On beauty by Zadie Smith

amy-on-beauty.jpgAll the way up to five stars for the Howards End connection. This is an intricate book about the complicated and messy people in two families. People who are struggling to find where they belong, what true love is, and who they really are. It is emotional, political, thought provoking, and I loved it.

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The spy who came in from the cold by John le Carre

Amy The Spy who came in from the coldI never knew before that this was a novel studied at school, but I can see why. It has the twists and turns, and treachery of an adventure filled spy novel, but it relentlessly dark, bleak even, and so very clever. Alec Leamas, after years of spying in Berlin, wants out, but agrees to one more assignment, which will take him into Communist Germany. It’s about how complicated politics, war, and life itself is; complicated, cruel, seemingly pointless, yet with the glimmer of light – love, kindness and what is deeply right – to strive for. I found it enthralling, powerful, and darkly beautiful.

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Scrublands by Chris Hammer

amy-scrublands.jpgScrublands is Australian rural noir, set in a fictional town in the Riverina. A year ago, a priest shot a number of men dead, and was then shot himself by the local policeman. A journalist, with his own demons, arrives to write a piece about how the town is coping, only to uncover, and become entangled, in layers of secrets. There is a great sense of place; the oppressive heat and bleak landscape mirroring the tension between the townspeople, the police and the news people. The mystery is deep and complex, the characters compelling, and the plight of the small country town in drought, utterly believable.

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Half Moon Lake by Kirsten Alexander

Cynthia Half Moon LakeThe reader knows the truth of the story, but it is how each of the characters deal with and treat this truth, that makes the story interesting. I had to keep reminding myself that the story is set in the 1910s and crime investigation worked so differently then. Kristen adds layers to the story, dealing with race and wealth, and how each is regarded and treated. The story is based on a real case and I was glad I read about it after reading Half Moon Lake – it would of ruined the building tension throughout the story – everything had to turn out right, didn’t it?

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On the beach by Nevil Shute

amy-on-the-beach.jpgWhat would you do if you knew the world was to end in just a few months? After a short, nuclear war in the northern hemisphere, the only people left alive are down south, but radiation sickness is slowly heading towards them. Less technical than many Shute novels, this is a fascinating look at what could have happened if war broke out in the sixties, and how people might have dealt with impending death. It’s thoughtful, sweet, amusingly old-fashioned (the female characters!), and ultimately moving.

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Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Cindy Nutshell

Whoa! This book was different. Written from the perspective of a baby still in the womb it tells the tale of a likely doomed trio that includes his mother, her lover and his father. The embryo infant contemplates the fates of his tragically flawed family and what influence he can possibly have in the grand scheme of things.

I really enjoyed listening to this on borrow box and it is also available in many of our libraries in traditional book format.

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The stranger by Kate Riordan

Cynthia The StrangerThree women are sent to Penhallow during the war with the Land Army, each with pasts full of secrets. A woman is found dead on the beach. We are then taken back in time, to six weeks before and find out what has happened and who the dead woman is. I was easily sucked into the story and the lives of those at Penhallow, and all too soon the story was finished – a good weekend read.

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The bookshop

Amy The Bookshop Surely an English, period movie about a bookshop is going to be right up my alley. Florence Green, a widow, decides to fulfill a dream and open a bookshop in a small town by the sea, despite no encouragement from her lawyer, banker, or the townspeople. The scenery is lovely, as are the costumes, and Florence and the reclusive Mr Brundish are endearing characters, but I felt that the film didn’t quite live up to its promise. I still enjoyed it, but I can cope with a bleak and sad ending. If you want bookish and happy, stick to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

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