February Reading List

February, reading list, chris hadfield, Neil Gaiman, Trigger Warning, The Roise Project, Marian Keyes, The Cukoo's Calling, Cormoran Strike, The Woman Who Stole My Life

It’s time for a recap of this month’s reading list!

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman – Growing up, I was never a big fan of short stories. I always preferred the meatiness of full-length novels, plus I never really enjoyed the short stories we read in English Lit. It was Neil Gaiman’s short story collections in Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things that helped me develop a love of short stories. Thus, it was with major elation that I found out Gaiman was this month releasing a new collection of tales entitled Trigger Warning. The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountain is definitely the crown jewel of this collection and I am still kicking myself that I never took the trouble to get myself over to Sydney to listen to Gaiman read this story aloud to the accompaniment of The FourPlay String Quartet at the Opera House. I can only imagine the chills and goosebumps that performance would have evoked in its audience. Other favourites in this collection include Click-Clack The Rattlebag, The Sleeper and the Spindle and Black Dog, which is yet another short story featuring Shadow of American Gods. 

 The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith– Sitting in a hospital room, waiting as a loved one underwent countless tests and other procedures, I learned one thing – when nurses tell you someone will be along ‘just about now’, be prepared to wait for at least a good three-quarters of an hour, minimum. You can only spend so much time in small talk without mentally exhausting yourself so books are the answer to passing the time. My partner’s mother was reading The Cuckoo’s Calling and she loaned it to me after she was done – the first hardcopy book I’ve read in ages (probably since I got my Kindle). As everyone pretty much now knows, Robert Galbraith turned out to be JK Rowling. Still, though I loved the Harry Potter books, I never felt compelled to read The Cuckoo’s Calling. In fact, my interest in this book didn’t really pick up until I was a couple of chapters in – at which I got completely suckered in. I finished the book in a couple of days and immediately reached for my Kindle and bought the sequel, The Silkworm. Now I’m eagerly awaiting the next instalment to come out! Rowling’s writing is stellar and in the Cormoran Strike books, she does what she does best in the Potter books – create a fascinating plot with twists and turns, this time set against the backdrop of modern London (the books also read as a sort of love letter to the City of London). I am forever more a JK Rowling fan.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – A few weeks ago, the news was full of the case of a young woman in Sydney seen wandering around outside a Hungry Jack’s, carrying a knife. She was eventually shot by the police and it later emerged that she suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, provoking plenty of discussion in the media about whether frontline cops were equipped to deal with people with mental illness. A woman rang up the ABC radio station, recommending people read The Rosie Project to gain a better understanding of Asperger’s. Out of mild curiosity, I looked the book up – and was instantly hooked. Don Tillman is a genetics professor with Asperger’s syndrome that has decided he wants a wife. He designs a 16-page questionnaire that will help him weed out all the undesirable qualities in a wife – such as smoking, drinking and tardiness. Strangely enough, he finds himself drawn to Rosie, a barmaid, despite the fact she is everything he does not want in a wife and embarks on a madcap scheme to help Rosie find out just who her biological father is. The Rosie Project was incredibly funny, sweet and touching – think an Australian version of Nick Hornby. Reading this book has left me with a warm, glowing feeling inside plus a craving for lobster salad and a copy of The Rosie Effect, the sequel to The Rosie Project.

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes – I’ve always loved Marian Keyes’ books, especially her series featuring the five Walsh sisters. However, her later books, This Charming Man and The Brightest Star in the Sky, while compelling enough in their own right, just didn’t come up to the standard I was expecting from Keyes, particularly in books like Anybody Out There and Rachel’s Holiday. And, unfortunately, The Woman Who Stole My Life didn’t really either. It still had loads of good points and kept me turning the pages, and I did find the protagonist’s experience with Guillain-Barre syndrome interesting – it was something I’ve never heard of before. However, there were plenty of other things in the book that didn’t really appeal with me, for example (spoiler alert) how selfish her husband and son were. I also found it hard to believe that not one of her family would take the time to learn to communicate with her while she was in hospital using the alphabet system her neurologist had set up. The end of the book also left me feeling dissatisfied (major spoiler alert!!!) – so if Stella’s no longer a writer or a beautician, what then does she become? Just Mannix’s wife?!? To be honest, I’d rather just go back and re-read the Walsh sisters’ series again.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield – If I had to recommend one book amongst all the books I read this February, this would be it. Was anyone else equally mesmerized by Canadian astronaut’s Chris Hadfield’s videos of life on the International Space Station and that video of him singing David Bowie’s Space Oddity while in space? Well, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth pretty much recounts the story behind Chris Hadfield’s years of training and hard work to reach that point in his life – from the moment, as a nine year old boy fresh from watching the moon landing, he decided he wanted to be an astronaut. Never mind the fact that Canada didn’t even have a space program at the time. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life is a fascinating look into just what it actually takes to become an astronaut (lots of studying and repetitive, hard work, and no big egos allowed) and the real bolts-and-nuts plus the incredible teamwork that goes behind the space programs. Hadfield gives us an amazing insight into what it’s like to leave the world’s atmosphere and explore this ‘final frontier’, and he also does a great job of explaining just why space exploration is so important, even for those of us who would probably never leave earth. Finally, I love this book for the great life lessons Hadfield imparts throughout the pages – my Kindle highlighter was definitely working overtime here!

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