Monday, 16 July 2018

The Luster of Lost Things by Sophie Chen Keller

This is a delightful, deeply human novel about young Walter Lavender Jnr. Walter Jnr was born three days after his father Walter Snr had been reported missing over the sea whilst co-piloting a plane to Bombay. Walter Jnr was not a problem baby or child, he just never spoke until he was seven years old. This story is about Walter from the age 12.

Walter understood his communication disorder and how to deal with it. He learnt to say just what was necessary to get by and his mother Lucy encouraged him to write down important information. Walter also found he had a gift - he could find lost things. People were careless and lost the most important things, but Walter would listen to them and write down where they had been, when the article had been lost and go out and find it for them. All the time still looking for his lost father.

Lucy ran a bakery, cooking her own cakes from the kitchen at the back where she lived with Walter Jnr. The way Walter Jnr describes it makes you want to visit this magical bakery.

"There were rum-infused black and white penguin cookies that waddled and tipped over each other and competitive chestnut tortes that galloped across the display and trampled the molasses pecan cinnamon rolls, and there were desserts too - pumpkin five-spice ice-cream bombes that didn't melt until you ate them and wedges of salted butter country apple galette that trickled into your knotted muscles to relax them and towering squares of fizzy angel food cake that rendered you just a bit lighter and monogrammed petits fours that reminded you of the places you came from and lemon verbena chiffon cupcakes that freshened you up and chilled lychee puddings that slowed time and made you breathe deeper."

Lucy kept a special mysterious book in the shop window of the bakery. One day it goes missing and it is Walter Jnr's mission to find it. How hard can that be? After all he is the master of finding lost  things. When their landlord suddenly threatens to close the shop, it us up to Walter Jnr to find the missing book and save his mother's shop.

An excellent read, one that makes the reader smile and wonder.

Posted by Flaxmere Library Book Chat

Catalogue link: The Lustre of Lost Thing

Friday, 13 July 2018

Uncommon People: The rise and fall of the rock stars by David Hepworth

David Hepworth says the Rock Star is dead; so what happened? The idea still lives on but what do we see in them? Confident reckless bastards full of sexual charisma; with great hair and interesting shoes?  Do we wish we were them, to stay forever young and live out their songs in real life? Do we wish for the double-edged sword called fame or is it about the music, the fans, the money? In many ways these people changed our lives and our fantasies, so it’s our story as well.

So what makes a Rock star, a Rock Star? Different musicians have different ideas about stardom just like you or I. TVs thrown out windows, Rolls Royces in swimming pools, drugged-up parties.
The Rolling Stones, Bowie, Morrissey, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen etc. they have all added their own spin on the phrase.

Hepworth has written a year by year look at the music industry and the names that were big in that period.  This a well written snap-shot on rock history. He also gives you a playlist for each year so you can go and search for the music of the period. Even if you listen to it in a digital format.

Music of course today is different, it’s all Disneyfied or record company label created. Occasionally a lone voice like Lana Del Ray will pop up and sear the landscape but overall it’s pretty boring.
A quote in the book says pop stars are only as good as the songs but rock stars will go on forever.
He’s not wrong.

So: Un-Common people is a reference to Common People by Pulp.
Check out the full lyrics on Google Lyrics; the Pulp video on YouTube; or for extra credits the William Shatner version of the same song on YouTube.

Posted by Rob M

Catalogue link: Uncommon People

Monday, 9 July 2018

Book Chat Round Up

The Pearler's Wife by Roxane Dhand is set in the far north-west of Australia around 1912, as young Maisie Porter is sent to Buccaneer Bay for an arranged marriage with a pearl magnate cousin. But Maitland is indifferent towards her, and sometimes cruel, while Maisie can't help feeling drawn to William Cooper, hired as a pearl worker. Secrets and danger add to the dramatic tension in this novel about an interesting aspect of Australian colonial history.

