends – Leigh, Adriana and Emmy – and a year in their life….
- The Strip by J.J Salem – it must be budget time because I am devouring gloriously trashy fiction…..a modern Jackie Collins based in Las Vegas. The interwoven story of three women who share the same stud for hire….this one I listened to on Talking Book. It was an excellent production and used two speakers….but certainly not a book for the faint-hearted.
- Love Always by Harriet Evans – Natasha’s grandmother dies and the whole family is thrown into turmoil. Set in London and Cornwall and the unravelling of family secrets long hidden makes for an interesting read. I like the use of a historical diary as a tool in the story too. Very readable!
- Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America by Natasha Vargas-Cooper- A look at the 1960s advertising industry revolution that inspired the hit television series, Mad Men. Great to read some behind the scenes stories for the wonderful series I am addicted to – Mad Men.
- At the Loch of the Green Corrie by Andrew Grieg – plenty of fishing action in a personal memoir of joy and loss, poetry, geology, the Highlands, whisky, love and male friendship.
- Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore by Alison Weir – What a title! Weir is the queen of historical biography. Not so keen on her fiction though.
- Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich – a suggestion from Robyn who, like me, appreciates the madcap humour of Jasper Fforde – had a ball with it!
- Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs – the poignant story of Raymond Briggs’ parents. I love Raymond Briggs ever since picking up Fungus the Bogeyman years and years and years ago . . .
- Burke and Hare by Owen Dudley Edwards – I lived along from their haunt in the West Bow in my student days in Edinburgh. These naughty guys found they could make money from dead bodies in early 19thC Edinburgh. The first natural death led to about 15 unnatural ones. The cover says it’s ‘gruesome and funny and sometimes both together” – it isn’t, it’s a dense, academic-type text with no humour at all – in my opinion.
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – first time I’ve read it – downloaded from Project Gutenburg. A riotous morality tale we all know so well.
The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker – I think this might be a new favourite author – with an amazingly sharp wit, transformative moments of stream-of-consciousness and insight into the human condition. This book is narrated by a hapless poet with writer’s block, and explores the poetic beauty (and comedy) he finds in his everyday experiences. Like a great poem, this work’s meter and splendour occasionally shoots straight through to the unconscious mind, giving me the shivers (the good kind).
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters – A beautifully-written and mysterious historical saga. Beginning in 1947 England in the aftermath of World War II, it follows the lives of interesting characters with remarkable pasts. A skilful exploration of gender identification, sexuality, family ties and secret lives.
- Monster and The Girl in the Cellar by Allan Hall – Both books have an abundance of information about these two horrific, strange and parallel ‘girl in cellar’ cases. However each book tends to be a bit repetitive, as though the writer is thinking of ways to fill space – a few key statements and trivia are basically just phrased in a new way, a number of times (very annoying).
- The Girl in the Cellar was also attacked by the victim’s lawyers, with them stating that it was premature, and based mainly on hearsay and speculation. Despite this, I do like how the writer explores the possible societal and historical influences of these cruel and bizarre Austrian crimes.
- Letters to Ebay: Antics of a Virtual Prankster by Art Farkas.
- Stephen Fry’s Making History – modern day science tries to wipe out Hitler only to discover that things can always get worse! Slow to start – part 1 was a very long & ordinary scene setting exercise, but part 2 was worth waiting for.
- Jennifer Rowe’s newest title Love, Honour & O’Brien – set in the mountains (can’t say I recognised her description of Springwood as the place I work though), but completely different to her Verity Birdwood mysteries and her Tessa Vance Crime series – much lighter, funnier, but still had me turning the pages quickly to see how it would turn out.
- Embarking on Phillipa Gregory’s The White Queen – only just started but so far quite readable – my favourite way to brush up on my history…
- Tried Julian Fellowes’ Snobs but had to give it away – can’t stand a book where all the characters are so completely unlikeable!
