The last of my May reads

These are two non-fiction reads this month.  Wake up was read in a sitting and it certainly shed light on many aspects of our use of digital technology.

“Your essential guide to the biggest revolution of the past century. David Fagan was at the forefront of this revolution as he helped take one of Australia’s largest media organisations from print to digital. In Wake Up, he explores the challenges and opportunities of the digital age from his position on the front line. He chronicles the rise of social media, online shopping, the Uber and Airbnb phenomena and the upending of traditional industries. Fagan observes the big emerging trends and examines the technologies leading this change, as the arrival of robots and artificial intelligence affects the way we live, work and play. If you haven’t been paying attention, now is the time to wake up.” (Goodreads)

This is a great read and it will be interesting to see if his predictions come to pass.

Screen Schooled I borrowed as I had recently read an article where a school in Melbourne had returned to using textbooks rather than texts online.

“As two veteran teachers who have taught thousands of students, Joe Clement and Matt Miles have seen firsthand how damaging technology overuse and misuse has been to our students. Rather than becoming better problem solvers, kids look to Google to answer their questions for them. Rather than deepening students’ intellectual curiosity, educational technology is too often cumbersome and distracting, causing needless frustration and greatly extending homework time. Rather than becoming the great equalizer, electronic devices are widening the achievement gap. On a mission to educate and empower parents, Clement and Miles provide many real-world examples and cite multiple studies showing how technology use has created a wide range of cognitive and social deficits in our young people. They lift the veil on what’s really going on at school: teachers who are powerless to curb cell phone distractions; zoned-out kids who act helpless and are unfocused, unprepared, and antisocial; administrators who are too-easily swayed by the pro-tech “science” sponsored by corporate technology purveyors. They provide action steps parents can take to demand change and make a compelling case for simpler, smarter, more effective forms of teaching and learning.” (Goodreads)

This is a book, which if given to a group of parents or teachers would certainly provide lively debate.  Well worth the read.

I liked this comment from Maya on Goodreads.

“Just as dropping off a child at a library doesn’t guarantee that child will learn to read, so too does giving a child technology not guarantee that child will know how to use it appropriately.”

I suggest you go to Goodreads and read the reviews there if you are unsure if it is a book you need to read, particularly if you have school aged children.

I have also just finished A Gentleman in Moscow, apparently a mega bestseller about to be made into a tv series.  I gave it five stars so it was definitely one I loved but I will write about it in my June reads.

Four more to add to my challenge

The Return of the Dancing Master is another crime fiction – I just can’t keep away from crime fiction.

“When retired policeman Herbert Molin is found brutally slaughtered on his remote farm in the northern forests of Sweden, police find strange tracks in the snow — as if someone had been practicing the tango. Stefan Lindman, a young police officer recently diagnosed with mouth cancer, decides to investigate the murder of his former colleague, but is soon enmeshed in a mystifying case with no witnesses and no apparent motives. Terrified of the disease that could take his life, Lindman becomes more and more reckless as he unearths the chilling links between Molin’s death and an underground neo-Nazi network that runs further and deeper than he could ever have imagined.”

This was a riveting read. Set in the wilds of Sweden the gloom of the weather sets the tone.

Another crime fiction, this time by a Scottish author. I have read many Stuart MacBride books and none has disappointed me.

“Beware of the dark…Welcome to the Misfit Mob – where Police Scotland dumps the officers it can’t get rid of, but wants to. Officers like DC Callum MacGregor, lumbered with all the boring go-nowhere cases. So when an ancient mummy is found at the Oldcastle tip, it’s his job to track down its owner.But then Callum uncovers links between his mummified corpse and three missing young men, and life starts to get a lot more interesting.No one expects the Misfit Mob to solve anything, but right now they’re all that stands between a killer’s victims and a slow lingering death. Can they prove everyone wrong before someone else dies?”
This MacBride novel is a stand alone novel therefore no links to his previous characters.  It was a great read. 

This Tim Winton novel is only a short read but completely compelling.  His descriptive writing of the Australian bush is exquisite.

“In The Shepherd’s Hut, Winton crafts the story of Jaxie Clackton, a brutalized rural youth who flees from the scene of his father’s violent death and strikes out for the vast wilds of Western Australia. All he carries with him is a rifle and a waterjug. All he wants is peace and freedom. But surviving in the harsh saltlands alone is a savage business. And once he discovers he’s not alone out there, all Jaxie’s plans go awry. He meets a fellow exile, the ruined priest Fintan MacGillis, a man he’s never certain he can trust, but on whom his life will soon depend.

The Shepherd’s Hut is a thrilling tale of unlikely friendship and yearning, at once brutal and lyrical, from one of our finest storytellers.” (Goodreads)

The Silent Patient was a psychological thriller.

Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?” (Goodreads)

I don’t usually read psychological thrillers but this was certainly worth reading. A twisted tale.

I have done lots of reading this month. Here are the first three books.

The Scent of You by Maggie Alderson was one I borrowed from the library.  It was a feel good read.  I have read other titles by this author and have enjoyed them hence my reason for selecting this one from the library.“Are you still married if you haven’t seen your husband for months?

