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Valkyrdeath's 2016 reading record Part 2

This is a continuation of the topic Valkyrdeath's 2016 reading record.

Club Read 2016

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Edited: Dec 31, 2016, 6:06pm Top

I think it's time for a new thread.

Books read:
49. Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix
50. A Dying Light in Corduba by Lindsey Davis
51. The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges
52. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
53. Funny Fantasy edited by Alex Shvartsman
54. Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre
55. The Mammoth Book of Perfect Crimes & Impossible Mysteries edited by Mike Ashley
56. Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix
57. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
58. Bitch Planet Book 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, art by Valentine De Landro

59. Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald
60. Sir Thursday by Garth Nix
61. Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe, art by Roc Upchurch
62. Under an English Heaven by Donald E. Westlake
63. The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith
64. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
65. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
66. The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch by Neil Gaiman, art by Michael Zulli
67. Lady Friday by Garth Nix
68. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
69. The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio
70. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
71. Hinges Book One: Clockwork City by Meredith McClaren
72. Hinges Book Two: Paper Tigers by Meredith McClaren
73. Superior Saturday by Garth Nix

74. The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot
75. Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker
76. Sunset Gun by Dorothy Parker
77. Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon
78. Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith
79. Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War by Elisabeth Shipton
80. Universally Challenged: Quiz Contestants Say the Funniest Things by Wendy Roby
81. Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
82. Lumberjanes Vol. 4 by Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, art by Brooke Allen
83. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
84. Lord Sunday by Garth Nix
85. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher
86. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in Space by Mary Roach
87. No Mercy Vol. 1 by Alex de Campi, art by Carla Speed McNeil
88. The Martian Way and Other Stories by Isaac Asimov
89. Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure edited by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith
90. Wet Moon Vol. 1 by Sophie Campbell
91. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm

92. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
93. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
94. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Hugh Aplin
95. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke
96. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
97. Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West
98. Three Hands in the Fountain by Lindsey Davis
99. El Deafo by Cece Bell
100. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

101. All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
102. Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo
103. Spectacles by Sue Perkins
104. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
105. Steed and Mrs Peel Vol. 1: A Very Civil Armageddon by Mark Waid, art by Steve Bryant and Will Sliney
106. Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini, art by Eduardo Risso
107. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
108. The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin
109. Steed and Mrs Peel Vol. 2: The Secret History of Space by Caleb Monroe, art by Yasmin Liang
110. Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld, art by Joe Sumner
111. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard
112. Steed and Mrs Peel Vol. 3: The Return of the Monster by Caleb Monroe, art by Yasmin Liang
113. The Gastronomical Me by M. F. K. Fisher
114. How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman

115. After the Fire, A Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld
116. The Best American Comics 2015 edited by Jonathan Lethem
117. Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz
118. A Woman in Berlin Anonymous
119. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
120. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
121. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
122. The Manhattan Projects Deluxe Edition Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman art by Nick Pitarra
123. A Young Doctor's Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov
124. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
125. The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend

126. I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
127. Descender Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire, art by Dustin Nguyen
128. Art by Yasmina Reza translated by Christopher Hampton
129. Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon
130. Blackout by Connie Willis
131. Phonogram: Rue Britannia by Kieron Gillen, art by Jamie KcKelvie
132. Phonogram: The Singles Club by Kieron Gillen, art by Jamie KcKelvie
133. Not Funny Ha-Ha by Leah Hayes
134. The Siege by Ismail Kadare
135. Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers
136. Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler
137. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab by Gideon Defoe
138. Lumberjanes Vol. 5 by various writers and artists

Jun 12, 2016, 7:26pm Top

49. Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix
This is the second book of the Keys to the Kingdom series, picking up right where Mister Monday left off. No sooner as Arthur got back to his home then he’s pulled back to the House again to defeat Tuesday, who is trying to use a legal loophole to take control. Again, the world building is great and the plot is fast moving and entertaining. The characters are good too, and Arthur is a reluctant hero, getting dragged into these things and just wanting to get back home rather than acting like all the danger is fun. I’m enjoying this series a lot so far.

Jun 12, 2016, 8:24pm Top

50. A Dying Light in Corduba by Lindsey Davis
The next book in the Falco series, and this time he leaves ancient Rome again and is off travelling to Spain, this time investigating a potential price fixing scheme for olive oil that seems to be linked into a murder and attempted murder back in Rome. Helena is soon to give birth and goes along with him to escape all the relatives trying to tell her what to do. It’s another entertaining story in the historical mystery series and gives a glimpse of another area of the Roman Empire. I didn’t think the actual mystery aspect was quite as good as in the last few books, though it introduces a new spy character that I feel will be turning up again. It’s still a really fun and enjoyable read thanks to the characters and their interactions and is well worth reading as with the rest of the series.

Jun 12, 2016, 9:52pm Top

That was interesting about Naomi Mitchison in your previous thread. What a life!

Nice new thread. 51 books already, impressive.

Jun 13, 2016, 12:03pm Top

Good morning, valkyrdeath! I see that you are reading Ben MacIntyre. I have Operation: Mincemeat on the TBR shelf. I look forward to your thoughts on Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies.

Jun 14, 2016, 8:02pm Top

>4 dchaikin: I'm quite pleased with how it's going. While I'm not technically setting a target, I'm still hoping I can at least hit 100 books.

>5 brodiew2: I think it's going to be a good one. I haven't read Operation Mincemeat, but I've read Agent Zigzag, also by Macintyre, and that was excellent.

Jun 19, 2016, 6:36pm Top

51. The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges
A collection of thirteen short stories, some of Borges’ last works. I didn’t think much of it in general. Most of the stories didn’t really seem to go anywhere. This was true of some of the stories in the previous collection I read, but in that case, each one at least had a fascinating idea behind it that made me enjoy reading them anyway, and some of them had proper plots. In this one, I just didn’t see the point of most of them. The title story, the last in the book, features a book with an infinite number of pages, and was the only one I really found memorable at all. Apparently Borges thought this was his best book though. I certainly preferred Fictions.

Jun 19, 2016, 8:57pm Top

52. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Originally published online as a webcomic and now collected into book form, Nimona tells the story of a shape shifting girl who becomes sidekick to the mad scientist supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart. It’s set in an interesting fantasy world that’s a combination of traditional medieval style fantasy mixed in with modern and futuristic elements. The book is often very funny, but it’s a great story too, and while at the start it just seems like a light hearted fantasy spoof, it ends up having quite a few emotional moments. Things in the world aren’t what they first seem, and ultimately there may be reasons you might actually end up wanting the villain to win anyway. As with Stevenson’s later Lumberjanes comics, this ends up being a tale of friendship. This one doesn’t feel like it written to be aimed specifically at kids, though it’s certainly suitable for them. (The book itself seems to be marketed to kids, but that’s a different matter.) Anyway, I loved this book and found it much more impressive than I was expecting. One of the best one off graphic novels I’ve read recently.

Jun 19, 2016, 9:27pm Top

Bummer about the Borges. Lumberjanes comes up a lot. Your review has me interested in Nimona.

Jun 21, 2016, 12:32pm Top

>7 valkyrdeath: a book with an infinite number of pages
Well that makes me a little short of breath! I found that story online and look forward to reading it.

Jun 21, 2016, 9:13pm Top

>9 dchaikin: Nimona was a lot better than I was expecting. As was Lumberjanes really.

>10 detailmuse: I did quite enjoy that one. The previous Borges book I read was full of unusual ideas like that, which is what I liked about it.