The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard - Her first love confessed to five murders, and ten years on, Alison thinks she will never have to relive the horror of that time. But when a body is fished out of Dublin's Grand Canal it looks like he's started again. Only how could he when Will has been in prison all this time. Will agrees to help the police, but will only talk to one person - Alison. This is a gripping novel with a surprise ending you won't see coming.

Murder in the Holy City by Simon Beaufort is a historical mystery set in 1100s Jerusalem, the first in a series featuring Sir Geoffrey Mappestone, a Crusader knight. Sir Geoffrey is tired of the crusades and would like a quiet life pursuing his interest in medicine and science. But someone is killing knights and priests using the same ornate dagger and Sir Geoffrey is ordered to investigate. This is a well-researched novel with a brilliant setting and plenty of pace.

Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott (a nom de plume used by Agatha Christie) - Not a murder in sight in this novel about Joan Scudamore, a middle-class wife and mother who is held up by floodwaters in the middle of a trip home from Iraq. While she waits to continue her journey she does some soul searching, looking back on her life. Considered a quiet masterpiece and the book Agatha Christie declared to be her favourite, it is easy to imagine it was inspired by a period in the author's life when she disappeared for a few days, causing much speculation. Definitely a book Agatha Christie fans won’t want to miss.
Island Wife: living on the edge of the wild by Judy Fairbains follows the story of the author's marriage and life on a Scottish island. Judy is only nineteen when she is swept off her feet by her Wild Pioneer to a life of adventure in the Hebredes. She bears five children, learns to run a farm and holiday cottages, starts a recording studio and a whale watching business. This is a terrific memoir of a marriage and a family, their challenges and ups and downs, in a very special place.

Posted by Flaxmere Library Book Chat

Catalogue links: 
The Pearler's Wife
The Liar's Girl
Murder in the Holy City
Absent in the Spring
Island Wife

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

The Last Girl: My story of captivity and my fight against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad

 ‘…Nadia refused to be silenced. She has defied all the labels that life has given her: Orphan. Rape victim. Slave. Refugee. She has instead created new ones: Survivor. Yazidi leader. Women’s advocate. Nobel Peace Prize nominee. United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, and now author. 
Amal Clooney

This biography paints a very clear picture of what life is like for a young woman living in a country taken over by ISIS. If you are like me and find news coverage of war in the Middle East overwhelming, books like The Last Girl make the history and situation very real.

Nadia Murad lived a quiet and rewarding life in Iraq, as a member of the close-knot Yazidi community. Her large family was loving and supportive and she dreamed of becoming a teacher or owning a beauty salon. Until the day ISIS came to her village. Every person was herded in the school. Young men were forced to lift their arms up and those without armpit hair were taken away to be used as suicide bombers or become fighters. Older men were taken outside and shot if they did not convert to Islam (which none did); this included Nadia’s six brothers.

Older women such as Nadia’s mother were also shot and swept into mass graves. Nadia was taken away and forced, along with thousands of other Yazidi girls into the ISIS slave trade.

If this all sounds too much to bear, the foreword by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney (married to some guy you may have heard of called George), provides some hope. When Nadia finally escapes from ISIS they together bring the case for justice against ISIS to the United Nations Security Council and win; and a landmark resolution was adopted to create an investigation team to collect evidence to begin war crimes and genocide charges.

I will leave the last word to Nadia:

‘More than anything else, I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.’

Reviewed by Katrina

Catalogue link: The Last Girl

Friday, 29 June 2018

Widows by Lynda La Plante

When a security van heist goes disastrously wrong, three armed robbers are burnt to death, and three women are left widows.

Wealthy antique dealer/criminal/money launderer Harry Rawlins leaves behind not only his bereft widow Dolly, but a safe full of ledgers detailing Harry’s previous criminal activities (including the detailed plan for the robbery that went wrong). Dolly has three options: hand over the ledgers to the police; hand them over to Harry’s arch rivals the Fisher brothers; or finish off what Harry and his accomplices died trying to achieve.

