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by Maeve Scannell, 9 September 2020

Spring has officially sprung! The sun is shining and the flowers are blooming, so let’s spring clean your reading list! Try these wholesome, helpful and inspiring spring reads to give you a little hope in these strange and difficult times 🌿🌷🌱🌸

Courtesy of your friends at The Rowden White Library. Click here for info on how to sign up online to access the Rowdy’s amazing digital collection of eBooks and eAudiobooks. All you need is the barcode number on your student/staff ID, it’s that easy!

Fiction:

🎧  A Love Story for Bewildered Girls
by Emma Morgan
– Follow three very different women, with three very different lives, on a hilarious and heart-warming story of friendship, sexuality, heartbreak and first loves.
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/4193348

 

🎧  The Adversary 
by Ronnie Scott
– A coming-of-age narrative set in Melbourne’s inner-north at the beginning of a long hot summer. With their undergrads over, our unnamed protagonist and his housemate Dan have two very different approaches to life and learning how to adult in your early twenties.
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/5244514

 

📖  Homeland Calling: Words from a New Generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voices
by Desert Pea Media , Edited by Ellen Van Neerven
– A powerful collection of hip-hop lyrics turned poems, written by First Nations youth around Australia. These verses will inspire and educate you, shattering stereotypes, illuminating culture, exploring language, celebrating land, and pointing to the future.
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/5545080

 

📖  New Suns – Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color
Edited by Nisi Shawl
– There’s something for everyone in this short story collection! A truly unique showcase of established and emerging POC writers covering everything from science fiction, fantasy, horror, and everything in between.
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/4539601

 

📖 Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale 
by Belle Yang
– A stunning graphic novel debut focusing on the author and her father’s fascinating family history that spans modern day America, to communist China, and Manchuria. Drawing parallels between the author’s life and those of her ancestors, this work points to the importance of storytelling, remembrance and honouring the generations that came before.
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/4455817

 

📖  Big Mushy Happy Lump
by Sarah Andersen
– Frank, honest, funny and wholesome! This gorgeous comic will make you laugh and cry from its realness and ridiculousness. A must read if you need a little pick-me-up.
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/3159122

 

Non-Fiction:

📖  Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying
by Marie Kondo
Get into the spring-cleaning mood with the iconic and loveable Marie Kondo! This book will introduce you to her unique philosophy of tidiness and give you a room-by-room guide to organising and decluttering your life ’till everything ‘Sparks Joy”.
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/2526128

 

📖 Green: Plant for Small Spaces, Indoors and Out
by Jason Chongue
Want to flex your green thumb this spring? Try this practical and approachable guide to caring for your indoor plants and urban gardens. With beautiful photographs and stunning illustrations, you’re sure to be inspired!
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/5129032

 

📖 Every Body Yoga
by Jessamyn Stanley
Give your body and mind a little love after this long winter lockdown and try this emotionally uplifting, body-positive yoga book for people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities.
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/3032374

 

📖 This Too Shall Pass: Stories of Change, Crisis and Hopeful Beginnings
by Julia Samuel
An important book for when these ‘unprecedented times’ get a little too much. Drawing on years of experience, research and conversations with clients, acclaimed psychotherapist Julia Samuel teaches us how to learn, adapt, and even thrive in some of the most difficult and challenging times of our lives.
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/4894379

 

📖 The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices
by Casper ter Kuile
Is everything feeling a bit meaningless at the moment, or is it just me? Give this book a read and be reminded that the seemingly mundane things we do every day have the possibility to give us moments of profound reflection, connection and meaning if we just let them.
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/5153091

 

📖 Bento
by Yuko and Noriko
Learn about the amazing art of the Bento box and get inspired to make quick, delicious, and easy meals that are also good for you!
https://unimelb.overdrive.com/media/5690417

by Patricia Cornwell 810 COR

Shortly after borrowing this, I came to the stark realisation that Cornwell’s Scarpetta novels are my kind of ‘daytime soap addiction’. My intelligent mind is acutely aware that no one woman, or her immediate family members could ever possibly come so close to death and/or deal with psychotic villains, THAT MANY times on a regular basis, yet still function productively and appropriately in high level professional and emotional capacities – but I just can’t get enough!

Anyways, apart from the first page typo (really guys?) that took me about 10 minutes to get over, this new instalment in the Scarpetta story had me hooked and a little bit paranoid in no time. With themes of private and government surveillance and the possible, potentially catastrophic consequences of living within the digital era, this ‘episode’ played to all of Cornwell’s usual crime scene investigation strengths (although, not a whole bunch of that happens this time around) and then added some relevant current themes to keep us entertained. Finally, parts of the story have been left open for the next book, which unfortunately for me, won’t be ‘airing’ as soon as tomorrow afternoon. Until then, I will be wondering if there is maybe a psychopath hiding under my house.

