Here is a selection of great books reviewed by our Librarians. All of these books can be borrowed as an eBook on Overdrive.
A Mother's Shame - Rosie Goodwin
One dismal day in 1857, Maria Mundy arrives at Hatter's Hall, the local mental asylum, not as an inmate but as a worker. Here, she is ordered to care for Isabelle Montgomery, the daughter of an influential land-owner. However, despite being confined to the asylum, Isabelle is not insane. She, like many other young women confined within the walls, has been banished here by her family to hide the fact that she is pregnant but unmarried.
As the two women's lives become entwined, they realise the dangers they face and want to escape from Hatter's Hall. They appeal to Isabelle’s brother, Joshua for help.
This is an enjoyable read for those who like family sagas and who enjoy books by Katie Flynn, Rita Bradshaw and Dilly Court.
Artemis - Andy Weir
Andy Weir is the author of “The Martian”, which was made into a popular film starring Matt Damon. “Artemis” is his second book and is set on the Moon, rather than on Mars.
“Artemis” itself is a five-dome moon base, which is the location for a little heavy industry and rather more tourism. Jazz Bashara, our heroine, is a sparky young woman who is just trying to get by and have a good time. It’s a struggle, though – it’s expensive to live on the Moon, and despite supplementing her job as a porter with some light smuggling, Jazz is always short of money. She lives in a coffin-sized apartment, shares communal washing facilities and eats the cheapest algae-grown gunk. Poverty persuades her to take on a criminal commission, involving a little light sabotage on the lunar surface. Naturally, things don’t go smoothly, when she botches the sabotage, her employer gets murdered, and an assassin is coming after her.
Jazz is a likeable protagonist, resourceful and clever. As in “The Martian”, Andy Weir includes enough science to ensure readers are better informed about science than they were before they read the book. An enjoyable read for science-fiction lovers.
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
This is the classic dystopian novel.
The “Brave New World” of the title is an “ideal” society that has been created through the use of genetic engineering and social conditioning. No-one is hungry or poor or suffers from disease. Everyone lives a hedonistic lifestyle as happy little consumers, sharing happy but trivial lives at the expense of freedom and individuality.
Bernard Marx is dissatisfied with his lot and wants more. He visits one of the few remaining “savage” reservations and this visit sets in motion a chain of events that leads to the morality of the whole of society being questioned by the introduction of an outsider – John the Savage.
Published in 1932, the book is ahead of its time, introducing ideas such as cloning and the use of scientific methods of gestation. It’s also a warning of the pitfalls that uncontrolled scientific advances can lead to.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine -Gail Honeyman
Eleanor is regarded by her workmates as slightly odd – she struggles with social interaction, avoids joining in with group activities and is intensely private about her private life. Eleanor’s entire existence is clear, orderly – and completely empty. She works all week, goes home on a Friday night, heats up a pizza, drinks two bottles of vodka and speaks to nobody until Monday morning comes round again.
There are many reasons for Eleanor’s isolation. These are gradually unpicked as the novel unfolds. Everything starts to change when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the pavement, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from isolation. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
This is a great book - I challenge everyone not to fall in love with Eleanor by the end.
Good Omens - Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
This book is sub-titled “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch”.
If you’ve ever read any Terry Pratchett novels before, then you will know what to expect. “Good Omens” is a comedy about the birth of the son of Satan and the coming of the End Times. The two main characters, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, attempt to sabotage the coming of the end times, having grown accustomed to their comfortable surroundings in England. There’s a mix-up at the small country hospital on the day of birth which leads to the Antichrist, Adam, growing up with the wrong family, in the wrong country village.
Basically, it's a bit of a spoof on the 1970s film, “The Omen”!
Nine Perfect Strangers - Liane Moriarty
In case you haven’t come across her yet, Liane Moriarty is the author of “Big Little Lies”, a novel about the intersecting lives of three women whose children attend the same school, which was recently made into a mini-series featuring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon.
