We love reading... Staff Picks June 2016

Hotel du Barry by Lesley Truffle
A delightful fun read with serious undertones...
This book hooked me straight away with the image it conjured up of a baby tucked up in a pair of ladies bloomers, then pegged neatly on the clothesline (swaying gently in the breeze, content and blissfully unaware of her circumstances).  Set in a 1930's London hotel, the story  follows the rather charmed life of Cat (the baby, named after a bottle of champagne), until tragedy strikes in the form of  a murder...
With a cast of interesting and contrary characters, this is a rollicking read that is way over the top. History, an intriguing mystery, a wicked stepmother and lots of glamour, this was  light, fun  and entertaining to read.

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
I've just started Tracy Chevalier's latest novel At The Edge of the Orchard about a family of Apple growers in Ohio around the time of Johnny Appleseed (he's a featured character). It's hard going so far. Both the main characters are extremely unlikeable (and cruel to their children, hard to read!) I'm waiting to be whisked away by a historical story I can't put down but it's yet to happen! I'll keep going but I hope the bitterness in the story is tempered by something good and sweet soon...

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

Like his earlier work, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, this novel also tells the story of a young boy, Pierrot (later Pieter), set during the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany.  Pierrot's French mother dies and he goes to live with his Aunt Beatrix who is the housekeeper at the
Berghof, Adolf Hitler's mountain getaway. Whereas the child in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas retains his innocence in The Boy at the Top of the Mountain it is a very different story.  Over the course of the story Pieter's innocence is corrupted.  A very thought provoking story for high school age readers.
Reviewed by Bernie

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The first of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels, The Big Sleep is novel with a blackmailing pornographer, opportunistic crime, missing sons-in-law, a missing wife, a racketeer, a vicious gunman and few dead bodies for good measure. Set in 1930s Los Angeles, it is a complex tale but in the end, Marlowe unties all the knots but, as is his moral wont, only comes as clean with his cards as his honour allows. Less a true mystery than a vehicle for a detective to illustrate the tarnished side of America, Chandler gives us one of the greatest characters of all time, penned with sparkling turns of phrase that still glint even now.
~Reviewed by Matt

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
The moon explodes, or implodes, no one is really sure what happened exactly but what they do know is that the dust cloud that now exists where the moon once stood is the beginning of the end of humanity as we know it.

The earths population deals with this fact pretty well, the home improvements market goes broke and they worry a bit less about the distant future but in general they seems to digest the news of the end of days as well as they digest most news and just get on with the lives they have left and occupy themselves with the task of collecting as much information or "heritage" which will be sent into space by the worlds governments to the newly repurposed International Space Station, or Izzy.

The prologue makes up about two thirds of the whole story and is a compelling, terrifying tale of disaster and survival  (it led to a lot of very late nights as it was so engrossing I just had to keep reading, 6AM alarm clock be damned). The epilogue however lost me a bit, it starts with the phrase "5000 years later..." which abruptly severs the connection you had with the main characters who you have been willing to survive for the last traumatic 565 pages because, there's no way around it, they are dead. The pace slows dramatically as the author begins to delve heavily into the most minute details of this new world making it difficult to a) follow the new story line and b) connect with the new characters as well as you did with the old ones.

Anyone who has ever read Neal Stephenson before would be familiar with his penchant for science and mathematics and his tendency to get caught up in the minute details, and for the most part it works....well worth a read, even if it is just for the first 565 pages
~ Reviewed by Steph D