(Jess)

by Karen Thompson Walker 810 WAL

Like The Time Traveller’s Wife (810 NIF) or Oryx And Crake (810 ATT), this is a novel based on what would normally be taken as a Science Fiction theme (end of the world) but the emphasis is on the ordinary lives of the characters, despite the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in.  Julia is eleven.  She’s got a Mormon best friend, a skateboard-riding crush, a catty girlfriend, piano lessons, and a birthday coming up.  But the Earth is slowing in its rotation.  Gradually.  The days and nights get longer.  And longer.  Over a few months daylight gets past 60 hours before the equally long night sets in.  Birds fall from the sky, people get sick.  Is her Dad sneaking off to see the piano teacher?  No-one knows why.  Communities get disheveled.  Real-timers establish towns in the desert, while Clock-timers buy blackout for the windows and artificial lights for the garden.  The longer the days get, the more the heat builds up.  The longer the nights get, the colder they stay.  All this affects Julia but her main concerns are whether Seth knows she’s alive, what the hell Dad is doing, and whether her mother will die from the Slowing Syndrome.  This is the most imaginative and poignant novel I’ve read in quite a while.  I was really quite surprised that I would feel this way, but, like The Slowing itself, this story takes its time, but capture you it does.

(Arron)

by Charlaine Harris ROMANCE 810 HAR

It’s no secret that vampire lit has been having a phenomenal resurgence over the past few years, with the meteoric rise of the Twilight ‘saga’ and the Vampire Diaries enthralling audiences of all ages. Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series, on which the True Blood series is based, slightly predate this craze a little, and her vampires are more Anne Rice (Interview with a Vampire) than Stephanie Meyer. That is to say that they are distinctly non-assimilationist, with appetites for flesh and sex which they do not, aside from the fairly cuddly love interest Bill, take pains to curb for the comfort of their human neighbours.

Our heroine is Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress living in small-town Louisiana two years after the vampire population has “come out of the coffin”, asking to be legally recognised as part of the human population. This is thanks in large part to the creation of synthetic “Tru Blood” which allows them to eat without harming anyone. The kicker, of course, is that some of them, promiscuous and violent, resist this effort to integrate and play nice. This is the tension which fuels the novel and the other eight in the series, allowing on its way plenty of thrilling erotic and violent scenes to keep the reader engaged.

The parallels drawn between the vampires’ negotiation of their identity in a world hostile to them with the struggles of both gay rights and African-American civil rights is what lifts Harris’s books above the bevy of vampire lit on the market, making it a light but thoughtful and engaging read.

-Cara

by Lev Grossman SF & FANTASY 820 ROG

Have you always wished magic was real? Then this is a book for you.

Quentin has obsessed over a series of fantasy books ever since he was a child, and still secretly wishes the magical world of Fillory depicted in them was real, even though he’s well beyond the socially acceptable reading age for these books.  He’s also extremely smart but a bit of a misfit, and wishes there was more to life than school and exams and lusting over his best friend’s girlfriend. Then it turns our magic is real, not that this makes his life any easier…

Quentin finds himself invited to study at the only magic school in America. It’s a demanding curriculum, and Quentin finds he’s no longer the smartest kid in the class, but the thrill of learning magic never really dissipates, even though he still finds himself yearning for something more in life.

I really liked the system of magic that The Magicians depicts –it’s not too easy and the students really have to make an effort to learn new skills. Even when the burgeoning magicians get something right, they’re still not sure of themselves, and if they get something wrong, it can have some serious consequences. Then there’s “the beast”, an unknown but powerful magician who manages to slip through the defences of the magic school to kill a student.  And did I mention that there’s the possibility that Fillory, the magical world of Quentin’s obsession might actually be real?  You might find yourself getting obsessed with Fillory as much as Quentin, in which case there’s even a hilarious real life website about the Fillory books.

I think this book appealed to me because it depicts a world of magic that doesn’t always live up to expectations  – The Magicians explores what happens when magic  isn’t always amazing and fantastic or doing what you think it should but is instead disappointing or useless or a nuisance. The students do battle a few foes and solve a few magical mysteries along the way, but they also misbehave, get drunk, sleep around, cast banned spells and do all the stupid things you’re supposed to do when you’re a magic student. And that’s what this book is about ultimately – that no matter what happens in your life, magic can’t fix everything. But it’s fun going along with the magicians as they struggle to figure this out.