- Finally gave in a read Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – pleasant and easy, but I prefer my mysteries a little more compelling (did love the TV series though – perfect relaxing and undemanding Sunday night viewing).
- I’m sure I’ve read something else recently, some light fluffy thing involving a guardian angel and a disappearing nephew, but like all good customers I can’t recall the title or author!
- The way of shadows by Brent Weeks – This was recommended at a Reader’s Advisory seminar on Fantasy Fiction. I ;enjoyed it but it isn’t one of my favourites, bit too dark.
- Votive by Karen Brooks – Second in The Curse of the bond riders. It’s even better than the first book (Tallow)
- Tree of man by Patrick White for my book group. I still haven’t finished it, it seems to go nowhere with an awful lot of writing.
- Eragon by Christopher Paolini – This is my second reading of this and I enjoyed it just as much.
- I’ve just startedStormlord’s Exile which is the third in the Watergivers trilogy. Just as good as the first two. I need the fantasy fiction to restore my faith in reading after Tree of Man.
- Freakonomics – A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner – So who made the connection to lowering crime rates and legal abortion? This is just one of the scenarios explored in this thought-provoking read. For a snapshot of modern society with interesting theories as to how and why certain things happen, backed up by statistical analysis, worth the read just to stretch the braincells.
- Last Chance Café by Liz Byrski – Took me a few chapters to get into this novel but once I did, the characters endeared themselves to me. Lots of intricate twists and turns with a few surprises along the way. Good chicklit, or chewing gum for the eyes.
- The Red Wind by Isobelle Carmody – This is a delightful Young Adult story – more of a fable really . . . based on the brothers Zluty and Bily and the humble life they have created for themselves around their cottage, living off the land and in harmony with all around them. That is until the Arosh (Red Wind) comes through and changes everything . . . Apparently the first in a new series so I will be interested to see what happens next.
- Fabulous Things by Kelly Braffet – Probably more of a Young Adult novel full of angst and unresolved issues. A little like Flowers in the Attic which is also referred to in the story, in that the close relationship between brother and sister borders on obsession. But an interesting read, full of colourful characters which ends up in New York, a place I am always happy to read about.
- When Colts Ran by Roger McDonald – a book group read. A fan of McDonald’s The Ballad of Desmond Kale, I enjoyed the beautiful writing but I wondered all the way through what the something was that I wasn’t quite getting.
- The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin – Complaints detective Malcolm Fox in a typical Rankin page-turner.
- At the Loch of the Green Corrie by Andrew Greig – winner of the Scottish Saltire prize, this is a beautiful homage to one Scottish poet to another (Greig to Norman McCaig) with a fishing trip to the Loch of the Green Corrie in Assynt.
- The Tree of Man by Patrick White – read for my other book group. I downloaded this one as an ebook from Yarra Plenty’s Overdrive site (something you’ll all have a go at). A lot of words and not much happening, I took three weeks to read 341 out of 441 pages (depending on what font size I chose) before my loan expired and it suddenly, mid-sentence, expired. I did try to get it back out again immediately but there must be a statute of limitations and I haven’t had the will to try too hard again.
- Elsie and Mairi Go to War by Diane Atkinson – the true story of two extraordinary women who set up first aid stations on the front line in Belgium in the Great War. Decorated for their courage by both the Belgian and British kings and the only women allowed to nurse on the front line the mystery is how they have not remained as wildly famous as they were during the war.
- Started Gillespie and I by Jane Harris – set in Glasgow in the 1880s and London in the 1930s I haven’t yet made up my mind about this one.
- This month I have been reading the energy output from my household appliances, using the library’s Save Power Kit. It was an interesting read, however it held no great surprises or plot twists. It wasn’t a life changing experience, as we had already changed our energy lifestyle a couple of years ago, and in fact I was a little disappointed to discover that many of the appliances that we leave unplugged actually use very little on standby. Still, it was a fun exercise, and a reminder that pretty much everything that is plugged in but not running still uses power. Who would have thought that the washing machine was guzzling power just sitting there?
