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 : )

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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.

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!