“Nine Perfect Strangers” is about a group of Australians who converge on a “boutique health and wellness resort” called Tranquillum House, all looking to change their lives in some way. The director of Tranquillum House is the domineering Russian Masha Dmitrichenko, a 6-foot-tall cross between a guru and a general. Masha promises her guests that their lives will change in 10 days if they follow her program for their “wellness journey,” which includes yoga, meditation, diet, a “screen-free environment” and “noble silence.” Will the Tranquillium House regime work?
Will the spa-goers, who obey Masha grudgingly in the beginning, start feeling happier and healthier?
This is a very engaging, funny and touching read.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo - Christy Lefteri
Nuri is a beekeeper and his wife, Afra, is an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo - until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. Waiting for them in the UK is Mustafa, Nuri’s cousin and business partner, who has started an apiary and is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees.
As Nuri and Afra travel together to the UK, they face danger and tragedy. This is a powerful and moving tale, full if compassion and ultimately, hope.
The Power - Naomi Alderman
Naomi Alderman questions what the world would look like if men were afraid of women.
One day, suddenly, teenage girls began to develop a strange physical power - they can produce electricity inside their bodies. They can use this power to hurt, to torture, and to kill. A world that is built on patriarchy is suddenly upturned.
There are four main characters - Roxy, a white British teenager and the daughter of a gangster; Allie, a mixed-race girl who runs away after years of abuse and finds herself at a convent, revered as some kind of goddess; Margot, an American mayor and one of the few older women to develop the power; and Tunde, a young Nigerian man and aspiring journalist who captures early footage of the power in action.
Soon, men start to give teenage girls a wide berth on the street and boys are segregated into single-sex schools for their own safety. The phenomenon is blamed on nerve gas, witchcraft, an anti-male conspiracy, a mystery virus; it’s assumed that an antidote will be found and the “normal” balance of power restored – but will it?
If you liked Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, then this might be a good read for you.
The Readers of Broken Hill Recommend - Katarina Bivald
Sara (a young bookshop assistant from Sweden) goes to visit her pen pal Amy – an elderly American woman from small town Iowa. When Sara gets to the small town of Broken Wheel but Amy isn’t there to meet her - it then transpires that she has passed away a few days before Sara’s arrival and Sara is just in time for the funeral. However, the locals welcome her and invite her to stay in the town, as she had been invited to. As a result of their kindness, she decides to repay them by sharing her love of books, since Sara generally prefers books to people (don’t we all?).
The book is about the transformation of Sara and the town. It’s a gentle, heart-warming read that was included in the Richard and Judy book club in 2016.
The Testaments - Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood’s long awaited sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale” opens 15 years after the end of the last book. Baby Nicole, the “child” of Commander Waterford and his wife (though in fact, as we all know, she is Offred/June and Nick’s baby), was smuggled into Canada as a baby and has not been seen since. Even after 15 years, Gilead is determined to track down missing Baby Nicole – now seen as the “poster child for Gilead” – so that the republic can reclaim her as their own.
The novel is narrated by three different female voices. Aunt Lydia is secretly writing her memoirs, while Agnes is a young woman who has grown up in Gilead and is being groomed (in both senses of the word) to marry a commander. The third, Daisy, is a feisty teenager living in Canada with two people who run a thrift store and whom she supposes to be her parents, except that something has always felt wrong.
A fast-moving thriller for everyone who loves “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
Why Mummy Drinks - Gill Sims
Ellen is turning 39. Her husband, Simon, is obsessed with gadgets. Her children, Peter and Jane, create chaos and drive her to drink. Ellen likes wine, shoes and reminiscing about times in her life that involved fun nights out rather than refereeing fights over toys and control of the TV remote. This is her diary of her year as she approaches forty.
It’s funny and relatable (but a bit sweary). If you’ve got young children, or remember having them, Ellen’s tribulations will definitely resonate, whether it’s about trying to drag the children out the door to school, dealing with the school gate mums or trying to force-fed your children with fruit and vegetables.