After run-ins with both the police and the Fisher brothers, Dolly is reluctant to hand the ledgers over and instead recruits her fellow widows to steal one million pounds. Having a plan is one thing; executing it so they don’t get caught or even worse, end up as cinders, is something else.

Widows is the tie-in novel to Lynda La Plante first screenplay for television: the highly rated 1980s show ‘Widows’. When film director Steve McQueen bought the rights to adapt Widows into a movie, it inspired La Plante to edit and re-shape her original book, hoping to capture a new audience.
And for me she did.

As the drama unfolded I was torn. Did I want these band of ‘wannabe’ robbers to succeed where their professional criminal husbands failed, or did I want the police, in the form of the obnoxious but driven Chief Inspector George Resnick, to foil them and prove the old adage ‘crime doesn’t pay’?

With such strongly written female characters it was inevitable the reader ends up rooting for the underdogs as they battle against both the Fisher brothers and the police.

Not for the faint hearted (there are some grisly scenes) this fast paced crime novel is readable now as it was when it was first published in 1983.

Viewing the movie trailer online there are some radical changes from both the book and the television series not the least being it is set in modern day Chicago. With Gone girl author Gillian Flynn as the screen writer and a starring role for Liam Neeson the movie will be something to look out for.

Reviewed by Miss Moneypenny

Catalogue link: Widows

Sunday, 24 June 2018

In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Nora leads a quiet life living alone writing crime fiction, when out of the blue, she gets an invitation to a school friend's hen party weekend. She hasn't seen Clare since they were sixteen and both fell for the same boy - James Cooper. Oddly it was plain-Jane Nora who hit it off with James, but now, ten years later, it is James that Clare is going to marry.

Ruth Ware writes pacey thrillers with a female main character who is in danger and usually an unreliable narrator as well. She's also a dab hand at atmospheric settings. So it isn't surprising the setting for this hen weekend is a stark, glass-walled house somewhere in a forest in the north of England.

Huge pine trees loom around the house adding to the claustrophobia of being cut off from the world when the landline goes down and it begins to snow. And then there's the gun. Where other people hang a nice painting or mirror over their fireplace, here the owners have attached a shotgun. It reminds me of the Chekov rule: if you introduce a gun in Act One, you have to use it in Act Three. Say no more.

There are only a few fellow guests: crazy Flo who is obsessed by making Clare's hen do really special; wise-cracking Nina; Clare's gay friend Tom who brings the cocaine; and young mum Melanie who can't stop worrying about her baby. Clare turns up and she's just as beautiful as ever, but what lies beneath her perfect exterior? The atmosphere is particularly tense for Nora still smarting over her break-up with James, so long ago.

Ware does a great job of describing toxic female friendships and the darker turns they can take.  In a Dark, Dark Wood is a great read for a cold winter's night. There's plenty happening to keep you turning the pages and the tension keeps up right to the end.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: In a Dark Dark Wood

Thursday, 21 June 2018

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell

“I knew, in that moment, and perhaps for the first time, that I would one day die; that at some point there would be nothing left of me”

Maggie writes the story of her life based on the seventeen times that she was close to death. The chapters are named after the part of her body that the most damage either had been done or would have been done to, should death have occurred. Some experiences are common and could happen to anyone while others feel just that much more serious, closer to the end.

Death could be as close as if you had taken just one more step closer to the road as a massive truck swoops by. It could be as close to you as the time when Maggie was hiking alone and met a strange man. Her gut told her that something wasn’t right; years later she would find out just how right she was. Death could come in the form of childhood illness when no one expects you to survive. Or it could be coming for the family and friends that you love and care about.

As a first time reader of Maggie O’Farrell, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this memoir. Although the subject matter seems dark and unforgiving, Maggie writes in such a way that you forget this and instead become carried away and invested in the people and their stories. This is a book I would highly recommend to anyone.

Posted by Kristen

Catalogue link: I Am, I Am, I Am