Books – since May

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my reading and listening books but one of the nice things about long haul travel is lots of reading and listening time. So here’s what I’ve been through since May and as usual I am always looking for new ideas of good reads.

Tommo and Hawk – (Audible) Bryce Courtney. 

Second in the trilogy set during the period of Australia becoming an independent country. I enjoyed this one almost as much as the potato factory and learned a lot about the New Zealand whaling industry too. Like the first book there is an abrupt and shocking ending. Terrific

Solomon’s Sons (Audible) Bryce Courtney 

The final in the trilogy and my least favourite of the three. Maybe because there was a lot about war in it – in particular Gallipoli which is not really my thing to read about but I felt the characters were far less fleshed out and real than the fantastic people in the first to books.

The Girls – Emma Cline

Based on Manson cult but from perspective of adult looking back on her 15 year old self. You know this is not going to be a light and fun read but the lead up to the eventual denouement keeps you reading. 

This must be the place – Maggie o’Farrell. 

Unresolved Relationships over decades are always a good read. I liked the first 3/4 of the book better than the end and the female lead – the former actress – was a character I found rather irritating – but I enjoyed the male storyteller’s perspective. 

One for my Baby – Tony Parsons. 

I liked this as it was set in Hong Kong and London – two places I know quite well but really these locations are the backdrop for a man who has a lot of growing up to do after a tragedy impact him. If you grew up in the UK, especially London, you will appreciate his writing and there are times when he is quite funny.

White Gardenia – (Audible) Belinda Alexander 

Interesting story about White Russians in Harbin and Shanghai who subsequently get deported to Australia via the Philippines. Well researched on life in Australia and the migrant camps at that time but I found the characters a bit annoying. Also this is one where I forgot to check I liked the readers voice before I bought it – and frankly I didn’t!

The Dry -Jane Harper. 

Although this is a ripping crime story set in country Victoria, Australia – it is also a story about how tough it can be to live in such places and the abundance of secrets of small towns – especially when the long drought threatens everyone’s livelihoods and at times their commons sense as well. Well written.

The Glass Room – Simon Mawer.

I really liked this story about a beautiful house built in the Czech Republic before the war and revolution and what happens to the house and the people in it over the following decades. The house has many lives and ends up being one of the strongest characters in the book – even though any house is only a reflection of those who live in it. 

Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty. 

This is the same writer of Big Little Lies so if you enjoyed that you will enjoy this. An entertaining read for a flight with, as you would expect with that title, lots of guilt being felt all round – but why? Well you need to read it to find out.

Five Star Billionaire – Tash Aw

Four Malaysians find themselves in Shanghai trying to deal with what life has thrown them. Mostly the stories are separate but with some intersections along the way and some redemption too. The star is that saucy and demanding mistress – Shanghai – having lived there myself I enjoyed the way the writer shows how the city drives behaviours and actions as it sucks you into its vortex.

Commonwealth – Ann Patchett

Understated story of two families that spans around 50 years from the 60’s and two states in the US. It is strong on sibling rivalries, relationships and eventually maturity. Not that much happens so it is a slow burn but very subtly written as is the case with many of her books.

A Fraction of the Whole – Steve Tolz.

I loved this book. It is mostly about a father and son and includes some entertaining if somewhat outrageous short stories within the broader novel. This is very cleverly done – being both laugh out loud funny and sad at the same time. There are some other characters – but not many – although I loved the criminal who is desperate to write a guide on how to be a good criminal – very funny segments.

Not my Father’s Son – Alan Cumming

This autobiography was one I listened to on Audible. It is read by Alan Cumming (it’s not usual for the author to read their own works but in the case of this wonderful actor he does an excellent job telling his own story). The book jumps back and forth neatly between “then” and “now” and is actually a fascinating story about his background, relationship with his very difficult father and other family mysteries that came to light after he was part of the TV program “Who do you think you are”?  I thought this was excellent.

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