- My lover’s lover by Maggie O’Farrell – not my favourite novel by this author. I found it hard to get into. A love story about breaking up with thrilling twists.
- The Year we seized the day by Elizabeth Best – an offbeat travelogue of a couple walking the Camino trail in Northern Spain, quite an achievement for this couple who were not walkers but were determined to finish the entire 800kms pilgrimage.
- In Turkey I am Beautiful by Brendan Shanahan, an Australian journalist, who travels around Eastern Turkey and describes the culture and chaos of Turkey in great detail, a very interesting read.
- Now I am ploughing through Billy Bragg by Herman Melville and finding it a really hard read so not getting very far. Needless to say this is a book group book and not chosen by me! but for some light relief I am also reading The Last time we met by Anita Shreve, I find she is a good writer and most of her books are quite enjoyable and easy to read.
- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – this is a series of inter-connected stories set in a community where Olive lives. Strout’s writing is always arresting. She fossicks among the domestic lives of the characters, enjoying the ironies of their behaviour. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2009.
- When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman – this is a coming-of-age story, the central character being a young girl growing up in a loving and entirely believable family. (The rabbit is a present and she names it God.) She adores her brother, and also becomes friends with their neighbour, Jenny Penny, whose life is by no means easy, and who comes to grief by and by. The girls lose and find each other over the years, as life unfolds around them. I like the honesty and non-judgemental attitudes here.
- Dan Simmons – The Fall Of Hyperion: A nice ending to what began in the first book. Very different books that I don’t think should be separated. I enjoyed the story as a whole, there were a lot of great sci-fi concepts like teleportation, AI, time travel and life extension. There was a little too much of the fantasy element for my tastes but it was bearable within the frame of all the sci-fi. Apparently this book ‘reinvented sci-fi’ in the 90s. It was a good long read but I personally prefer my sci-fi a little more down to earth.
- Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky – Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture: I like DJ Spooky’s music so I thought I would give this book a go. He is the editor and contributes a few essays to the content. I really enjoyed all of the history of hip hop, electronic music and sampling however much of the content was very academic and a bit heavy for light reading. The CD that comes with the book is a great sampling of the kind of music referred to in the essays.
- Red Hood: The Lost Days (Graphic novel): Only of interest to those really into the Batman canon, a category I fall into. It tells the years of the character Red Hood before he entered the main Batman story arc a few years back. For those uneducated with Batman comics, in the late 80s Robin became Nightwing and so a new Robin was introduced. Fans did not like him too much and a phone poll was held to decide his fate, by a small margin the fans voted to kill him off. The Joker killed the new Robin and it was thought that was the end of it until a few years back when they reintroduced the dead Robin as an undead villain called Red Hood. I assure you it is all quite plausible in the Batman universe.
- The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson – very interesting read if you are interested in how the brain functions or what makes people tick. I like his gonzo style of journalism, and while I didn’t find this as fascinating as The men who stare at goats it was full of interviews with intriguing people. There is also a history of psychiatry and some case studies that are very relevant to current issues such as children being over diagnosed with disorders such as ADD.
- Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness by Jon Ronson – having no other book ready to read at lunchtime after I quickly finished The Psychopath Test, I grabbed another of his books that was in. 50% was the story about the story, doing research for various articles and documentaries that he was working on at the time, interesting people and topics like his later books. The other 50% were random musings on the upbringing of his son which I found incredibly boring.
- Hyperion by Dan Simmons – an epic story about humans that have expanded throughout the universe. The whole book was leading up to an important event that doesn’t happen. I liked it but am glad that I am reading it in an omnibus otherwise I would have been really annoyed at not being able to continue the story. A good comparison would be if you were reading the Wizard of Oz and found out the tin man wants a heart, the lion wants courage, the scarecrow wants a brain and they start down the yellow brick road and it ends. That said I have started The Fall of Hyperion and the story continues just fine.
- After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell. I couldn’t put this beautifully moving and romantic novel down.
- Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer – I believe this could be an almost perfect book; being only a third of the way in, I’ll hold off judgment in case it turns sour, but, so far so good! Putting aside minor disagreements with his ghastly suggestions for alternative meats (Dog casserole, anyone?) I love everything he has to say. This book is not a case for vegetarianism, as Foer explicitly points out, but there are elements of a defensive argument in favour of less extremist vego’s.
- The Somnambulist by Essie Fox – I’ve just started this and I’m not sure it’s my cup of tea. I will persevere a few more chapters and see how I go…
- Last month I’d been reading Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. In it he referenced Paul Theroux’s The Kingdom by the Sea – very similar to Bryson’s in that it’s by an American saying a fond farewell to Britain after a period of living there. Not as funny as Bryson, but I’m enjoying going from town to town with him using Google Maps.
- Had a bit of a wet weekend binge lately and have raced through Martin Westley Takes a Walk by Andrew Humphreys, Doctor Sally by PG Wodehouse and In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.
- When Colts Ran by Roger McDonald – for book group. Beautifully written, I had the sense the whole way through that I was missing something. To my relief that was the general reaction of my book group. Would love to know if that’s because the book is ‘blokey’ – any males able to enlighten me?
- People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks – what an interesting read! I loved learning about book conservation and their techniques and learning little snippets of the history of this particular historical book. The modern story was quite engaging as well. Well researched and very easy to read. Good holiday book with a bit more meat!
- Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanna Harris – Set in a small village near Angers on the Loire, it deals with the fortunes of a widow and her three children, Cassis, Reine-Claude and Framboise, against the background of the German Occupation. While the story was compelling, and the food descriptions scrumptious, I am not sure I liked the characters. They were quite dark and downright nasty to each other.
- Razor: Tilly Devine, Kate Leigh and the Razor Gangs by Larry Writer – I have loved all the Underbelly mini-series. Yes, I know, they are all out of proportion and quite fictionalised . . . so that is why I am reading the book this series in based on. While there are some licenses taken with the story and some minor stories in the book blown up into a whole episode, I am enjoying the fact that I know the characters better – some of the background stories. My fascination with this series, I am sure, has everything to do with the family suspicion my grandfather was in a Razor Gang and lived to tell the tale . . .
- The Child Thief by Brom – a dark version of the Peter Pan myth aimed at Young Adults. Brom is well known in Graphic Novel circles and also consults with Tim Burton on his films. I enjoyed this darker, more sinister Peter and the story is quite captivating. I also liked that it did not have a happy ending.
- Au Revior by Mary Moody – I know, I should have read this 10 years ago when everyone was raving about it. A good yarn, and I enjoyed Mary’s personality. Too many stories about missing the grandchildren for my liking but the descriptions of the socialising, the dinners, the meals, the wines and the French countryside made the read bearable – aimed at the Baby Boomer demographic (not me).
- Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – Based around the Manor house, Maderley, the owner Max de Winter and a new young wife in the shadow of Rebecca. An oldie but a goodie.
- I’ve been reading fiction set in India recently. Have reread A Passage to India by E M Forster which I previously read for my HSC, quite a while ago.
- Now I’m half way through A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – this is a monster – over 1700 pages, but I’m really enjoying it and hope to complete it. Both these books are very informative in regard to Colonial times and the very classist life that existed in India at that time. Also very interesting is the subject of arranged marriage, matching suitable men and women. Our book group had a very lively meeting discussion about this subject.
- Hannah’s List by Debbie Macomber – a nice story.
- Shooting the Fox by Marion Halligan. Now in her early seventies, Canberra-based Halligan has been writing fiction for decades. Her writing is quiet, watchful, luminous. Her books get better and better. Shooting the Fox is a collection of short stories in which the writer’s unflinching sensibility tackles some dodgy corners of human psychology. She tells the truth, and she finds it all amusing.