Jun 23, 2016, 8:17pm Top

53. Funny Fantasy edited by Alex Shvartsman
A follow on volume from Funny Science Fiction, but this time featuring comic fantasy stories, which I’m sure no-one could guess from the title. Again, they’re all readable and mostly fun, though I didn’t like it overall as much as the science fiction one. Despite that, there are some good stories here. Librarians in the Branch Library of Babel is another story from Shaenon K. Garrity (who seems to be turning up on my thread a lot recently) and is based on Borges’ famous The Library of Babel and I feel it managed to be every bit as clever as that story while having the bonus of being funny too. That one was my favourite this time, but another highlight was The Best Little Cleaning Robot in All of Faerie by Susan Jane Bigelow, which brought fairies into a science fiction settings (and then science fiction characters into the fantasy setting) in an entertaining way. The other stories are enjoyable enough reading, not especially memorable but a nice amusing way to pass some time anyway.

Jun 23, 2016, 9:09pm Top

54. Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre
Ben Macintyre’s Agent Zigzag was one of my favourite non-fiction books, so I was looking forward to reading this. While not quite as enjoyable as that one, this was still a great read. This book tells the story of some of the other double agents working for the British during WWII and the deceptions they carried out to mislead the Germans, ultimately all coming together to mislead them regarding the D-Day invasion. It’s another story full of adventure and many eccentric characters ranging from a Spanish chicken farmer to a German anglophile who was friends with P.G. Wodehouse to a French journalist who almost derailed the whole spy network due to her obsession with her pet dog. There’s a lot of humour in the book, though there’s some darker events too. It can get a bit confusing with the huge number of people involved, especially as many of which have their real names, an agent codename given to them by the Germans and then yet another codename given to them by the British for their double agent work. The author handles this well though and I generally knew who he was talking about, and while it was overwhelming at times, given the material it’s not really something that can be changed, and all of these people have stories that are worth being told. Another good book that I’d certainly recommend, though if you were only going to read one of Ben Macintyre’s books about WWII spies then I’d go for Agent Zigzag first, which is one of the most entertaining spy stories I’ve ever read, real or fictional.

Jun 24, 2016, 1:21pm Top

>13 valkyrdeath: Nice review of Double Cross: The true story of D-Day spies. Though it's clear you enjoyed this one, it is also clear the you LOVED Agent Zigzag. I'll be placing that one of my wishlist immediately.

Jun 25, 2016, 12:00pm Top

>13 valkyrdeath: I also loved Agent ZigZag, and enjoyed A Spy Among Friends, as well. I have two others that I must get to. I think Double Cross is one of them.

Jun 25, 2016, 8:42pm Top

>14 brodiew2: Yeah, I'd recommend this one, but I did love Agent Zigzag. Hope you enjoy it if you read it!

>15 NanaCC: I have A Spy Among Friends already but haven't got round to reading it yet. I'll look forward to it.

Jun 25, 2016, 9:08pm Top

55. The Mammoth Book of Perfect Crimes & Impossible Mysteries edited by Mike Ashley
This is a big collection of locked room mysteries and other crimes that initially seem to have been committed in impossible circumstances. It’s got a pleasing range of dates for the material, with the oldest story being from 1910 while the newest ones were from 2006, the year the book was released. According to the introductions, Mike Ashley appears to have gone to a lot of work to dig out a lot of more obscure stories amongst these, a few of them never having been published since their original appearance in old magazines. They also span a lot of crimes, locations and time periods, from historical mysteries to ones set in the present day. It’s a well-chosen collection. There are some clever concepts here, especially in Duel of Shadows by Vincent Cornier, an ingenious where a bullet fired from a gun in 1710 and hits a man over 200 years later. It’s a book I’ve been reading gradually over a long period, since I think it’s the best way for this sort of story. Most of the stories were enjoyable enough, though they’re not all brilliant, and the odd one had a completely absurd solution, but I think there’s enough here to be worthwhile to anyone who enjoys these sorts of mysteries.

Jun 25, 2016, 9:22pm Top

56. Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix
The third book in the Keys to the Kingdom series, again following right on from the previous one, and this time it’s a maritime adventure, complete with pirates. This one was a lot of fun, again set in the same wonderful and imaginative fantasy world but with a different feel to it yet again. The new characters that are introduced are great, and Arthur seems to have resigned himself to having to carry on with the adventures, though he still really just wants to go home. Loving this series, and so it’s on to Thursday.

Jul 3, 2016, 8:04pm Top

57. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Going slightly out of sequence, this is the second Oz book, as I read the third one earlier this year and have gone back to fill in the gap. Dorothy doesn’t appear in this one at all, and instead we follow a boy called Tip on his journey through Oz. It has a bunch of new strange characters along with the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow from the original book. It’s a fun book again, though not quite as good as Ozma of Oz was. The plot involves a revolt where Scarecrow is overthrown by an army of women who think men have been running things for too long. The gender clichés here are a bit cringeworthy which is the main annoying feature for the book. The women want to take over so they can wear all the jewels and use the money to buy dresses, and the heroes escape by releasing mice near them which cause them all to run away. It’s strange though, since in general it’s noticeable that most of the strongest characters in Oz are the women. Anyway, it was a fun book overall.

Jul 3, 2016, 8:27pm Top

58. Bitch Planet Book 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, art by Valentine De Landro
I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from this but thought I’d give it a go. This volume collects the first five issues of the Bitch Planet ongoing series. Framed as a spoof of 70s prison exploitation films, it’s set in a future where all women guilty of crimes, mainly that of being “non-compliant”, get sent off to a prison planet, unofficially known by the book’s title. It took a couple of issues to get going, but it became quite good, and there’s some great moments in it, with a diverse group of women at the heart of the story. I enjoyed it, and would read the next volume if I had easy access to it, though I wouldn’t go out of my way trying to get hold of it.

Jul 7, 2016, 6:37pm Top

59. Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald
A short novel set at the BBC during the blitz in WWII. It’s an interesting book, and as Penelope Fitzgerald worked at the BBC at that time, I’m not sure how much fact is mixed in with the fiction there. I’m also not really sure what to think of it. I neither loved it nor hated it. I think it picked up for me about half way through and by the end of it I was left feeling there was more to the book than I’d first realised, but it mostly didn’t pull me in too much. It didn’t have much in the way of an overarching plot, mostly it was a series of events, and there are some funny moments in there. It was hard to really get to know the characters though, especially given the one strange irritation of the book. It constantly uses acronyms throughout the book as if she expects the readers to all have worked at the BBC and know what it all means. Often when talking about a character they’ll be referred to by the acronym of their job role rather than their name, so that many times I wasn’t actually sure which of the characters was actually being referred to, which I feel is a pretty significant problem. It was mostly well written and had some nice touches and was perfectly readable despite the flaws, but it’s not something I think will really stick with me.

Jul 12, 2016, 9:16pm Top

60. Sir Thursday by Garth Nix
Book four of the Keys to the Kingdom series. I love the fact that every one of these books has a completely different feel while still being a continuation of the ongoing story. This time Arthur is drafted into Sir Thursday’s denizen army while Leaf tries to deal with things going on in their normal world. I like that the normal world isn’t quite our world too. Still a great series.

Jul 12, 2016, 9:17pm Top

61. Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe, art by Roc Upchurch
The first volume of an ongoing series of comics, collecting the first five issues. It’s set in a fantasy world and is clearly inspired by Dungeons and Dragons with the adventuring parties, and the characters have modern attitudes and talk in modern style language (with plenty of swearing). It’s funny and an enjoyable read, though it does feel like the story is only just getting going in this volume.