Polly’s life is great. Her children are away at uni, her glamorous mother — still modelling at eighty-five — is happily settled in a retirement village, and her perfume blog is taking off. Then her husband announces he needs some space and promptly vanishes.

As Polly grapples with her bewildering situation, she clings to a few new friends to keep her going – Shirlee, the loudmouthed yoga student; Guy, the mysterious, infuriating and hugely talented perfumer; and Edward, an old flame from university.

And while she distracts herself with the heady world of luxury perfume, Polly knows she can’t keep reality at bay forever. Eventually she is forced to confront some difficult truths: about her husband, herself and who she really wants to be.”

This was a romance with a twist.  A fun read.

My second book is one that I saw my daughter reading.  It was an unusual book, and a bit quirky, but spoke volumes about society’s expectations of women.

“She found sanctuary in a supermarket. Now she’s about to lose it.

Keiko isn’t normal. At school and university, people find her odd, and her family worries she will never fit in. To make them happy, Keiko takes a job at a newly opened convenience store where she finds peace and purpose in simple daily tasks.

But in Keiko’s circle it just won’t do for an unmarried woman to spend her time stacking shelves and ordering green tea. As the pressure to find a new job – or worse, a husband – increases, Keiko is forced to take desperate action…”

This book is only a short read.  It won the Akutagawa Prize.

Denise Mina is one of my favourite Scottish authors and I have read most of her books.  This is a fairly recent one and again it is one I borrowed from the library.

“Salt water lifts blood. Only salt water.

Loch Lomond is a mile deep but the woman’s body surfaced anyway.

Found bludgeoned and dumped in the water, she now haunts Iain Fraser, the man who put her there. She trusted him and now that misplaced trust is gnawing through Iain’s chest. He thinks it will kill him.

Nearby Helensburgh is an idyllic Victorian town. One-time home to a quarter of all the millionaires in Britain, it is quaint, sleepy and chocolate-box pretty. But the real town is shot through with deception, lies and vested interests.

As tensions rise and the police seek a killer, the conflicts that lurk beneath Helensburgh’s calm waters threaten to explode.

All Iain Fraser has to do is keep on lying.”

This book was full of intrigue.  It certainly had plenty of suspense. Another great read from Denise Mina.


Such an unusual book

“Heather Rose’s novel, “The Museum of Modern Love,” is a part-fact, part-fiction tale of art, love, grief and convergence.” (Joe Wigdahl for The New York Times).

I had not heard of Marina Abramovic before reading this book and I had to check her out on the internet to discover who she was.  The book revolves around a performance by this artist.  A truly remarkable woman.

You need to read this piece by Steve Wieberg to fully appreciate how mind blowing this book is.

There is another review by Tacey Richter which is also well worth reading.

If I tried to review the book I couldn’t do it justice so I will leave that to the links I have included for two professional reviews.

This is one of my favourite books this year.


Well that has changed my previous perceptions.

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe has certainly changed my view of the history of Australian Aboriginal people. This book ought to be made compulsory reading for every Australian. There is a Ted talk by Bruce Pascoe that covers some of the ground covered in the book (…) but the book goes into much more detail.

I thought I had a fairly good idea of the history of the Australian aboriginal people but this book points out how history has been coloured by the perceptions of those writing about it. In many cases the actual evidence has been ignored so that history has been written to suit the person writing it.

“Dark Emu puts forward an argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer tag for precolonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing – behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag. Pascoe challenges the hunter-gatherer tag as a convenient lie. Almost all the evidence comes from the records and diaries of the Australian explorers, impeccable sources.”

This was an eye opening read.

Three that have a link

I have had a sudden burst of reading and these are three of the books I have read.

This one certainly provided a bit of humour to the complexities of growing old. It was a light read and thoroughly enjoyable.

The second book was also linked to old age but with the added twist of involving members of an online bookclub.

I loved this book.

There were so many aspects of the story that reminded me of people I had known or still know.  I loved the fact that there were four books that had been selected by the readers to reveal something of themselves.  Of particular interest to me was the choice of Tirra Lirra by the River as I had it in my pile of “To Read” books as it was a winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 1978.  Mention was also made of the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox , I had written about her in a previous post in 2011.

Tirra Lirra by the river was a short novel, only 141 pages.  Set in Brisbane, Sydney and London over a period of seventy years it is the story of the escapes of Nora Porteous.

“The tightness of a small-town family life, a sanctimonious and mean-hearted husband, the torpor of suburbia – these she endures and finally escapes.  On her flight from cruel realities she is sustained by desperate courage, discerning intelligence and ebullient humour.”

There is a wonderful article by the author Anna Funder on the set texts for secondary students in Melbourne in the 1980s which I suggest you have a look at.

“. . . . Tirra Lirra was a set text for secondary school students in Melbourne, Australia, along with Christina Stead’s masterpiece The Man Who Loved Children and Carson McCullers’ sublime The Member of the Wedding. They are a trifecta of high art, terror and truth that are almost too powerful to give to teenagers, which is to say exactly what they crave and need (as opposed to “relevant” books about “issues” which are “resolved” in candy-floss epiphanies and “growth and change moments”).. . . . “

At the end of her article she acknowledges the influence this book had on her own novel All That I Am.

I highly recommend this novel.