- The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog and of his Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O’Hagan – Maf is short for Mafia; the dog is a present from Frank Sinatra to Marilyn. All of the animals in this novel are intelligent, well-read philosophers, who when they get together share pithy opinions about the human species and, of course, high culture. I particularly enjoyed an exchange between Maf and a troupe of bedbugs. The humour here is satirical, delightful; and there is pathos too, as Marilyn’s life begins to unravel, and she shuts down. I loved this book.
- Homage to Barcelona by Colm Toibin. This is a bit of a love story to Barcelona, opinions accumulated over the decades during which Toibin stayed in that city. He shows the Catalunyans to be proud, entrepreneurial, high-achievers who frankly and loudly proclaim their desire to secede from Spain. He gives a chapter to the remarkable architecture in Barcelona, and the unique works of Antoni Gaudi. I really enjoyed reading bits of the book and walking the streets of the town, remembering his comments. Read this if you’reheading to Spain anytime soon.
- I’m currently trying madly to avoid To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, suggested by some sadist in my book group. It’s the second Woolf I’ve tried. I’m not a fan of stream of consciousness stuff and long sentences that ramble on so that I’ve forgotten where we started so I’m seeking solace in an old favourite of mine, Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. It’s a love letter to Britain (well, mostly England). Bryson understands the British because he lived there so long, but as an American can see them with the outsiders eye. His laid-back amusing observations are so much funnier than Virginia’s.
- I also read Island on the Edge of the World by Charles Maclean – about St Kilda, an isolated island waaaaay off the west coast of Scotland which was abandoned in the 1930s at the request of the islanders.
- Delete this at Your Peril : One Man’s Fearless Exchange with the Internet Spammers by Bob Servant with Neil Forsyth – rather than just delete spam emails, Bob Servant replies and leads the spammers a merry dance – funny stuff.
- Snowdrops by AD Miller – shortlisted for the Man Booker. Started off great but fizzled. I reviewed it a few weeks ago.
- The Kite Runner Graphic Novel by Khaled Hosseini – the medium is not my cup of tea, it lacks the depth of the novel and if I didn’t know the book I think I’d be confused about what was going on in the story, but it’s a good way to get reluctant readers going I should think.
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Having just watched The Tudors on DVD, this is updating my fix with more little titbits of gossip about the same characters.
- The Wedding Planner by Melanie LaBrooy – Great little Australian story about two sisters, jealousy, family secrets and forgiveness.
- 90-Day Geisha – My time as a Tokyo Hostess by Chelsea Haywood – interesting read about how hostessing in Japan works. Chelsea was a very mature and interesting individual. I want to know did her marriage hold up afterwards . . . have just checked her Internet site – the answer is no and I am not surprised.
- I am reading A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin – Over 1000 pages of death, sex, back stabbing, mutilation, bastardry, death, sex and murder. My fantasy reading days are far, far behind me, but I have somehow ended up reading this sprawling series of novels. They are light on the fantasy, and read more like historical novels, as they are almost exclusively about the power plays and intrigues of competing factions as they all aim to seize control of the throne. Martin needs a good editor with a bit of backbone, as each novel gets longer and more tedious. It is a blow by blow (often literally) account, and some of it really could have been trimmed and not suffered at all. I am dragging my heels, but I am confident that I will finish by the end of the month. . .
- A guide to the birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson – an absolutely charming read.
- The white woman on a green bicycle by Monique Roffey – I grabbed this one quickly for something to read at the hairdresser. I was going to leave it at just the first few chapters – too much violence, difficult language to try to figure out (the novel is set in Trinidad), and too much use of the ‘f’ word. However, I persevered and got to the end. I didn’t dislike the book, but I wouldn’t put it in my favourites list either. I am glad I stuck it out though.
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers – a compelling non-fiction account of one man’s experience of living through Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, including the equally frightening/daunting aftermath. The writing style was a little repetitive, but I couldn’t stop reading – almost read it in one go!