Jul 12, 2016, 9:17pm Top

62. Under an English Heaven by Donald E. Westlake
A rare non-fiction book from Westlake, this book relates the events leading up to and following the British invasion of Anguilla in the 60s. It was a perfect subject matter for him, since it has all the hallmarks of a farce. Anguilla wanted to be free from St Kitts rule but still to be a British territory, but the British, though a series of blunders and a general lack of interest, continuously misread the situation, culminating in a large scale armed invasion of the island only to find it populated by baffled unarmed civilians. Scenes were the British come in the quell a rebellion only to find the rebels are flying the Union Jack and singing God Save the Queen are like something from an old Ealing comedy. Westlake writes with all the humour you’d expect from him, and it’s full of his wonderful way of phrasing things. It’s also really interesting, and a subject that isn’t really talked about, to the point that I wasn’t even aware it had happened previously. (Westlake does talk in an introduction about a British journalist who helped him who had also written a book about the incident, which had suddenly at the last minute been cancelled from going to print. The British don’t like to advertise what a bunch of bumbling idiots most of us are, though clearly we can’t hide it very well right now given current events.) The book also has one of my favourite dedications ever: To anybody anywhere who has ever believed anything that any Government ever said about anything…

Jul 12, 2016, 9:18pm Top

63. The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith
This is a very short book, only 69 pages in fairly large type. It’s not really focused on plot, but concerns Fatou, an immigrant from the Ivory Coast working as a servant for a family, but with her supposed pay being withheld for accommodation and food that is provided. She passes The Embassy of Cambodia regularly on her way to go swimming with forgotten guest passes she’s found in the house of the family she works for, the only place she can go to do anything without money of her own. It’s a well written story, though it felt a bit too short and didn’t have a huge amount of impact. I’m happy to have read it, but it wasn’t especially memorable.

Jul 12, 2016, 10:13pm Top

>24 valkyrdeath: that is a pretty awesome dedication. Interesting commentary overall in this post.

And too bad about the Zadie Smith.

Jul 15, 2016, 8:14pm Top

>26 dchaikin: Thanks. The Zadie Smith was ok and well written but felt like it should have been one story in a collection, or the start of a longer work.

Jul 16, 2016, 7:45pm Top

64. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
William Goldman’s abridged version of the Florinese classic by S. Morgenstern. That’s how it’s presented anyway. I loved this book. The main swashbuckling storyline is full of adventure and is very funny. It’s full of brilliant scenes, including probably the best sword fighting scene I’ve ever read in a book and a very funny battle of wits. The framing around it with the introduction by the author about his childhood and how he became attached to the book and ended up abridging it, and his regular interruptions of the story to comment on things and point out what he’s cut out, all added another level to the story. I really like things that blend fact and fiction in that way, and he holds up the concept of this being an abridgement of another author’s work even into the new additions for the 25th anniversary edition where he talks about his attempts to abridge the sequel being thwarted because Morgenstern’s estate decided they wanted Stephen King to do it instead. And when he talks about having cut out long dull irrelevant sections from the book, I get the impression Morgenstern may have been based on Victor Hugo from my experience with Les Miserables.

Now I really need to see the film again, since I’ve only seen it once many years ago and I feel I’d like it much more now.

Edited: Jul 16, 2016, 8:04pm Top

65. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
This is an extremely funny book written in the form of letters between friends and notes left on fridge doors and the like. It follows Elizabeth Clarry as she reluctantly starts writing to a girl from another school thanks to her English teacher, and charts their growing friendship as she deals with problems with her other friend Celia and with her family. The letters are all extremely funny and the notes between her and her mother are hilarious. All the characters are entertaining. The book deals with some serious issues too and handles them really well, but it was never too long before something else to make me laugh. A really enjoyable read and I definitely want to try and get hold of her next book now.

Jul 16, 2016, 8:20pm Top

66. The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch by Neil Gaiman, art by Michael Zulli
I thought this title sounded familiar but I knew I hadn’t read the book. It didn’t take me long into reading it to realise that it’s an adaptation of one of Gaiman’s short stories into comic form, adapted by letterer Todd Klein. Fortunately, it was a good story, featuring a rather odd circus that starts off as rather disappointing but culminates in strange events. It’s framed around Gaiman and two of his friends going there with a woman who wasn’t called Miss Finch (and I never realised from reading the short story, despite the hints, that the friends were Jonathan Ross and Jane Goldman) and now telling the story of what happened to her. It’s an atmospheric story, but sadly I don’t think the adaptation to a comic was either necessary or particularly successful. The art work isn’t bad, but I feel it’s the sort of story where it was a lot better to leave things to the imagination than to show pictures. It wasn’t bad, but the original story was much better. I rarely see the point of adapting prose stories into graphic novel form though, other than to cash in with a popular author’s name on a new book.

Jul 16, 2016, 9:53pm Top

>28 valkyrdeath: loved the book version of The Princess Bride. As charming as the movie...well, maybe not quite as much as the movie, but very charming anyway. Fun review.

Jul 21, 2016, 1:51pm Top

>31 dchaikin: The film actually didn't make much impact on me, but I watched it when I was much younger when I wasn't such a big film fan and virtually no film made an impact on me during that period. I'm looking forward to watching it again to see how I feel about it now.

Jul 30, 2016, 8:55pm Top

67. Lady Friday by Garth Nix
The fifth book in the series and it continues to be good. Arthur seems to be getting used to his situation but is still making mistakes. Nix manages to keep things fresh and introduces new elements even five books in. Just two more to go.

Jul 30, 2016, 8:56pm Top

68. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The concept as I see it: A creepy woman has convinced a bunch of children that just because they are different they should be kept isolated away from everyone else and live forever in one location, claiming it’s for their own good. She also then keeps them in a time loop so they keep looking like children even though by this point they’re adults in their 80s, a fact that she ignores and continues to treat them like children. An 88 year old woman promptly starts to seduce the 16 year old grandson of her former lover the first time she meets him. A man with the power to bring things to life explains that it’s fine for him to torture those things, because they wouldn’t be alive without him so he can do what he wants to them, an explanation which is apparently deemed perfectly acceptable.

Yeah, I didn’t really like anyone in this book.

I thought this was an ok read but nothing spectacular. I can cope without much plot if the characters are really good, and I can cope without strong characters if there’s a really interesting plot, but this didn’t seem to have either. It was readable though but it doesn’t inspire me to read any more. Apparently the author had originally planned to do a book showing his collection of interesting old photos, and I think I’d probably have preferred that. I don’t think the photos added anything to the plot in this book, but I really liked some of them as intriguing pictures.

Jul 30, 2016, 9:18pm Top

69. The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio
This is a manga from the 70s that was apparently only recently translated into English. I thought I’d give it a go since I’d enjoyed the author’s collection of shorter works in A Drunken Dream when I read it last year. This one is a fairly lengthy book set in a boys boarding school in Germany. It starts with a boy named Thomas committing suicide and leaving a note behind for another boy named Juli, who he’d loved but had been rejected by. Shortly after, another boy who looks a lot like Thomas joins the school, and the book follows the relationship between him and Juli and various other students. The characters are fairly complex and you learn about their pasts over the course of the book, often only really understanding their behaviour towards the end. I found it got better as it went along, but found the plot could feel a bit muddled and sometimes inconsistent, especially earlier on. I’m not sure if that’s from the original or if it’s a translation issue. The art was ok, but I found that some of the characters looked too similar and I would get them mixed up, which didn’t help with the confusion. Apparently it was a very influential in manga terms, though I’ve barely ever read any so don’t really know the specifics of that. It wasn’t a bad read and there were some good moments in the latter part of the book, but I didn’t love it. Though I guess love stories aren’t really my thing in general anyway.

Jul 30, 2016, 9:36pm Top

70. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
The first of the two novels written by Anne Bronte, this tells the story of Agnes as she decides to become a governess due to her family struggling financially. It’s semi-autobiographical, since apparently Agnes’s experiences of working for the two families in this book are taken almost directly from her own experience as a governess. The first family in particular is truly awful, but there’s some humour in the narration which I liked. The book was very well written and I enjoyed it overall. I’m hoping to go ahead and read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall at some point soon.

