’50 Ways to Grieve Your Lover’ by Glennys Marsdon – author talk review

IMG_5180Glennys Marsdon has only ever paid attention to her nails once in her life.  For ninety days her nails were perfectly polished and manicured, the first ninety days after her husband’s death.  Glennys said in her talk last night that this small task was one she could manage perfectly in that traumatic time and so it meant a great deal to her.  She also spoke about a bereaved partner’s private right to communicate (or not) with their lost loved one in any way that belonged between them.  It was described as a deeply personal right that was nobody else’s business.  The beauty of Glenys’s talk is that it was pragmatically rich.  In the first ninety days expect to be dissolute, ninety to 365 days small steps take you somewhere – and she IMG_517950waysdescribed ways to take those steps.

Many in our audience clearly were experiencing or had experienced similar loss and so the appreciation for Glennys Marsdon’s talk ran very deep indeed.  The libraries have purchased copies of her book ’Fifty Ways to Grieve Your Lover’, a gift of her wisdom and experience.



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Poum and Alexandre: A Paris Memoir by Catherine de Saint Phalle

Poum-and-Alexandre-584x878This is an elegant and literary biography retelling the story of the author’s eccentric parents. One slowly begins to understand who Poum and Alexandre are – at first seeming strange, bewildering, and at times unlikeable, but as the story unfolds one tendril at a time, one feels sad at the ultimate tragedy. There is the sadness of a child who did not seem to be parented, but who retells the story of her parents in an almost detached way, bringing them to vivid life as flawed but intense people who experience life differently.

In all of this, Paris is the charming, fabled backdrop to a narrative that seems like a fable itself at times as it replays situations and conversations from the point of view of the child, Catherine de Saint Phalle. There are many conversations around art and literature and history, but a sadness that pervades it all.

The book opens with, “My mother, Marie-Antoinette, likes strange and sad things”, and Catherine fantasizes about taking her mother to a house she has painted and fixed, and “We will live there together, my mother and I, in this secret house where she will be happy at last and talk to me and explain who she truly is”.

“Poum and Alexandre” is a biography with a difference, and recommended, not just for the story but for the way it is told. It will resonate with anyone who has lived with people who walk to a different beat, perhaps because of mental illness, or because of what life has thrown at them.

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‘With Just One Suitcase’ by Cheryl Koenig

This is a marvellous story about two boys, Frici and Istvan, on Jewish and one Catholic, living in withjustonethe same town in Romania when World War 2 breaks out and changes their lives and that of their families forever. The families crossed paths in their town before the war, and miraculously meet each other again in Australia after many years in a way that sees them linked forever.

The story spans three generations, and the writer, daughter of Frici, vividly brings the story to life as she follows her characters chronologically, first one family and then the other, through all the twists and turns. There is humour, but there is much darkness too. Frici’s father says, as war ends, “Even now, the naïve don’t understand that although the war is over, another one has begun”. As Stalin exerts his stranglehold in ever increasing ways on the people of Romania, Frici’s family is forced to escape, but he and his brother are separated from their parents for some years before being reunited in another continent. Istvan from the Koenig family is forced to work for some years in a Russian labour camp, eventually able to make his way with his brother to Australia.

Life in Australia is good for the families, but war and the post-war experiences in Communist Romania have left their marks. This is a triumphant story, one that is ordinary on one level as it has been repeated by so many that have sought refuge on Australia’s shores, but extraordinary because the story of triumph over adversity, of hope against hope, and the striving of life over mere existence is extraordinary.

“With Just One Suitcase” is a great story and provides a view into the experiences of immigrants, an insight into what happened to many Romanians through the war, as well as being the story of a family.



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The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Levin

aj-fikry9 out of 10 for ‘The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry’ by Gabrielle Levin in another Monday mini book review. (Thanks to Mundaring School for Seniors Book Club.) Book Club members loved the character of A.J. Fikry, the subtle humour and the delightful development of the story. The story is about a grumpy book store owner, A.J. Fikry, who is very unhappy with the way life is unfolding for him. The things that once gave him pleasure, such as his books and his bookstore, no longer do. Then a package arrives, and everything begins to change. This is a book with some wonderful quotes; for instance, “We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works”.

A wonderfully refreshing novel about life, about change and transformation, about what we love, and about books. In short, a recommended read!

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The Dry by Jane Harper

the-dryThe Dry by Jane Harper real page-turner with twists and turns leading to an unexpected conclusion. This is a remarkable and accomplished debut novel. The descriptions of the Australian country town and farming lands that forms the backdrop to this novel are wonderfully evocative as you can smell the dust, feel the heat, and watch the action play out, so beautifully is this written.

Federal Police investigator, Aaron Falk, goes back to the town of Kiewarra to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, and his friend’s wife and daughter. The deaths are the result of a murder suicide. Falk is only intending to stay for the funeral, but old memories and secrets begin to be revealed. An ever-increasing web of deceits, small-town prejudices, and long-suppressed events swirl about in a narrative that is wonderfully descriptive but direct, moving the reader forward in a momentum of suspense as tantalising clues unfold.

Definitely looking forward to more novels from this author!

This would be a great read for the holidays, or a Christmas present.


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Family Secrets by Liz Byrski

 A mini-review from the Hills Book Club of one of our most-borrowed fiction titles (by one of our most popular authors). 

lizIt was given a 7 out of 10, and thought to be an easy read with human relationships believably portrayed. A family tree at the beginning of the book helps the reader keep track of the many characters. The book club said it is a ‘recommended good read’.