- My name is Charles Saatchi and I am an Artoholic by Charles Saatchi – successful British art collector Charles Saatchi provides answers to questions posed to him by reporters and everyday folk. There are some interesting moments, however his musings are like the purposely-obscure sound bites of a young musician being interviewed. It’s all a bit glib, cool and pop, quite like the Young British Art movement he was so supportive of in the 1990s. A very quick, slightly funny and mostly quirky read.
- I read Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata – It was an interesting insight into Japanese culture but actually not a memorable read for me – perhaps the translation made it hard to read, I don’t know??
- I started reading Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks but had to put it back as someone else requested it which is a shame because I didn’t want to put it down so will finish when I get it next.
- Then I read Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist – a kind of supernatural thriller (not usually my genre) set in Sweden. It started out great but, in my view, descended to a bit silly after a while so I patiently finished it.
- I am now half way through reading Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones which, after the last three not so successful reading attempts, is making me very happy!
- I’ve struggled through To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I wasn’t the sadist and I’m prepared to organise a lynching party.
- Shadowlands : The story of C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham, a ‘novelisation’ by Leonore Fleischer. It’s a great read, I cried.
- James Patterson Sam’s Letters to Jennifer. – It’s a while since I read such a clearly American author but I found the book a good read.
- Finally, surprise, surprise: Joel Shepherd’s Sasha – it’s fantasy fiction and I’m enjoying it.
- I have just finished Father and Sons by Turganev, a good read about the 1920’s in old Russia.
- Now reading The White Tiger by Adiga Aravind for the second time, mainly because it is a book group book, but I loved it the first time around, a tale set in modern India focusing on social status and the higher and lover caste system.
- Also reading a great book on Stretching, it has really good illustrations and stretches are designed for morning, night, before gym classes and any other time of day! Don’t know the author on the top of my head.
- These things hidden by Heather Gudenkauf was an enjoyable read, as the cover says “for those who enjoy Jodi Picoult”.
- Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler wasn’t my idea of a fun read. It’s a slightly depressing read, not only because the main character considers himself old when he’s only 60!!! But it’s a pretty ordinary life he leads and hence I found myself wondering why write a book about him.
- I have just finished reading The taste of river water a beautiful book of poetry by Cate Kennedy. She has received numerous nominations for various literary awards, and her work is very worthy of this recognition.
- I am currently rereading The Alchemist for book group, and am also enjoying a non-fiction travel book titled My hearts wanders. Written by Pia Jane Bijkerk it is a beautiful journal which also includes great photography and narrates a personal journey through France, Amsterdam, Belgium and Sydney. I always enjoy this style of travel book, as it often inspires another journey to plan and partake. Sometimes, mind you, these only occur as dreams, as the budget can present a challenge.
- I Peed On Fellini: Recollections of a life in film by David Stratton – I’ve only ever watched The Movie Show a handful of times and had no other idea who David Stratton was but the title had me intrigued. Disappointed to learn the meaning of the title in the first chapter, however, enjoyed the book a lot especially after the mid 60s when he started to discuss films I knew and liked. Being a bit of a film buff I found it very interesting, he told the story of his life through the films he watched. I learnt from this that he lives in the Blue Mountains and I also found the title and artist of an obscure song that I had liked for many years that I had on a mixtape.
- Look at the Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut – I have always liked Kurt Vonnegut since I picked up Slaughterhouse 5 many years ago. This is a posthumous release of old uncollected short stories, none are outstanding but all have that great Vonnegut wit.
- Being Dad by Sam Holt & Troy Jones
- The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
- Hyperion by Dan Simmons
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Even better the second time! I’ve been savouring this all month and neglecting all other reading material . . .
- I just wanted to jot down my favourite book I just finished reading which was The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer – it’s his autobiography and unfortunately we don’t have his book in our collection but I am willing to donate it when I get it back from my friends. Also, this author co-wrote Andre Agassi’s autobiography and Andre does mention his book frequently and how it inspired him to seek out Mr Moehringer with help writing his autobio.