Jul 31, 2016, 4:44pm Top

Interesting about the Hagio, even I likely won't read it. And interesting about Agnes Grey, which seems to get a lot of affectionate reviews. That I do hope to read it some day.

Aug 4, 2016, 5:30pm Top

>37 dchaikin: I didn't know anything about Agnes Grey when I read it, so I was pleasantly surprised. The Hagio isn't something I'd go out of my way to recommend, I just thought I'd give it a go since I got it in an ebook bundle.

Aug 7, 2016, 7:39pm Top

71. Hinges Book One: Clockwork City by Meredith McClaren
72. Hinges Book Two: Paper Tigers by Meredith McClaren
This is the first two volumes of the Hinges webcomic. I absolutely love the artwork in this. The pictures are really well drawn and detailed without being cluttered. It’s important, because they tell most of the story, as there’s very little dialogue, especially in the first book. It’s mysterious and unusual, and doesn’t explain anything to you, leaving you to pick up the details of the world and what is happening as it goes on. I enjoyed them both and am looking forward to the next one.

Aug 7, 2016, 7:44pm Top

73. Superior Saturday by Garth Nix
Book six out of seven, so approaching the end of the Keys to the Kingdom series now. Another good book, less of a standalone story this time, it ends in a real cliffhanger, so I’m glad all the books are already out and I can go straight onto the last one.

Aug 7, 2016, 8:09pm Top

74. The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot
The third collaborative work between Mary and Bryan Talbot, and again it’s a work of graphical non-fiction. This one tells the story of the life of French anarchist Louise Michel, focusing mostly on her time in the Paris Commune and her subsequent deportation to New Caledonia where she befriended the local population and then supported them in their rebellion against the French colonial authorities. It’s framed with a conversation being held with Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who remembers talking to Michel about their shared love of utopian fiction. It’s an interesting book, especially since I hadn’t even heard of Louise Michel before, and the artwork from Bryan Talbot is up to his normal standard. As usual with these Mary Talbot books, it’s been well researched and there are fairly extensive notes at the back giving further historical information and references. It’s a good follow up to their previous book about suffragettes, and I possibly enjoyed it even more through not being familiar with the subject matter already.

Edited: Aug 7, 2016, 8:34pm Top

75. Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker
76. Sunset Gun by Dorothy Parker
I actually finished Enough Rope a couple of months ago but completely forgot to list it, so I’ll list it here alongside the one I’ve just finished. I enjoyed quite a few poems from these books, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes both. I’m no good at reviewing poetry and I don’t understand a lot of it so I’m not going to try to write about them any more than that.

Aug 7, 2016, 8:33pm Top

77. Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon
I’ve been familiar with the title of this for a long time but knew nothing about it, but I was happy to find that it’s a very funny play. I listened to an audio full cast recording which was fairly well done. I wasn’t sure about one or two of the performances but it certainly didn’t take anything away from the play itself. I need to try out some more of Neil Simon’s plays since I think I’ve enjoyed everything I have seen by him in the past.

Aug 11, 2016, 9:11pm Top

78. Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith
I hadn’t heard of this book but I was drawn to it, appropriately enough, at my local library last weekend. I’m glad I was, since I loved it. It collects about a dozen stories, none of them actually called Public Library, though the author has spoken to various people about public libraries and printed their feelings about them between the stories. (It only occurs to me now, after writing that line, that the lack of a story called Public Library could be representative of the library closures that are a recurring theme in these sections.) Smith’s writing is wonderful, and she has a clear love of words and language as well as literature, and it shows through constantly in the stories. They’re not stories you read for any sort of plot. They tend to ramble, go off at tangents, and often are a blend of fact and fiction. But I found every one of them to be a joy to read, and with a lot of wordplay and humour that I really wasn’t expecting, while still being meaningful. I also thought it just kept getting better as it went along. I particularly liked the story After Life, about a man who is mistakenly reported dead by the local newspaper twice, ten years apart, with the differing reactions to the event showing the difference in culture over that decade. The closing story, And So On, that starts with the early death of a friend, was a powerful way to end the book too. This was the first Ali Smith book I’ve read and now I’m really looking forward to reading more of them.

Aug 11, 2016, 10:55pm Top

Really nice review of the Ali Smith short story collection. I'm interested.

Just catching your Aug 7 reviews. The Talbots' book sounds interesting. I don't think I've seen a play by Neil Simon, but I've certainly like some movies based on them.

Aug 13, 2016, 6:01pm Top

>45 dchaikin: Thanks for the comments! I don't think I've ever seen a play by Neil Simon at the theatre but like you've I've seen some films adapted from them, as well as some he wrote specifically as films. I've actually now rented the film version of Barefoot in the Park to watch tomorrow.

Aug 14, 2016, 7:48am Top

Aug 20, 2016, 7:32pm Top

>47 baswood: Thanks! I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did.

Aug 20, 2016, 9:38pm Top

79. Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War by Elisabeth Shipton
The title is a bit misleading. Many of the women talked about in this book aren’t British and a lot of them aren’t frontline either. That doesn’t make the book any better or worse, but I think titles for non-fiction books should be related to the contents.

Anyway, this is a wide ranging book about the roles women took on during WW1, from nurses and ambulance drivers to women who joined up to fight posing as men, to the Russian Women’s Battalion of Death. It’s often a bit of a dry read but I can’t fault the information and there are some interesting people and organisations I wasn’t aware of included. It’s clearly been well researched and everything is thoroughly referenced and noted. It possibly tried to cover a bit too much territory though. I never felt like I got to know much about any of the particular people involved because there were just so many and before I could learn about one it was onto another. Also, each chapter seemed to be written as if they were separate, as when people who had been talked about in earlier chapters got mentioned in someone else’s story later on they were introduced as if we’d never heard about them before. Each chapter also ends with a few paragraphs telling you everything you’ve just read all over again, and the final chapter simply recaps the entire book in brief. It just doesn’t really flow.

That’s not to say the book is bad. As I said, the information is good, and it gives a good overview of events and could possibly be a good starting point for other more in depth reading about the individuals. I’m not sure if there’s any other books covering the same material, but I’d only really recommend this one if you’re extremely interested in the subject.

Aug 20, 2016, 9:58pm Top

80. Universally Challenged: Quiz Contestants Say the Funniest Things by Wendy Roby
Pretty much as expected from the title, this is a collection of funny answers given on TV quiz shows. I wasn’t expecting anything too amazing, though really most of these aren’t really all that funny, mostly just being people not knowing things rather than giving answers that are actually comical, though there’s the odd laugh every few pages. I think a lot of the humour with some of the answers is with the reactions from the host and things like that which won’t come through in print too. But basically, it’s exactly the book you expect for this sort of thing.

Too new to be included in the book, but I think it’ll be a long time before anything matches this comic misunderstanding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvRwRuHwyTU

Aug 21, 2016, 5:22pm Top

81. Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. The book mostly follows Casey Han, a daughter of Korean immigrants, through several years of her life. It doesn’t focus exclusively on her though, and spends time on the lives of some of her friends and family along the way too. All the characters felt believable, without heroes and villains, simply people with their individual flaws and good points. One of the things I found most impressive about the book was the way it regularly switched perspective between different characters and showed things from their viewpoint, and didn’t feel judgemental towards any of them. You’d see the characters from their own viewpoint and that of the other characters but there was no overall narrator passing judgement on who was right or wrong. Changing viewpoint isn’t unique of course, but I thought it was particularly well done here. It’s very impressive considering that it’s a debut novel too. It’s a pretty long book but I was interested from beginning to end.

Aug 21, 2016, 5:30pm Top

82. Lumberjanes Vol. 4 by Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, art by Brooke Allen
Back on top form, the fourth Lumberjanes volume contains one four-part story that reveals more of the history behind the camp and some of the characters. The plot is more involved than the previous volume, the writing is as great as ever, and Brooke Allen is thankfully back as the artist for these issues. Still a lot of fun.

