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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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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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 pearl thief by Fiona McIntosh

Cynthia Pearl ThiefI enjoyed this historical novel. There is horror, revenge and love. It is a story that shows the atrocity of the Nazi regime and the survival of the human spirit. Katerina is shown kindness when needed, and this helps her survive and be able to love again. This balances all the emotions throughout the story. I know many people’s stories did not end so well during and after the war, but it is nice to see a positive ending to this story.

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Educated by Tara Westover

Amy EducatedEducated is the memoir of a woman brought up in a family that was isolated by their strong religious beliefs, and fear of intervention, which led to them avoiding doctors and school. Living in rural Idaho, there was so much dirt, danger, and ignorance, as well as emotional and physical abuse, as to make this a most uncomfortable read. Eventually, thanks to a thirst for knowledge and understanding, Tara is able to leave, be educated (all the way to Cambridge, Harvard and a PhD) and be freed from abuse. Though not always a pleasant read, it is a moving account of the hardships of ignorance and poverty, and the power of education.

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The bones of paradise by Jonis Agee

cynthia-the-bones-of-paradise.jpgI was slowly drawn into this fractured family trying to live (I should say survive) in the Nebraska Sand Hills after two bodies are discovered. You are then taken through the events following this discovery and the events that led up to the murders. The story was harsh, sad, hopeful and a good history lesson, a very good western story. I learnt about the horror of Wounded Knee and the harsh life of a rancher. And like any good western it had a touch of romance as well.

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Stolen beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese

Cynthia Stolen BeautyHistorical fiction based on fact. Told through the eyes of Adele, whose portrait is painted by Klimt, and her niece Maria, who flees Vienna during World War II. Although their stories are decades apart they share a strength of spirit. They were remarkale women. The story balances the excesses of Vienna’s Succession Art Movement with the Nazi rule and dispossession of Jewish wealth. I love a story that invites me to explore the topic further, I was looking at the artists mentioned and their work. You will want to watch the movie Woman in gold after reading this story.

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