November Picks

The Lost ManHarper, Jane (2018) The Lost Man. Macmillan. Nathan and Bub Bright meet at the stockman’s grave, on the border of their vast cattle properties in outback Queensland. The body of their middle brother Cameron is lying beside the grave. Something had been troubling Cameron – did he walk to his death?  This novel meets somewhere between thriller and family drama as the narrative unravels to reveal secrets, domestic abuse, rape, family disintegration and isolation in the blistering outback heat, with no sign of policeman Aaron Falk from The Dry and Force of Nature.  Jane Harper is a consummate storyteller where character and landscape compete. Stunning.  Rating: 9/10.

Single ladiesNell, Joanna (2018) The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village. Hachette. Peggy is on the cusp of 80 and suffering a ‘beige’ time at her retirement village. One day a glamorous old friend enters her life and she begins a journey to channel her ‘inner Helen Mirren’. A tale of friendship, children, prescriptions, lust and keeping it together. Lighthearted and heartwarming. Rating: 8/10.


Broken GroundMcDermid, Val (2018) Broken Ground. Little Brown. When a body is unearthed, with a long lost inheritance, in the depths of the Highlands DCI Karen Pirie and the Historic Cases Unit (HCU) are ready to investigate. As she begins to unravel the twisted truth she is caught up in another crime after overhearing a conversation in cafe, and in the search for a violent rapist, all the while saddled with an untrustworthy plant in her department. This is the fifth outing for cold case detective Karen and my first Val McDermid read. While it did not hook me initially I was sold by the end. Clever plot with lots loose ends to tantalise for the next instalment. Rating: 8.5/10.

From the Corner OfficeCorey-Stein, Beck (2018) From the Corner of the Oval Office: One woman’s true story of her accidental career in the Obama White House. Bantam. In 2012 unemployed teacher Corey-Stein gets a job as a stenographer, after seeing a posting on Craigslist. Starstruck, she joins a specialist team, ‘the bubble’, who follow President Obama wherever he goes, across time zones, states and countries on Air Force One. This fly on-the-wall memoir describes life in the White House in minute detail – the glamour, the late nights, the drama, the intrigue, the camaraderie,  the hangovers, and falling for a cad. As the Trump era looms the stardust washes off.  Addictive White House soap-opera. Rating: 8/10.

BookwormMangan, Lucy (2018) Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading. Square Peg. I love books about books and I especially love books that take me back to the delights of childhood reading. Lucy Mangan relives her best-loved books, many of them mine too, to tell her own story, and that of being an unrepentant bookworm – like me! Delightful love-letter to children’s books. Rating: 8.5/10.


Perils of perceptionDuffy, Bobby (2018) The Perils of Perception: Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything. Atlantic Books. Informed by global surveys this analysis forces us to reconsider our knowledge of facts and our most deeply held views, in a post-truth era. It shows just how deluded we have become about the state of the world and it confronts such issues as ignorance, trust, misdirection, disengagement, wishful and wrongful thinking, and filtering our world. The perception indexes make salutary reading. Duffy believes the future belongs to statisticians, but in the meantime if the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts! Rating: 8.5/10.

Give me your handAbbott, Megan (2018) Give Me Your Hand. Picador. A thriller about brilliant obsession and the ruthless world of women in early academia. Kit wasn’t always so driven until her ambition was stirred by her rivalry with Diane in high school. But when Diane shares a vile secret they stop speaking. A decade later they are reunited in the lab of the exacting and glamorous Dr. Lena Severin competing for a coveted spot in a study. Toxic tension.  Rating: 7.5/10.

tina brown comp05r.epsBrown, Tina (2017) The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992.  Holt. Tina Brown’s diaries chronicle her rise from the young editor of the Tatler (UK) to her eight years as editor-in-chief, and saviour, of Condé Nast’s flagship mag Vanity Fair. Her real time diaries reflect her workaholic lifestyle and the glossier-side of the 80s – from dishing the dirt and name dropping to superficiality, intrigue, and naked ambition, amongst the long forgotten, dead or disgraced. Intriguing in the sense that it jolts your memory of the events and excesses of the 80s, but we see little of flesh and blood Tina.  Rating: 8/10.

Josh & HazelLauren, Christina (2018) Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating. Piatkus. A nice way to round out the month with a big-hearted romance. Hazel and Josh are just friends, or are they?  Hazel is a crazy lady with no filter, and Josh is super-cute but in need of a shakeup. Can they overcome their past? Lots of fun.  Rating: 8/10.


Personality BrokersEmre, Merve (2018) The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing. Doubleday. Not having been compulsorily subjected to Myers-Briggs (MBTI) during my career I have always had a healthy scepticism about the credibility of the test. What is fascinating is that Myers and Briggs were women, a mother-daughter team of amateur psychoanalysts who catapulted the instrument into the mainstream. Understanding your “type” by an innate and apparently immutable set of characteristics does not convince me, but Emre’s extraordinary mix of history, research and first hand reporting will find an audience amongst believers and sceptics alike. Rating: 8/10.

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