Aug 21, 2016, 5:52pm Top

83. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
For a classic philosophical/theological novel, this has above the average number of high speed elephant and hot air balloon chases. I found this to be quite a fun read for the most part. There were some great funny moments in it, though the escalating nature of the story became quite easy to predict after a while. I can also see that it most likely had an influence on at least on particular Discworld novel too. I thought it sadly fell apart a bit towards the end when it started on the religious themes and I wasn’t quite sure what was going on at the conclusion. Perhaps nothing really was aside from the book’s subtitle, “A Nightmare”. It was quite enjoyable to read but I would have liked more of a conclusion.

Aug 21, 2016, 8:00pm Top

84. Lord Sunday by Garth Nix
The final book in the Keys to the Kingdom series, and it’s a great conclusion. It’s been an original series throughout, and Nix never chooses the clichéd way to do things. Everything is wrapped up well and the ending has plenty of surprises but it completely appropriate. Definitely one of the more fun fantasy series I’ve read, and I’m looking forward to reading some more of Garth Nix’s books.

Aug 21, 2016, 8:08pm Top

85. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher
This is a fun little book that retells the first Star Wars film in the form of a Shakespeare play. More than just trying to make the language old fashioned, it’s been written in full iambic pentameter, and a lot of work has clearly been put into it. It references famous lines from Shakespeare’s plays at various points of the story, as well as changing famous Star Wars lines into suitably Shakespearian dialogue. They even give inner monologues to the characters, although really I don’t think R2D2 should have any English language speeches, even as inner monologues. It was quite a funny read, and it’s even better on the full cast audiobook, where they do a good job of sounding like the original actors. I’d love to see this on stage.

Aug 21, 2016, 8:20pm Top

86. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in Space by Mary Roach
I found this to be a really fascinating read. Mary Roach looks at the details of space travel that don’t generally get discussed, the normal day to day tasks that suddenly become complicated when they’re performed in space. It has chapters ranging from the effects of being in zero gravity and the problems of motion sickness it causes to details of food arrangements and ultimately right down to the problems of toilet facilities in an environment with no gravity. As usual with Roach, it’s not only interesting and unusual but also very funny too. She makes everything entertaining and the book is also full of details of conversations she had with people involved in space exploration. I loved the book. I need to try to get to her other books fairly soon.

Aug 28, 2016, 7:11pm Top

87. No Mercy Vol. 1 by Alex de Campi, art by Carla Speed McNeil
Another random dive into the graphic novels I’ve obtained from bundles. It follows a group of US teenagers who visit Central America, where their bus goes over a cliff and they find themselves having to try to survive alone in the desert. The characters are all one dimensional stereotypes, at this point at least, and they’re virtually all unlikeable, though I think that’s intentional. Possibly because they’re horrible and constantly do unbelievably stupid things then it’s supposed to make it less upsetting when awful things start happening to them. It got a bit more interesting as it went on, but there was nothing that really grabbed me in it. At the start especially it also seemed to be trying too hard to feel current, full of technology references and people thinking in emojis. I always think this is a sign that a book is going to date badly very quickly. Mentioning mobiles phones and computers in general is one thing, but having characters mentioning Instagram filters and talking in Twitter hashtags seems a good way to ensure it’ll be virtually unreadable in a few years time when everything has changed. Anyway, the book was readable but didn’t grab me and I doubt I’ll move on to the next issue.

And after writing that I’ve found an article where the author is talking about this book and saying that the key to writing teenagers is that very few people are stereotypes. I’m not sure why they can feel like such blatant attempts to represent a particular type of person without that being intentional, but I guess it isn’t.

Aug 28, 2016, 9:07pm Top

88. The Martian Way and Other Stories by Isaac Asimov
Finally continuing my chronological Asimov reading. The Martian Way collects four stories, two short stories in between two longer ones. It opens with the title story, which has a well realised setting. Mars has been colonised but they still rely on Earth to get supplies for many things, especially water. It deals with the political situation as an Earth politician starts to gain support for his campaign against sending things to Mars. (The politician was an attack on Joseph McCarthy and apparently Asimov was quite disappointed not to get any reaction over that.) The solution to the problem in the end is entertaining as they beat the manipulative politician through ingenuity. I found it a bit uncomfortable that part of the story revolves around obtaining water by taking away the ice from the rings of Saturn though. It’s probably believable that humanity would just decide to start destroying the rest of the solar system for resources, but it would have been nice for it to be addressed at least.

Youth is a minor short story involving visitors of a much smaller alien race getting trapped by children who just think they’re unusual animals. It’s got a twist that I saw coming right from the start, though unlike many twist stories, it actually doesn’t impact the rest of the story. It’s not bad but nothing special. Likewise, The Deep was a readable short story but not one that was particularly memorable.

Sucker Bait closes the book, and that’s the highlight for me. An expedition is sent to investigate a planet that was previously colonised about 100 years earlier but where all the inhabitants had died of a mysterious illness without any known cause. It has an interesting group of characters in the scientists sent to investigate. It also has an interesting concept of a group of people having been trained up to memorise everything precisely whose role it is simply to learn about any random things they come across, with the idea being that they can make connections between completely different subjects where specialists in a particular subject would only know half the information and computers wouldn’t have the intuition to connect them. The central character is from this group, and the book deals with how different he is and how difficult it makes it for him to deal with other people. The ultimate solution of the mystery is fairly straight forward but believable. I don’t think Asimov put this story in any of his other collections either.

So there’s just one really good story in this book, and three ok ones. But the best one is also the longest and takes up almost half the book on its own, so it’s was a worthwhile read. I think this book was just slightly before he reached his peak in his non-robot short stories.

Aug 28, 2016, 10:58pm Top

Enjoyed catching up. I'm intrigued by The Man Who Was Thursday. That last Asimov story appeals (and I don't normally pay attention to scifi)

Sep 1, 2016, 9:56am Top

Always good to catch up on those Isaac Asimov reviews

Sep 3, 2016, 9:05pm Top

>59 dchaikin: Thanks. The Man Who Was Thursday was definitely a unusual book. The Asimov story probably isn't one of his absolute best works but I have a fondness for the story and it had some good ideas.

>60 baswood: I'm way behind on my planned read through Asimov's books since I'm constantly getting side tracked by all the many other things to read and adding more virtually every time I visit this site.

Sep 3, 2016, 9:06pm Top

89. Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure edited by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith
The subtitle pretty much tells you what you’re getting with this book. Inspired by the famous six word story supposedly written by Hemingway (For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn), Smith magazine got people to send in six words to sum up their life. They collected some of them into this book. Most of them aren’t anything special and they can be a bit samey, where a few people have said essentially the same thing. Occasionally, at their best, they show the power of words and how much can be said in such a short sentence, implying an entire story in that one line. Sometimes they’re sad, often they’re funny. It’s nothing too spectacular but it was fun enough for a quick read.

Edited: Sep 3, 2016, 9:27pm Top

90. Wet Moon Vol. 1: Feeble Wanderings by Sophie Campbell
Another delve into a random graphic novel. This is the first volume in an ongoing series of books, though a very irregularly spaced one it seems, since there’s only been six so far with this one being released in 2004, the sixth in 2012 and a seventh not out yet. I struggle with the few months wait between volumes of Saga! This one didn’t do anything for me anyway. It’s a story about a group of teenage goth girls and is focused on the characters with only the vaguest hint of a plot starting up right at the end of the book. I don’t think it’s bad, and the actual art was very good, but it’s not for me. I can’t really understand the sorts of relationships in this book. I don’t understand friendships where the friends are constantly having yelling arguments with each other and insulting each other, since it just doesn’t seem like friendship to me and I don’t know why people like that would carry on hanging around with each other. I just don’t think I want to spend more time reading about that sort of lifestyle.

