Notes From a Well-Read Alice – July, 2013

Thanks again to Alice, one of our Home Library service borrowers,  for sharing her reading thoughts and reflections with us : )

Picture1

Worth Dying For by Lee Child

Written at such a fast pace I almost felt breathless at the end of it. Full of on-the-spot, life-changing decisions. Nebraska was presented as a dry, desolate place, with a cruel family ruling a small community by fear. An ex-cop, ex-solder who is an expert in unarmed combat comes to town and quietly and heroically proceeds to put things right, with the help of an alcoholic doctor, a terrified hotel owner and a woman who knows the ruling family killed her daughter. A man’s book, but the author does have respect for women.  A violent book, not really my scene, but I must admit I turned the pages quickly to see what was going to happen next, and it was full of surprises.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Hard to believe it’s a first novel, Diane Setterfield’s writing is so polished and professional. A biographer who spends her life in her father’s bookshop receives a request to chronicle the life of ‘the world’s most famous’  author. Now dying, the author wishes to impart the story of her own life. Set in a crumbling, Gothic mansion, the story is about red-headed twins who run riot, with their own language, and extremely strong ties. Their cruelty keeps the reader agog, and the people who surround them are vividly characterised. This is a mystery of haunting conviction.  Being a long-time admirer of Isaac Pitman I found the passages on hieroglyphics particularly fascinating. This is certainly a booklover’s book. Overwhelming.

Bertie Plays the Blues by Alexander McCall Smith 

‘Just magical. An insight into the best of human nature, without over-sentimentality. McCall Smith presents life for us as it should be. A tonic to read. Bertie, an extremely intelligent little boy of six has an over ambitious mother who fills his days with language and music lesson and visits to the psychiatrist. Olive, a six-year-old harridan, tells Bertie that one day he will marry her. He plans to run away.

Scotland Street, where everyone lives, welcomes triplets, Big Lou, the restaurant owner has  date with an Elvis impersonator and Angus the artist and Domineca the anthropologist make wedding plans, when an old flame appears on the scene and Cyril, Angus’ golden-toothed dog, views events and ankles with endearing reflections. After reading many books with hardly a chuckle I wallowed in the jests in this humane novel. I also learnt about Stendal Syndrome, the rituals of Masonry, Ebay and many ‘ologies’ so far unheard of. THis book was written in 2011, but McCall Smith remains essentially unaffected by the need to keep up with today’s changing values. Absolutely delightful.

Kal by Judy Nunn 

In1892 in Austria, two girls climb up through the snow to work at a resort where many wealthy Europeans and Americans holiday. On their way, they stop for a few words with two Italian men working on the blasting of a tunnel through the Alps. The brothers see a headline about a gold strike in Australia. They end up in Kalgoorlie, with its harsh beginnings and kaleidoscopic mix of humanity from different parts of the world. Judy Nunn’s narration is spellbinding. The horrors of World War 1 include descriptions of the 11th Battalion, where men from Kalgoorlie, who once fought each other as boys, now stand side-by-side facing heartbreaking conflicts. The saga continues, threaded with a tender love story, feuds and family loyalties, making this a worthy tribute to Australian history.

Advertisements

Notes from a Well-Read Alice – May 2013

Notes from a well-read Alice logo

Alice is one of our home library borrowers who generously shares her thoughts and reviews with us!  Thankyou, Alice, and happy reading! : )

The Summer Garden by Pauline Simons

‘What joy. A long, riveting saga. From Russia to America -covering several wars- Vietnam included. From childhood to old age- both comedy and tragedy. Torture, explicit sex and the horrors of war are dealt with, but the story is so strong it overrides scenes that would normally cause offense.  Family values are revered and I found it brilliant.’

The Return Journey by Maeve Binchy

‘A good read. I don’t normally choose short stories, even though I know from experience how much re-writing and editing is required (had a writing spate in the 70’s- even sold a few!) but still prefer the flow of a full length novel. Maeve Binchy’s stories are beautifully bound together by her warm portrayal of human nature.’

Cross by James Patterson

‘Psychopathic horror is not on my agenda.’

The Dark Mountain by Catherine Jinks

‘Dark indeed. Only about twenty pages of its 470 give light relief. I found the portrayal of convict flogging too horrific, but I devoured the book and learnt so much. I couldn’t help comparing what I knew of Victorian London from my grandparents to early life in the Southern Highlands. Two extremes. I know now why I never choose an ‘A’ rated book over an orange- dotted one, I prefer to chuckle off to sleep rather than shudder. There were, nevertheless, unforgettable beautiful phrases and passages in this book. Enthralling to the end.’