Sounds like a great book for reading while holidaying!

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Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier rated 9/10 by our Mundaring School for Seniors’ chevalierBookclub. The lowest score was 7 – so this novel by the author of books such as Girl with a Pearl Earring, Falling Angels, and most recently, At the Edge of the Orchard, is a recommended read. Tracy Chevalier is very popular with our patrons –  Falling Angels has been out 100 times from Mundaring Library since November 2001, consistently borrowed.

Remarkable Creatures was enjoyed for its beautiful language, characterisation, and description of life in the early 1800s. It centres around the discovery of a curious fossil by Mary Anning, and the way this discovery challenges the thinking of the day. It is a novel about being a female in a male-dominated arena, about friendship and all its ups and downs, and so much more.


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Staff Picks for the week

Here are some of the new items that caught the eye of staff this week.

boywhoThe boy Who Unplugged the Sea by Paul Brown – a delightful ‘Whoops what have I done’ story about action and consequence, and let’s hope he finds the refill tap!

staff-pics-2 Cornwall Coast Path by Henry Stedman – for those who are looking for the trek of a lifetime this is an all you need to know guide to trek the South-west U.K. coast from Bude to Pymouth, some of the most breathtaking country and coastline in the world – as seen on popular TV series such as Doc Martin.


DVD – Convict Women and Children in Australiaconvict

This documentary looks straight into the shadows of the period of colonisation and its impact on human life.

From 1787 to 1853 over 25,000 women, nearly half of them Irish, were transported in the dark holds of ships on a 16,000 mile journey to the other side of the world as bonded labour. Arriving alone, or with small children in the colonies, these single, married and widowed women lived, loved, toiled and dies under Australian skies. In a two-year period during the Famine, over 4,000 young orphan girls, inmates of the overcrowded Irish workhouses, were carefully selected and transported on what became known as the Famine Bride Ships.

eithewaytGraphic novel: Either Way: Story of a Gay Kid by Sandra Levins

The dedication page of this book reads:

This is a story of hope: hope that straight kids and adults will understand, accept and love their LGBTQ friends, neighbors, sons and daughters; and hope that LGBTQ kids will accept and celebrate who they are. The body of this work consists of three blended narratives; a coming-of age coming out story, a lesson on civil rights and a historical fiction account of a gay man in the military.

chemistmeyerChemist by Stephanie Meyer

A thriller from the writer of the Twilight series of books. It has had good reviews, and is aimed at the adult market.


girlbelowstairsThe Girl Below Stairs by Jennie Felton (Book 3 of the Families of Fairlie Terrace series). Great read for lovers of the family saga genre.



Book with a great title! The Bad-ass Librarians of Timbuktu : and their race to save the world’s bad-ass-librariansmost precious manuscripts by Joshua Hammer. Plenty here to satisfy book-lovers, history buffs, and library lovers.



The Power of Off  by Nancy Colier – how to use technology with balance so that it adds rather than detracting from our wellbeing.





You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leirisyou-will-not-have-my-hate – The author became well known across the world after he posted an open letter on Facebook to the terrorists who took his wife’s life; defiantly refusing to allow the act to define his or his son’s life. Powerful.





The Confident Parent by Jane Scott – an upbeat book that is less about the confidentparent“basics” and more of a guide on not only how to be a better parent but how to be happier doing it.






Planting Dreams: Shaping  Australian Gardens by Richard Aitkin.planting-dreams

A luscious book for garden lovers and anyone interested in how gardens have developed in Australia. Beautiful book with an abundance of facts and stories.


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A short review of The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

soulSoul of an octopus is an exploration into the question of consciousness and inter-species communication.

It is written by a scientist who pursues an intense commitment to answer questions about animal-human interaction, taking the octopus as her subject. Montgomery has chosen an animal many find frightening, even disgusting and in so doing she reveals how very misunderstood this highly intelligent creature is. Montgomery undertakes a study of aquarium octopuses and wild octopuses and shares stories told by their keepers, which include several ‘escape artist’ stories.

Octopuses’ have three hearts and several nervous systems, one basically running each limb. They can ‘taste’ everything in their surrounding environment through their skin, have been known to express behaviour which indicates recognition, attraction and aversion towards specific human individuals. Many who have spent any time with them are adamant that they have personalities.

The beauty of this book is the loyalty with which it is written. Montgomery discusses the sensitive areas involved in biological science; the issues of anthropomorphism, human intervention and its impacts on animal quality of life and how that may be measured. At the same time she is loyal to the depth of connection and expression that she and others experience.

This book is very sensitively written, to the point that the writing itself is simply lovely, as pleasurable and delightful as the content. I have recommended it to several readers who have all responded in the same way.  As a result of reading this book I am seriously considering getting my scuba diving ticket!

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“Tiny Sunbirds Far Away” by Christie Watson

Another mini review:

tiny-sunbirdsThe book is “Tiny Sunbirds Far Away” by Christie Watson. It received an 8.2/10, and was like for “its wonderful narration by a young girl”. Members really enjoyed this author, and would read any other work by her.  The story is set in Nigeria and follows a mother and her two children who are forced to move from their comfortable home in Lagos to live with relatives in a village.

It is an award-winning book, which is also well-rated on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9414177-tiny-sunbirds-far-away










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