Sep 5, 2016, 8:51pm Top

91. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
I found this one as part of the SF Masterworks series, one of the few in that collection that I hadn’t already heard of. Written in the 1970s, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is a post-apocalyptic novel where the disaster is brought about by pollution, though the specifics of exactly how aren’t covered. The main problem caused is that everyone left is infertile, and so a small community of scientists set themselves up in the Appalachian Mountains investigating cloning as the only means to continue the human race. But the clones aren’t quite the same as other humans, and all clones created at the same time have some sort of empathic connection. The book then follows on from there for a while, before jumping forward a little to the early dystopian society created by these clones.

I thought this book had some good ideas at times, but found it a bit slow at the start. A romance in the first part felt really tacked on and didn’t seem relevant to anything, and I found it hard to get into, but I decided to keep going since it’s not a particularly long book. It was only at about the mid-point where the plot really started getting going and things started getting more interesting, and it picked up from there and ultimately had a pretty good ending. The characters and their relationships to each other become more important. Because of this, in the end, I’m happy to have read it, but it takes too long getting started to really recommend.

Sep 12, 2016, 6:49pm Top

92. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
This is a book told as a series of letters, which is something I always find hard to resist. In this case, they’re all written by Jason Fitger, English professor at a small university, and are nearly all letters of recommendation for his various students or for other members of staff who are applying for different jobs and courses. The letters are grumpy, sarcastic and sometimes very funny. Over the course of the book, it does tell a story, as his frustration with writing these letters leads to him rambling about other things that are going on. As it progresses it becomes clear that there’s a lot more to the character than just the misanthropic grouch that he first appears on the surface. It’s mostly a comical read, though it does cover darker territory later on and has more depth than the series of funny rants the book initially seems to be. It’s not likely to be something that sticks with me for a long time, but it was a fun quick read.

Sep 13, 2016, 9:39am Top

I am slowly working my way though the S F Masterworks series and so I was interested to read your review of Where Late the Sweet Birds sang

Sep 13, 2016, 5:48pm Top

>66 baswood: I'm very gradually reading through those too. Initially I was going to read them in order but I gave up on that almost immediately and I'm just taking them at random.

Sep 17, 2016, 8:31pm Top

93. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
The third book in the Tiffany Aching series, and one of the few Discworld books I hadn’t read before, leaving me only two more. Pratchett was still in great form when writing this one, and it’s got a good story and very funny writing. Tiffany is a really good character and the Feegles are as entertaining as ever. There was a brief section in an underworld featuring bogles that eat people’s memories, which makes one of the characters very angry about them and comment that taking away someone’s memories is taking away the person. It was quite sad to read knowing that it was around the time this book was being written that Pratchett would have received his Alzheimer’s diagnosis and it feels like he was writing his feelings on it into the book, before he publicly revealed anything. Anyway, it’s another brilliant Discworld book, as expected.

Sep 20, 2016, 6:08pm Top

94. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov translated by Hugh Aplin
This was a very odd fantasy book, but one that was a lot less tough than I was expecting. I can’t compare it to other translations, but this one at least was very easy to read. I quite enjoyed the book, and at times it did make me laugh, particularly when the cat Behemoth was around. It did feel a little disjointed at times, and only really seemed to come together into any sort of storyline about half way through. Interestingly, this copy of the book mentions that the author didn’t have time to properly edit and revise the last half of the book before his death, yet it’s the part that felt like it flowed the smoothest, despite a couple of inconsistencies. It’s not a favourite but I enjoyed it well enough.

Sep 20, 2016, 8:11pm Top

95. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke
A collection of short stories framed as being by different authors from the same world as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It carries on the mock 19th century writing style of the novel. The stories are fun and mostly feel like alternative fairy tales, told with a fun sense of humour behind them. Jonathan Strange appears in one of the stories, and one of them features referencing footnotes in the same way as the novel, but they’re all individual stories. I enjoyed them, though they don’t have the same depth as the novel and it’s best to take them as a separate thing without trying to compare them. Fun for anyone who is a fan of the huge novel and still wants more, but not essential reading.

Sep 20, 2016, 8:21pm Top

96. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This was really good. It’s a memoir written in free verse, split into individual poems, and perfectly readable. Woodson tells of her childhood from her birth and growing up in the middle of the Civil Rights movement. The poems are good and her story is really well told. Well worth reading.

Oct 2, 2016, 6:19pm Top

97. Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West
Well, this was a bleak read. Before I’d got to it I’d seen it referred to as a black comedy, but I’m not sure where the comedy comes in. It’s about a man who has been hired to write a newspaper advice column under the name Miss Lonelyhearts, which is also the only name he’s ever referred to by during the book. Initially not taking it seriously, he sinks into depression as he realises the genuine misery and horrible situations in the letters he’s getting. There’s pretty much every type of prejudice involved somewhere in this very short book and all the characters are horrible including Miss Lonelyhearts himself, who at one point, along with his friend, starts throwing homophobic abuse at a random old man in a bar. I didn’t really like this, or get the point of it other than to say that people are all awful. I think it’s probably aged badly too.

Oct 2, 2016, 6:35pm Top

98. Three Hands in the Fountain by Lindsay Davis
It’s always fun to get back to another Falco mystery. The series continues to alternate between stories set in ancient Rome and ones where he goes off to another part of the world, this book being one of the former. Lindsey Davis also continues to use the series to try and write every type of crime story around, so this time we get a serial killer. The book is still often very funny, but it’s tempered with a story that’s darker than usual. Body parts, initially just hands, start to turn up in the water supply, leading to the discovery that for years someone has been killing women undetected. With a story like that, the humour eventually has to take a back seat for a while and the ending becomes quite tense. It’s well written and entertaining as usual. Not my favourite of the series, but still a good read.

Oct 2, 2016, 6:43pm Top

99. El Deafo by Cece Bell
A graphic memoir aimed at children, but perfectly enjoyable for an adult too, or at least it was in my case. It portrays the authors childhood after going deaf at the age of 4 following an illness. She has hearing aids at home that let her hear, but she still needs to use lip reading and context to help her understand things, something she has trouble getting other people to understand. For school she has a more powerful type of hearing aid with a microphone that the teacher wears, which she discovers means she can hear the teacher wherever they go in the school. The El Deafo of the title is her own superhero alter ego she creates from this, able to hear things going on elsewhere. I really liked the art style of the book. It does a good job of portraying what the deafness was like for her as a child, and also has a good afterword that explains how every deaf person’s experience is different in how it affects them and how they treat it. I liked this book quite a lot.

Oct 2, 2016, 6:51pm Top

100. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
A collection of short fairy tale-like horror stories in comic format. Some are more intriguing than others, but they all have open ambiguous endings that leave things open to your own interpretation, which I like in stories of this sort. It was a quick read, and I enjoyed most of it, and some of the stories leave you thinking afterwards. The stylised art suited the stories too. Not a favourite, but a good read for anyone who likes this sort of thing, and better than a lot of the dark fairy story type books I’ve read.

Oct 2, 2016, 7:21pm Top

101. All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
The book opens with a young woman called Jake, a sheep farmer, whose sheep have been getting killed by someone or something. This story is told chronologically, but it alternates with chapters that go back through various earlier events in her life in reverse chronological order. It’s a really interesting structure and one that works very well. We get to see the consequences of events before we see what caused them, and it’s interesting the ideas that can form about what’s happened that often aren’t the case once the past is revealed. The writing is extremely good and it has a feeling of menace that runs through the whole thing, both in the ongoing storyline and in the revelations of the past. It’s not always an easy read, since it deals with some tough themes, especially abusive relationships, and the story has a few surprises near the end where it went somewhere I really wasn’t expecting. It is a compulsive read though, and I got through it very quickly as I just had to keep going. I feel this is a book I’m going to be thinking about for a while afterwards. This was Evie Wyld’s second novel, and now I need to try and get hold of her first.

