We Love Reading...staff picks for October

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I was prepared to be unimpressed with 'The Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins because I have some sort of built in distrust for things that everyone tells me are great.  Well, I haven't stayed up late to finish a book in a long time, but this week I did. I did find it odd that I was so taken in because I don't think that any of the characters are particularly sympathetic.  Rachel, the girl on the train of the title, finds her life spiralling out of control since her marriage broke up and she is drinking heavily. Every day she travels back and forth to London on the train and passes the couple she names Jess and Jason having breakfast on their deck, and invents a life for them. One day she sees 'Jess' kissing another man and soon after she is reported missing and then found dead. Nothing is as it seems as the plot twists and turns and Rachel's blackouts make her doubt everything she thinks she saw. This book has a long reserve queue, but it is well worth the wait.
~ Deb H

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I was looking forward to reading this book touted as the new Gone Girl. Rachel is the woman who has lost it all and has become a drunken embarrassment who can't let go of her former husband who has moved on with a new wife and baby.  From her daily train she sees a couple who seem perfect but when the wife goes missing she feels caught in the mystery and the story races along to an unexpected ending. I found myself changing my mind about who had done it and why as Rachel, Tom her ex husband ,his new wife anna and the missing wife Megan  and her husband Scott are all flawed characters with secrets to hide.

Master and God by Lindsey Davis
Lindsey Davis's meticulously researched epic novel of the life and times surrounding the last and least known of the Flavian dynasty of Roman emperors, the unstable and brutal Domitian. Gaius Vinius is a former soldier and Vigil, recruited into the Praetorians - the Emperor's personal guard - and a man with a disastrous marriage history. Flavia Lucilla is the imperial court hair stylist, responsible not only for creating the ridiculous hairstyles worn by the imperial ladies but also for making wigs for the balding and increasingly paranoid emperor. They are brought together by a devastating fire in Rome - which leads to a lifelong relationship. They then find themselves part of Domitian's court as his once talented rule begins to unravel into madness and cruelty, and eventual involvement in the conspiracy to remove the Emperor from power and history. Davis is well known for her Falco detective novels set in Flavian Rome, and she is expert in recreating the period. This is a novel of adventure and romance, set in exotic ancient Rome, but also historically accurate and very compelling.

 Past the shallows by Favel Parrett
Set on the East coast of Tasmania, Past the shallows is the story of three brothers and their violent father, an abalone fisherman with unpredictable moods and a terrible secret. This haunting novel has a deep sense of foreboding throughout. There are very few light moments in the story but despite that I found it thoroughly engaging with a reality that rings true. As a surfer I was drawn to this book by the Australian coastal landscape, which the author has captured beautifully. Indeed, the landscape, and the ocean in particular, is a significant character in the book; one moment providing safety and comfort to the boys and the next becoming wild, angry and threatening; oscillating between representing the boys father and their dead mother. It is the landscape that lets this books sit alongside Robert Drewe, Tim Winton's Dirt Music and Breath, the Broken Shore by Peter Temple and Quota by Jock Serong. It is interesting to note that there are almost no female characters in this story, despite it being the debut novel of a female author. Favel Parrett has captured the 'maleness' of the characters exceptionally well.

This is the third book of short stories by this interesting author.  An anthology of horror, ghost, science fiction and fairytales that explores the many faces that people wear and what really lies beneath.  If you haven’t tried short stories before and like something a bit different this may be the book for you.

A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman
You will love or hate this book. This was a deceptively simple story about a miserable, quirky 59 year old man named Ove. He is a quirky character with strict principles and old fashioned values- you may recognise aspects of Ove's character in some grumpy old man you know! Behind his curmudgeon exterior, lies a man who has experienced sadness and tragedy in his life. Ove is struggling to continue living after forced retirement and the death of his wife, Sonja, after forty years of happy marriage. Sonja was, he believes, the only person who ever truly understood him.  Ove's back story is told through a series of flashbacks offering insights into his character and glimpses of his compassion and kindness. A poignant, moving and often humorous story. Highly recommended.