Campo Santo by W G Sebald

‘This man is praised as a noted writer so I felt inadequate in that I did not appreciate him. I did not even finish the book! To me, he was stolid, a sort of diarist without the light touch of Samuel Pepys. Somewhat like a literary travel writer who goes off at a tangent. Even so, I am pleased I had the opportunity to read what all the fuss was about.’

Alice

Picture4

Senior’s Week & A Well-Read Alice

SW13_NSW_Gov_Banner_320x240_JamesThis week is NSW Senior’s Week, the largest celebration for people over 60 in the southern hemisphere.  Seniors Week is an annual NSW Government campaign presented by Ageing Disability and Home Care (ADHC) which provides seniors with opportunities to be active and healthy, independent and recognised for their community involvement. The theme for NSW Seniors Week is Live Life! and reflects the celebration of life, achievements and community engagement. With over 900 free or specially discounted events held for seniors across the state, there is something for everyone to enjoy. (from www.seniorsweek.com).

Here at Shoalhaven Libraries Nowra we have joined the Senior’s Week celebrations by hosting free computer classes for seniors. The classes, which focus on basic internet use and searching,  have been a great success, with each class fully booked. The seniors who attended have also shown an interest in learning more about using social media tools – such as Twitter and Facebook- and tablets and other devices. It’s always exciting to see older generations jumping on board the technology train and learning new skills; I’m sure anyone who works in a library will agree with me when I say that watching people of any age master new ways of finding information – and the happiness and pride that comes with it-  is one of the best parts of the job.

Notes from a Well-Read Alice

We are also celebrating Senior’s Week by introducing a new blogger to the Readers’s Haven team, Alice. Alice is a Shoalhaven Libraries Home Library Service user who, as well as being a voracious reader, writes lovely reviews and reflections on the books she’s been reading. We like her reviews so much we thought we’d share them here on the Readers’ Haven. Thankyou Alice for allowing us to do so, and welcome to the Readers’ Haven!

Notes from a well-read Alice logo

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith

Alice says: “The precise, almost antiquated dialogue of gentle Botswana people is charming. The description of the background is so good one alsmost feels the location is familiar. Mma Ramotswe is proud of the propoertions of her traditional figure, which would send many Australinas rushing to Jenny Craig. The tricky cases are solved by the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency with unpredictable and amusing results. As usual, A.M. Smith excels, but I do prefer his Scotland Street series.”

Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell

Alice says: “When I saw ‘Patricia Cornwell’ I immediately thought of the British author who writes delightful historical fiction, usually set on the south-east coast of England. Was I wrong! This American forensic scientist writes competently about her profession in detail. A body had eyes gouged out, sockets filled with sand and lids superglued back together again. Flesh has been hacked off with a serrated knife. Afterwards, detectives sit calmly together over a coffee discussin the finer points. As I’, an insomniac who reads into the ‘wee small hours’ I was too squeamish to carry on!”

At Home with the Templetons by Monica McInerney

Alice says: “An enjoyable read, set in both Australia and England. Relationships between two families covering tragedy and love with believable emotion. Events were unpredictable with good background descriptions. Nearly 600 pages- a heavy volume, light in content.”

Aunt Dimity and the Next of Kin by Nancy Atherton

Alice says: ‘When I saw the title I thought this book would be a tea-cosy, slippers, granny-type narractive (even though I am a great-grandmother, I tend to forget it). However, it was full of charming people- no violence, witty and funny. It had lots of charming tea-cosy components: small twin boys, horses, matchmaking, a mystery set in England. I loved it.”

Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark

Alice says: “Marred by too many characters, who were bland. As a ‘successful writer of 27 suspense novels,’ there must be something here I missed. A pity, for the mystery was well-plotted. Throughtout the whole volume there wasn’t one smidgen of humour. Miserable.”

La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith

Alice says: “Saved the best till last. AMS is now a top favourite author along with Henning Mankel. The third book of his I’ve enjoyed, and each were completely different. Anthony Burgess has a similar ability to diversify with skill. AMS writtes of the London Blitz with exactitude; I was there. La and her orchestra are the pivotal point. So moving, I mentally cheered them on. Alexander McCall Smith also writes believably from the point of view of a woman. I found myself laughing out loud at times, which is a big bonus.”

Watch out for more of Alice’s notes next month. And don’t forget, we love to hear about what you’ve been reading, so if you’d like to share your reviews with us, please do!

Happy reading!

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012- Challenge Complete

Well, it ‘s almost the end of 2012 and of the Australian Women Writers Reading & Reviewing Challenge.

Here at Nowra Library we displayed and promoted books written by Aussie women for most of 2012, with great success. Loans and circulation of these books increased noticeably throughout the year and it was great to see a wide range of borrowers walk out the door with newly discovered Australian reads.