Oct 2, 2016, 11:22pm Top

>76 valkyrdeath: Added to the library wishlist!

Oct 3, 2016, 8:09am Top

>76 valkyrdeath: That sounds really interesting.

Oct 4, 2016, 5:22pm Top

Good afternoon, valkyrdeath.

>71 valkyrdeath: I have heard about this book many times, but never taken it up. I will add it the TBR long list for 2017.

>73 valkyrdeath: I've always trippped over the name Falco. I keep thinking 'Rock Me, Amadeus!' and can't take the character seriously. I just have to bite the bullet and get an audio and try it out.

Oct 4, 2016, 8:41pm Top

>77 ELiz_M: >78 .Monkey.: It was a great read. The ending seems to have been divisive but I thought it worked well. Hope you enjoy it if you read it!

>79 brodiew2: Falco is definitely worth checking out, the books are a lot of fun. The first two are quite good but they really start to become great after that I think.

Oct 4, 2016, 9:40pm Top

Catching up and noticed you read The Master and Margarita, and also Brown Girl Dreaming- two great but very different books.

Interesting about Evie Wyld.

Oct 6, 2016, 9:35am Top

>79 brodiew2: If you're going with audio Falco I recommend the versions read by either Gordon Griffin or Christian Rodska over the new US editions read by Simon Prebble (who I think was a shockingly poor choice). Rodska is my favorite for them.

Oct 10, 2016, 11:06am Top

>81 dchaikin: They were certainly both interesting books, for different reasons. I'm glad I read them.

Oct 12, 2016, 6:54pm Top

102. Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo
McConnery Ellis is on trial for murdering her husband. He’s been poisoned by a high-tech AI generative kitchen, and the trial hinges on whether she purposefully poisoned her husband or whether the kitchen AI somehow made the decision itself. This trial is quite intriguing and has a few interesting ideas. The first half of the book alternates between the trial and the experience of one of the jurors, Julio Gonzalez, and his attempts to seduce a fellow juror despite severe penalties for communicating during the trial. In this future, the jury in the courtroom is represented by robots and the jurors themselves watch via a virtual reality headset while on a luxury holiday paid for by the courts. This side of the story I found less successful. It makes no sense at all for a court to pay for people to go on holiday and watch the trial from a luxury resort as opposed to them just watching the trial, and it’s never explained why they would go to this expense. It’s also not very interesting to watch a man for some reason being obsessed with someone he’s only seen in passing and doesn’t even know.

The second half of the short book becomes a sort of science fiction Twelve Angry Men, following the deliberations of the jury. Here the science fiction elements make a bit more sense. Having the jury meet in virtual reality with generic robot representations to prevent any bias does have some logic to it, and the discussions are well done. For me, it fell apart a bit at the ending though. Potential spoiler here, but I think it’s more of a warning than a spoiler to say there’s no resolution to the trial. The jury reach no verdict and we never find out what happened or what verdict is reached on the retrial.

I was enjoying the book generally, but whether you’re likely to enjoy it hinges a lot of whether you can put up with not having a resolution to the trial. If you can, then this is a decent story, but I personally don’t see the point of a court room drama story that doesn’t get resolved. It’s like reading a Poirot novel and having him say “I haven’t got a clue” at the end and abandoning the case unsolved. If you feel like that then I can’t recommend it, but if you don’t mind an open ending, then by all means give it a go.

Oct 12, 2016, 9:26pm Top

103. Spectacles by Sue Perkins
This is a memoir by the comedian Sue Perkins. I loved it. As expected, it was almost always very funny, though she does touch on sad events and regrets at times, but it’s never far from another hilarious line or comical event from her past. I generally prefer reading in print to audiobooks, but this is one of the occasions where I think the audiobook is better since she reads it herself, which enhances everything a lot, especially at times when she can’t keep from laughing herself. I already liked her but this book made me like her even more. Definitely recommended.

Oct 12, 2016, 10:01pm Top

104. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is an excellent short story collection. I enjoyed every one of the twelve stories in the book. Adichie writes in a way that manages to put you into the lives of her characters almost immediately. The stories are all about Nigerian characters, though not all set in Nigeria, and they vary in tone, but are consistent in quality. Some highlights for me were On Monday of Last Week, an often humorous story of a Nigerian woman working as a babysitter for an eccentric American family, and The American Embassy, where the story of a woman queuing to request asylum at the embassy is told in flashbacks as to how she ended up there. I especially loved Jumping Monkey Hill, about an African writer’s conference run by a patronising British man. That had one of my favourite closing lines to a story. Those are some highlights, but I could list almost any story from the book there. The characters are all well developed despite having only a short space to tell the story. One of the best single author story collections I’ve read.

Oct 17, 2016, 6:17pm Top

106. Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini, art by Eduardo Risso
This was a very unusual graphic novel. This isn’t actually a Batman comic, and the word “true” in the subtitle is the key. Paul Dini was one of the main writers on Batman: The Animated Series (still the best Batman adaptation ever in my opinion) and this is his memoir of a brief period of time during the making of that show when he got mugged and badly beaten up and left in hospital having to have part of his skull reconstructed. The event itself is brutally captured and I can understand why in an interview I saw recently Dini said that when he first got the completed artwork for the scene he just couldn’t look at it. Most of the book is about the aftermath of the attack, his recovery both physically and mentally as he comes to terms with what happened and tries to deal with the fear. He also has to overcome a block from his ability to write Batman when all he can think of was how there wasn’t anyone there to save him. The most interesting aspect comes from how this is all represented. Dini sees the various Batman characters as the voices in his head, the villains telling him to give up and that he got what he deserved, while Batman complains about how badly he handled the situation. It’s a short book, and it can be a tough read at times, though there’s some humour in there too. It feels like a really honest account of his own thoughts during a difficult time, and it was very well done.

Oct 18, 2016, 9:04pm Top

107. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
As the title suggests, this is a retelling of Snow White in a western setting. It turned out to be a lot less silly than it sounded. It’s beautifully written and the story is well adapted. This version is quite a dark tale with themes of racism and misogyny in the old west running through it. Snow White here is half-Crow, and there’s no prince and no dwarfs but seven tough independent outlaw women with their own town. Even considering it aside from being a fairy tale retelling, this is a really good, very well written story.

Oct 18, 2016, 9:19pm Top

108. The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin
Published at the very end of the 19th Century, The Awakening is an interesting novel about a woman struggling between her own desires and the attitudes of the time of how women were supposed to behave. The writing was very good, and the story was apparently quite controversial at the time. It feels quite modern for the time it was written. The short stories at the end were good too.

Oct 19, 2016, 1:11pm Top

Good morning, valkyrdeath!

>88 valkyrdeath: I remember seeing another, similarly positive review of Six Gun Snow White earlier in the year. I am intrigued. Did you get this as an ebook or hard copy?

Oct 19, 2016, 5:39pm Top

>90 brodiew2: That was probably the same review that put it on my wishlist earlier in the year. I read it as an ebook borrowed from the library. It's quite short so was a quick read.

Oct 19, 2016, 10:02pm Top

>89 valkyrdeath: interesting about The Awakening

Oct 24, 2016, 6:34pm Top

110. Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld, art by Joe Sumner
A brief graphic memoir showing a period in Evie Wyld’s childhood where she becomes fascinated by sharks, particularly shark attacks, and imagines them lurking everywhere. The art was done as black and white cartoonish drawings except for occasional things, particularly all the sharks, which are drawn in a more realistic style. The contrast is quite effective, and the sharks looked great, though I wasn’t sure the style of the drawings was the perfect fit. It was a decent read, though nothing that really stood out. It’s interesting reading this not long after reading All the Birds, Singing though, as shark imagery turned up a few times in her writing there too.