-A4K

by Jane Rogers FICTION 820 ROG

The surprise winner of the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2012, The Testament of Jessie Lamb is Rogers’ first foray into science fiction. Jessie’s world has changed vastly in a short amount of time. A virus, released by unknown biological terrorists, has infected everyone on earth. But the dormant virus only becomes active when a woman is pregnant, activating a prion disease that quickly causes the mother’s brain to eat away at itself, killing her and the unborn child. Scientists have dubbed the virus Maternal Death Syndrome, and there is no treatment. The few babies born before the release of MDS will be the last: there will be no new parents and children in Jessie’s lifetime; the human race will gradually die out. While researchers race furiously to find a cure and a way to produce new healthy babies, Jessie and her friends aren’t taking the news lying down. Through her scientist father’s research, Jessie learns of a possible way to circumvent MDS, for new uninfected babies to be born – though at the cost of the mothers’ lives. The result of  Jessie’s obsession with these creepily named ‘Sleeping Beauties’ is where we find her as the book opens – chained to a radiator by her father, kept prisoner. But Jessie is not giving up on her quest to make a difference; not without a fight.

As Jessie’s story progresses, the reader becomes more and more uneasy about her choices. Her inherent narcissism means that she can’t see the effects her mission to become a Sleeping Beauty is having on her family and friends: she is too blinded by her chance to save the world. Her drive to produce life through her own death is what has caused her father to resort to imprisoning her, and this single-mindedness adds a sense of fatalism to the book that is as interesting as it is unsettling.

Rogers’ Booker Prize-longlisted novel is an exciting, readable book that traverses the personal, scientific and political, and will interest even readers who are not traditional fans of the speculative fiction genre.

-ARP

directed by Shane Carruth DVD 810 CAR

After watching Primer, and then this, it’s safe to say that Carruth don’t make no films for no idiots. So: a drug dealer feeds wormy things to a woman named Kris, she signs all her possessions over to him, then a mysterious mastermind extracts the worms and feeds them to pigs, and he makes weird music, and Kris only remembers this when she meets a guy called Jeff, and eventually the life-cycle of the organism and the pair’s involvement come kind-of full circle. I think. Don’t quote me. If you can, turn off the front of your brain and let the movie synthesize an experience for you. You’ll get enough narrative cohesiveness to make it satisfying, but really it’s just best to treat this film as a high quality immersion experience. I enjoyed this more than Primer, I think, because there’s less high-speed science-mumble and more concentration on images. Looking forward to his next venture.

-ARPy

directed by Charles Laughton  DVD 810 LAU

A fake, murderous preacher Rev. Powell learns that an imprisoned father has the money from his robbery hidden somewhere near his home – we quickly learn it’s in the thief’s 4-year-old daughter’s doll. After Powell woos the townsfolk and, tragically, the children’s mother, the kids have to take off downriver, where they join the legions of children orphaned/abandoned by the Depression as they beg at doorways. Eventually they find a place in Rachel Cooper’s home for abandoned children, and in her their sole protector. But preacher-man ain’t giving up easy. This starkly vivid film, the only one directed by Charles Laughton, is still generally frightening and affecting – while I was wary in advance of being manipulated by sentimentality, the children and their sole, elderly protector are genuinely moving:

Rachel: “It’s a hard world for little things” (I burst into tears).
Rachel: “You know, when you’re little, you have more endurance than God is ever to grant you again. Children are man at his strongest.” (*sobs harder*).

-ARPy

When We Wake + While We Run                                      

by Karen Healey | SF NZ820 HEA

Part of me is surprised that this duo of YA novels by Kiwi author Karen Healey isn’t on high school English booklists across the country yet, but maybe that’s because it strikes a bit too close to home.  Sixteen year old Australian Tegan Oglietti wakes up after being shot only to find that it’s 2127, and she is the first human to be successfully revived from a medically induced cryonic sleep.  Climate change is a harsh, undeniable reality, the world is divided as refugees try desperately to escape the worst affected areas, and Tegan’s new celebrity status as the ‘Living Dead Girl’ makes her a prime target to sell the Ark Project, an unethical scheme aimed at ‘solving’ the refugee crisis.  She and her new friend, the musically gifted Abdi Taalib, are thrust into a treacherous whirlpool of politics, betrayals, manipulation and injustice, where even holding onto their sense of themselves is almost impossible, but where they could be the only thing standing between millions of people and the Ark Project.

The sheer plausibility and likelihood of Healy’s future world is chilling.  The honest writing style and quick pacing enable the diverse cast of characters to speak for themselves, which they do in an intensely human, relatable way.  The tone rides the line between psychological thriller and sci fi perfectly.  Strongly, strongly recommended.  Way scarier than the Hunger Games and a hell of a lot closer to home.

-Belinda