Librarians' Choice

They're the pick of the crop; the best of the best. Check out these highly-recommended titles, hand-picked by our library staff across the peninsula. We asked our librarians to choose a book they've read recently from anywhere in our collection that really knocked their socks off, and we've compiled them all into a handy reading list to help you choose what to read next. Check back regularly both here and on our Facebook page for more great reads!

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Margot at Thames Library recommends Aurore

I loved this movie. It stars Agnes Jaoui, one of my favourite French actor/directors. She also co-wrote this film. The story revolves around Aurore, 50, who is coping with menopause and its physical challenges, being a separated mother of two daughters and about to become a grandmother, trying to find employment andgenerally feeling at odds with her life and what the future holds. When she bumps into her first love (Thibault de Montalembert) again, not having seen him for over twenty years, Aurore starts to feel that maybe life's not over yet and there might still be a whole new adventure on the horizon. Jaoui is wonderful and brings a humorous but touching poignancy to this character who is easy to identify with.

 

Rochelle at Thames Library recommends The Parrot’s Perch by Karen Keilt

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From the outside Karen has it all, an idyllic childhood living in a mansion in Brazil with gardeners, cooks and cleaners, she rides horses and travels the world. Yet scratch just below the surface and her life isn’t all that it seems.  Her father has a volatile side and is often abusive to his wife and children and Karen isn’t sure where all their wealth actually comes from, what exactly does her father do for a living??

Then in her early 20’s Karen meets handsome Rick and marries him in a fairytale wedding where no expense is spared but just two months into their marriage their lives are shattered when the two of them are hauled from their bed in the middle of the night by the Brazilian police and taken to a police station where for the next 45 days they are tortured and raped and held on sham charges.

Finally released from their ordeal, life for Karen and Rick is never the same again.  Karen is told to ‘put it all behind her, forget it ever happened’ and Rick finds solace in the bottle and in another woman.  Karen makes the brave decision to take her young son and leave the corruption of Brazil and start a new life in the US without the knowledge of her husband or any of her family.

This is a gritty memoir told through Karen’s sworn deposition to the Brazilian National Truth Commission which keeps the reader gripped throughout.

 

Shori at Thames Library recommends White Stag by Kara Barbieri.

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As the last girl in a family of daughters, seventeen year old Jenneke was raised to become the male heir. She was taught to hunt, track and fight. One day her village was burnt to the ground by Goblins, Jeneke was the only survivor and was taken captive by a malicious Goblin lord Lydian. After being mistreated by Lydian she is eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren who is kind to Jeneke and treats her as his equal.      

When the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on, or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling. 

This is a brutally stunning book about an epic journey with a strong leading female character that has to overcome past horrors to decide who she is and where she belongs. Based in a fantasy world of magic and monsters this book is packed equally with griping fight scenes and emotional turmoil.   

 

 

Margot at Thames Library recommends Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe 

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I well remember going to Newry in Northern Ireland before the Good Friday Agreement and finding the armed soldiers and the armoured vehicles with their 'skirts' to prevent explosive devices being rolled under them quite disturbing. And while living in East London I felt the thud of an IRA bomb exploding near Canary Wharf.

Patrick Radden Keefe has written a very powerful and well researched account of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and how the conflict divided a society. In particular Keefe investigates the murder of a mother of 10 who was abducted from her Belfast home in 1972, leaving traumatised children to fend for themselves.

Around Jean McConville's abduction is woven the stories of Dolours Price, one of the the first women to join the IRA, Gerry Adams who went on to help bring peace but always denied his involvement in the IRA and Brendan Hughes among other paramilitary members from both sides.

And even after the shooting stopped, Keefe describes the ongoing fallout from the violence and in particular an oral history project, that was supposed to protect the identities of the participants, documenting the Troubles for future reference.

The title of the book comes from a line by the poet, Seamus Heaney 'Whatever you say, say nothing'. A fascinating read.

 

Nicole at Thames Library recommends The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

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Here’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma – Evelyn Hardcastle is going to be murdered, at a house party held on her parents’ isolated country estate. Her death will look like a suicide, so none of the guests will suspect the killer.

Aiden Bishop wakes up with amnesia, trapped in a race against unseen rivals to solve the crime. They have only one day to do so, but Aiden has an unlikely advantage; unlike his competitors, Aiden will relive the same day eight times, from eight different perspectives. Success means escaping the house and regaining his memories, while failure means starting from nothing all over again. But does Aiden really want to go back to being the sort of person who’d volunteer for a game like this in the first place?

Describing this book as a face-swapping Agatha-Christie-meets-Groundhog-Day mashup doesn’t cover half of the intricacies of this exhaustingly original story. As Aiden wakes up each day in a new host body, he must slowly work through the day’s events without getting in the way of his past and future selves. Every host has a different skill set and access to different information on the crime. Starting with only the name ‘Anna’ and the occasional visit from a mysterious man dressed as a medieval plague doctor, Aiden must figure out which of the house’s secrets and scandals are relevant to the murder and which are relevant to the greater game.

Once you get your head around this bizarre premise, solving the main mystery of Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder becomes the most engrossing part of this story. Despite the sprawling plot lines Aiden investigates, the action remains tight throughout. While the novel isn’t without its problems, there’s barely a plot hole to be found and the mysteries all reach a satisfying conclusion.

 

 

Margot at Thames Library recommends Pie & Mash Down the Roman Road by Melanie McGrath

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This is a fascinating book not least because it was my stomping ground when I worked in Tower Hamlet's libraries and lived in Mile End and Bow. Melanie McGrath writes vividly about the  social history of the East End through the memories of customers and owners of Kellys pie and mash and jellied eel shops on Roman Road and surrounding areas.

The chapters on  World War II are particularly evocative. The East End of London was bombed heavily and children were evacuated. I didn't know that machine guns were installed on rooves of buildings and trenches dug across parks for instance.

I found the early chapters a bit confusing as McGrath switches backwards and forwards between time zones and customers but overall this is a wonderful read.

 

Les at Mercury Bay Library recommends Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park 

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This is most a most fascinating little book, but it’s quite hard to describe.  The reader is taken on an unforgettable winter journey - and like a skid after a high speed chase, it’s hard to know where you’ll be facing at the end.  

With a deep, precise style of writing, I see this book essentially as a mind-flow, streamed directly from the author’s subconscious.   Joseph O’Connor (one of the reviewers on the back cover) says ‘every page resounds with the sort of truthfulness that stirs deep recognitions’ and I would certainly agree with that.   Anyone who has ever lost anyone will recognise the weightless, rudderless intensity of this father and son road-trip novel.   A wee puzzlement of a book, but very human.  Beautifully written, haunting, and truthful.

 

Hunsa at Thames Library recommends Argo : how the CIA and Hollywood pulled off the most audacious rescue in history by Antonio J. Mendez and Matt Baglio

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This is a true story of secret identities and international intrigue; it is the gripping account of the history making collusion between Hollywood and high-stakes espionage. It relates the true account of the 1979 rescue of six American hostages from Iran. On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and captured dozens of American hostages, sparking a 444-day ordeal. But there is a little-known footnote to the crisis: six Americans escaped. A midlevel agent named Antonio Mendez devised an ingenious yet incredibly risky plan to rescue them. Armed with foreign film visas, Mendez and an unlikely team of CIA agents and Hollywood insiders, directors, producers, and actors, traveled to Tehran under the guise of scouting locations for a fake film called Argo. While pretending to find the ideal backdrops, the team succeeded in contacting the escapees and smuggling them out of Iran without a single shot being fired. Here the author finally details the extraordinarily complex and dangerous operation he led more than three decades ago.