Similarly, members of library staff who read and contributed reviews for the challenge also made new literary discoveries. Here is a list of the reviews published here at The Readers’ Haven throughout 2012:

Good Oil by Laura Buzo – Jessica
Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan- Kelly
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth- Kelly
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton- Gail
The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough – Marie
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton- Nicole
The Precipice by Virginia Duigan- Sarah
Tiger Men by Judy Nunn- Marie  

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012 – Bittersweet But Delicious…or, Why I’m in love with Laura Buzo.

I have a secret to tell you. I have a crush. Not just any old crush, but a full blown I-want-to-read-everything-you’ve-ever-written-including-that-shopping-list-you-scribbled-down-last-week kind of crush. And it’s on Sydney based young adult author, Laura Buzo.

She’s amazing. Her stories tell tales of longing and grief in suburbia. Her writing is full of wit, grit and feeling. Her female leads are well-read, funny and strong. Her male characters are dangerously attractive. But above all, her books feel REAL.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of YA fiction, but a lot of the time, young adult books sound like they have been written by adults. You know, when they try to sound hip and funky (when no person under the age of 25 says things like ‘hip’ and ‘funky’)? Few have avoided this trap. Think Marchetta, Lawrinson and Crowley.
In Good Oil, 15 year old Woolworths employee Amelia falls hard for 21 year old Chris. What follows is a tale of lust and longing, of being too young to know what you really want, but wanting it anyway. So bad it hurts.

Buzo’s second novel, Holier Than Thou follows Holy and Nick, two twenty-something social workers in inner city Sydney, down the bumpy roads and dim alleyways of the heart.

If you want to try YA fiction, or are already a convert and looking for something to sink your teeth into, I highly recommend taking a bite out of Buzo’s work.

Jess

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012- Review- Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens is a beautiful mish-mash of history, fiction and fairytale. Based on the fairy tale Rapunzel, it weaves together the stories of three characters  related to the tale: Margharita, sold by her parents for a ‘handful of bitter greens’ and imprisoned in a faraway tower, the sorceress Selena Leonelli, whose tale takes the reader into sixteenth century Venice and the paintings of Titian, and Charlotte Rose de la Force, French courtier and relative of the Sun King Louis XIV, who first penned ‘Rapunzel’ in the late 1600’s.  

I think Goodreads sums the novel up nicely: “Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic, and the redemptive power of love.” Hear, hear.

I have been meaning to try something of Kate Forsyth’s for quite some time and am so glad I did! It’s truly a book to get lost in; I couldn’t put it down.

I was lucky enough to hear Kate Forsyth speak about both Bitter Greens and ‘Rapunzel’ at the recent Fairy Tales Re-Imagined symposium held at the University of Technology in Sydney.  It was fantastic to hear how Kate first became interested in Rapunzel and how she used history to shape Bitter Greens. If you’re interested too, you can read more about Charlotte-Rose de la Force and the beginnings of Bitter Greens at Kate’s blog.

Kelly : )

2012 Eclectic Reader Challange – COMPLETE!

Finally finished the challenge! One book a month for each month of the year, comprising 12 different genres. What a great reading challenge – I cant wait to see what Shelley Rae has planned for 2013!

To view my year’s reading – click HERE.

Also, reading one of my favourite childhood reads for the final month go me thinking… What favourite book do you hope to pass on to your kids? (A love of books and reading is a gift that lasts forever, after all.)

Let me know what you’ve been reading!

The Casual Librarian xx

Australian Women Writers Challenge Review- The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

‘The latest novel by Kate Morton is an absorbing tale of a woman haunted, after witnessing a crime committed by her mother, when she was a teenager.  As time goes by Laurel  becomes distant from her family but now, many years later, she is trying to piece together the reason behind her mother’s actions.

A successful actress, Laurel returns home to care for her dying mother and in the process begins to delve into her mother’s past discovering who her mother was and is.  This is a story about family, their sense of identity, misunderstandings, secrets, love and forgiveness.  A thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing read.  A real page turner!’

– Gail

For more information about The Australian Women Writers Reading & Reviewing Challenge, click here

Australian Women Writers Challenge Review- The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett takes up the story of the Bennet sisters some 20 years on from the events of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride & Prejudice. It centres on Mary, the sister destined to be a spinster and tend to their obnoxious mother.

However after Mrs. Bennet’s demise Mary craves independence and through the influences  of editorial letters written by a mystery author, Argus, she embarks on an investigative adventure to discover the reasons for the social conditions of the age. While Mary is on this path certain developments lead her into danger when she meets Father Dominius and the Children of Jesus,  with surprising revelations…

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet is very easy reading with the customary theme of leaving and the continuation of the lives of the Bennet family with romance being found no matter how late in life. It’s  funny, tragic and engaging at times with the ever present theme that every woman yearns to leave her mark upon the world.

Marie

For more information on the Australian Women Writers Reading and Reviewing Challenge click here