- I‘ve been reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – intrigued by his writing style and characterisation, and the odd reference to the social conditions in the Carribean at the time, but still to finish and not sure if there will be a resolution of the story!
- Took longer over by Andrea Levy’s The Long Song than I’d anticipated – get over the 1/3rd hump and it all gets better.
- Distracted by Giving Up the Ghost, Hilary Mantel’s autobiography.
- Now have to face The Finkler Question for book group.
- Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky – had some beautiful descriptive prose, however I felt unsatisfied by it incomplete nature. It contained the first 2 titles of a planned 5 vol set and was published posthumously by the author’s daughter in the nineties. It had been written in 1942 and was set in France at the time of the German occupation of WW2. Irene was killed at Auschwitz, hence the reason for its incomplete state. There was so much hype and praise about this book when it was originally published, I decided to wait for this to cool down before reading.
- Fire in the Blood, also by Irene Nemirovsky was set in a little rural village during the war years and is more of a novella. The author captures the classist hierarchy of Paris and the bourgeois in the country, which gave an interesting insight of human nature, especially during a time the war.
- Being a huge fan of Master Chef on TV, I just had to read Superchef Australia : a parody by Ben Pobjie. It was hilarious, poking fun at every aspect of the tv show from the contestants to the judges, to the celebrity chefs, even the paper towel promotion was made fun of. If you take the TV show seriously, then you are probably best not reading this book. However, if, like me you view the show with a measure of cynicism and roll your eyes at the pretentious twaddle, or indeed, if you are not a fan of the show, then you will probably laugh your way through the book like I did.
- I also read Clisson and Eugenie by Napoleon Bonaparte. It was only 1 chapter long, so, for the first time in my life, I can claim to have read a whole book in an afternoon.
- I’ve started The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (my own copy, my brother thought I should read but it’s not got me in so far) but have had to put it aside for a reserve that came in.
- Love you more by Lisa Gardner. This is no. 5 in the Detective D.D.Warren series and I’m keen to get on with this.
- A day in the life of a smiling woman : complete short stories by Margaret Drabble – every bit as rewarding as reading one of her novels – she writes so well. I think the blurb said “she illuminates the life of women” and this is very true. The stories were from the 1960s to the present so it was a bit like revisiting a lifetime of reading.
- At last I have finished the Stieg Larsson Millenium series by reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. I found it exciting and hard to put down – although I think I preferred the first book in the series the best.
- Brida by Paulo Coelho – Actually one of the first books Paulo Coelho wrote but only recently translated. A lovely simple tale about finding your soulmate and path in life.
- 10 Short Stories you Must Read in 2010 – Stories by Alex Miller, Maggie Alderson, Georgia Blain, Mark Dupain, Nick Earls, Judy Nunn, Malla Nunn, and Rachael Treasure.
- Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexander – Set in wartime Florence. Interesting read and romance thrown in for good measure.
- West of the Wall by Marcia Preston – Set in the times of the Berlin Wall; the story was perhaps a little bit implausible, but not a terrible read.
- Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier – I quite enjoyed this. I didn’t even realise how much of the plot/characters was based on truth until the end, so it looks like this book was educational as well as interesting!
- The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature by Karl Shuker – Covers a great many fun facts about non-human animals.
- And I’ve just started Bereft by Chris Womersley…
- The Taste of River Water – poetry by Cate Kennedy. She’s a highly-regarded novelist and poet living in Tasmania; her poetic style is conversational so her complexities of thought need to be looked for.
- A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs. What a splendid storyteller, a natural. A nightmare father sits at the centre of this autobiographical memoir.
- Monsieur Linh and his Child by Philipe Claudel. Some stories float a couple of inches above the ground. This one does. Liked it a lot.
- Bereft by Chris Womersley. I truly did read this in one day. Compellingly written, brilliant Australian writer with a profound humanity driving his prose.
- Caribou Island by David Vann. Wow, another fantastic writer. This one’s set in Alaska, where the freezing weather is a constant presence, helping to shape the lives of those who grow and change in it. Vann understands the things that drive human beings so well.
- Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl – This is the personal account of Dr Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived being a prisoner at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp (among other camps). His writings are curious in the way that he was able to observe his mental processes and those of others during the ordeal, and his attempt to find meaning in the most demeaning and horrific of circumstances. Especially interesting for me as I recently spent time in Berlin and had a chance to see remnants of, and learn more about, World War II.
- Apart from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (which I haven’t finished) I’m rereading Lord of the Rings. Bit of a frost, sorry.
- Love, Honour and O’Brien by Jennifer Rowe (also went to a talk by Jennifer Rowe about this book)
- Little Coffee Shop of Kabul byDeborah Rodriguez
- Never let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
- Naked Lady Who Stood On Her Head by Gary Small, MD
- Village Deception by Rebecca Shaw
- A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oates. Writers write their experience, so when her husband died suddenly, Oates wrote this memoir. Compellingly written, and very true.
- Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy: the most gorgeous, gut-wrenching prose I have ever read; a novel full of violent acts, and yet I managed to read most of it. McCarthy is a poet who draws on the strong, ancient texts of the Bible, you can hear those rhythms in his words. This is some writer.
- Unless it Moves the Human Heart by Roger Rosenblatt: a book about writing.
- I’ve finally finished Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin. I started this earlier in the year and had to return it since it had reserves on it! This true story, about Mortensen helping to promote peace by building schools in remote villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan, was inspiring and hard to put down.
- Room by Emma Donoghue. This novel is, to quote author Anita Shreve, “unlike anything I’ve ever read before”. Jack is five and lives in Room with his Ma. Room is eleven feet by eleven feet and has a locked door. It won’t take you long to read this one.
- Australian author, Favel Parrett’s Past the Shallows, is the story of three brothers, Joe, Miles and Harry growing up on the remote south coast of Tasmania. A beautiful and sad story about the bond of these brothers. This is another quick and unable to put down read. I loved it and so did my husband and daughter.
And now I’m due for a cheerful novel…
- I read The Good Daughter by Honey Brown – thoroughly enjoyed, great portrayal of my idea of a typical Australian country town.
- Yard Dog by Sheldon Russell – enjoyed this one too. Bit outside my usual genre, kind of a masculine read with a hint of romance. Guess what a yard dog is???? (Have to read it to find out!!)
- Ape House by Sara Gruen – Though fictional, this story about a family of Bonobo Apes was based largely on experiences the author herself had while researching for her linguistics degree. Some of the significance regarding animal/human relations was lost in the general comedy surrounding the apes’ journey, but not altogether a bad read!
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Despite being only a short book, it could have been shorter for me! A bit disappointing…
- Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks – A book that evidences a writer’s dedication to research is always a good book in my eyes! I think this book was so enjoyable because it really felt authentic to its time setting.
- The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho – The recounting of the life of a young, very religious and slightly eccentric, woman through the eyes of the many people who knew her. Very interesting, if not a little hard to piece together in the beginning.
- Grizzly Heart: Living Without Fear Among the Brown Bears of Kamchatka by Charlie Russell and Maureen Enns – Russell is my new idol! Even the bravest of hearts would give credit to a man who faced a full-grown male Brown Bear and said “Shoo! Go on, get outta here!”
- I have read Batavia by Peter Fitzsimmons
- The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
- Bird Cloud: a Memoir by Annie Proulx, just loved that one
- and just starting Custody by Nancy Thayer
a good run for me, forced to rest during a bout of flu!
- I read Becoming Finola by Susanne Strempek Shea – delightful!
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – medical ethics behaving badly. Fascinating, scary, sad.
- Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks – historical fiction set in 1600s America.
- Final Cut by Gil Brealey – self-published memoir by a giant of the Australian film industry
- Salvation Creek by Susan Duncan – a book group read so not chosen by me. Didn’t look forward to reading it but quite enjoyed it in the end.
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