Oct 25, 2016, 7:12pm Top

111. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard
I loved the other two Candice Millard history books I read so I went for this one as soon as I saw it. It follows Winston Churchill’s experiences during the second Boer War, which is something I’d never really read about before. It works as a great adventure story, the main focus being his time as a prisoner of war and his subsequent escape. The writing is as good as usual for Millard. She also does a good job of showing what was going on in the war in general to frame the story without ever losing its focus. It’s also a reminder of the fact of the tens of thousands of people, mostly women and children, starved to death in British concentration camps. What a great country we were, involved in a war between two sides fighting over the rights to land that didn’t belong to either of them.

I was wary about the book before I started, even though I’d already decided to read it. Despite the way he always seems to be portrayed these days, Churchill was pretty horrendous (he believed in eugenics, thought “mental defectives” should be sterilised and sent to enforced labour camps, sent the army in against striking unions, objected to women getting the vote, etc). But he’s still a fascinating man too, and the book wasn’t really affected by any of that. It was another great book from Millard, though Destiny of the Republic is still my favourite.

Oct 25, 2016, 7:31pm Top

105. Steed and Mrs Peel Vol. 1: A Very Civil Armageddon by Mark Waid, art by Steve Bryant and Will Sliney
109. Steed and Mrs Peel Vol. 2: The Secret History of Space by Caleb Monroe, art by Yasmin Liang
112. Steed and Mrs Peel Vol. 3: The Return of the Monster by Caleb Monroe, art by Yasmin Liang
I read the 90s comic miniseries based on 60s TV show The Avengers earlier this year, and since I had them I thought I’d go ahead and read these three volumes that made up the brief 12 issue run from 2013-2014. It contains a few separate stories across the issues, though they all link together to form an overall arc via the same villains. That’s something that never really happened in the series, where every episode was an individual story and villains would only return very occasionally, usually in a later series. The feel of it was mostly right, though the dialogue was a mixed bag, sometimes not seeming too bad and other times feeling completely out of character. It’s a shame since the characters are the most important part of the series. I think it mostly got better as it went along. The art was a mixed bag. In the first volume it often seemed a bit rushed and the characters didn’t look quite right and even seemed to vary from one page to the next. The artist for the other two volumes was much more consistent, and while I didn’t love the simplistic style I didn’t really find it too distracting and I thought it was preferable to the first one, which is probably another reason I found the later volumes better. Anyway, it wasn’t a terrible read but also wasn’t anything all that good either. Big fans of the show might want to take a look but it’s not something I’d really recommend.

Oct 25, 2016, 7:38pm Top

113. The Gastronomical Me by M. F. K. Fisher
A memoir of the authors experiences with food throughout her life up to the point of writing in 1943. The writing was fairly good but the book didn’t really grab me. For me, it focused too much on the food. Talking about meals she’s eaten would have been fine in the context of her life, but mostly she doesn’t seem interested in talking about much else. Occasionally she does, and there are the occasional interesting moments, but mostly for me it felt like it had just dissolved into basically a big list of “and then I ate this and drank some wine, and then I ate this and drank some wine”. Especially as the book went on, the ignoring of the rest of her life became confusing, since she was talking about her husband and how much she loved him, and all of a sudden she was with some random other guy who she never explained who he was, then a few chapters later she had one line mentioning she divorced her husband, but I never really found out who that other guy was, even after he died. Sometimes a chapter would end and I would wonder what it was all about. It might not be a bad book, but it wasn’t really for me.

Oct 25, 2016, 9:53pm Top

"Despite the way he always seems to be portrayed these days, Churchill was pretty horrendous."

Sounds about right. I think the world needed him or someone like him (did we really?), but, yeah, yuck.

Oct 26, 2016, 4:27am Top

>95 valkyrdeath: Thanks for providing a verdict on these. As a fan of the TV series (especially the Mrs. Peel episodes), I've been kind of eying these comics whenever they've come to my attention, but was never certain whether they'd be worthwhile, or more likely to be disappointing. But it sounds like I can skip them without worrying too much about what I'm missing.

Oct 27, 2016, 3:47pm Top

>88 valkyrdeath: >91 valkyrdeath: I started it this week. I got if from Overdrive. I like the writing so far.

Oct 27, 2016, 9:00pm Top

>97 dchaikin: It's always hard to tell how much things would have been different without him during WW2. Would someone else have done the job just as well? It always feels a bit disturbing when everyone tries to gloss over a lot of negative things and portray someone as just a hero though, and we get Churchill being voted as the greatest British person in history. I even saw the media glorifying Margaret Thatcher when she died, and her reign of terror only ended in 1990. I wonder how this stuff will all balance out in the future when they're just people in history books.

>98 bragan: I loved the TV show and the Mrs. Peel episodes were definitely the best. I'd say you're definitely not missing much by not reading them. I think for adaptations like that to work they really have to get the characters right and it just felt off too often. At one points Steed refers to Mrs. Peel as just Peel, without the Mrs, and every time something like that happens I just can't see the characters from the show in it anymore and it stops working.

>99 brodiew2: Glad you like the writing and I hope you enjoy the rest of the book!

Oct 28, 2016, 2:03am Top

>100 valkyrdeath: At one points Steed refers to Mrs. Peel as just Peel, without the Mrs,

Oh my. Steed would be shocked and scandalized at this horrible misrepresentation! And that sort of thing would just stop me in my tracks as a reader, too.

Nov 8, 2016, 6:11pm Top

>101 bragan: No, he really wouldn't appreciate that portrayal! I rarely expect much from those sorts of adaptations anyway, so it didn't disappoint too much.

Nov 8, 2016, 6:11pm Top

114. How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman
A look at what daily life was like in Victorian era Britain. This was a good read and was told in an entertaining way. Historian Ruth Goodman has actually tried out most of the things she talks about in the book too so she knows what she’s talking about. The book follows the structure of an average day, with each chapter advancing, starting from getting up in the morning and ending with going to bed at night. I particularly liked that it didn’t focus just on upper class life and that she instead talked about how life was for different types of people, and also how things changed throughout the fairly length period. It covers a wide range of subjects in reasonable detail while always being an enjoyable read.

Nov 8, 2016, 6:20pm Top

115. After the Fire, A Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld
I started October with Evie Wyld’s second novel, so now I’m stepping backwards and starting November with her first one. Thankfully I think I enjoyed this one just as much. The chapters alternate between two stories. The first tells the story of Frank as he moves to an out of the way shack and meets his new neighbours in a community where a young girl has recently gone missing. The second it set many years earlier and is about Leon growing up at his father’s cake shop and then his experiences in the Vietnam War after being conscripted. The relationship between the two stories only becomes completely clear as you read. The writing is wonderful and the author has a knack at making her characters seem like real people. Both of her novels are excellent and I’m really looking forward to seeing what she writes next.

Nov 20, 2016, 6:39pm Top

116. The Best American Comics 2015 edited by Jonathan Lethem
A collection of the editors picks of some of the best comics of the year. I’m glad I read it as it’s good to see a selection of comics that I might not have seen otherwise, and I did add a few things to my list to look out for from it. The only thing I’d read from it already was one of the better stories from How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis. There were some interesting excerpts from graphical biographies and memoirs and some interesting story pieces. There was also a lot of stuff that was so far into the abstract and surreal that I found it incomprehensible. There were a few works that looked great but I haven’t a clue what they were about. Pretty Smart by Andy Burkholder was two dozen panels of incoherent dense text. (“OUTSIDE TO SMOKE I WENT OUTSIDE TO SMOKE OUTSIDE WITH THE SMOKERS TO LEAN WITH THE SMOKERS TO LEAN ON A WALL AND NOT BORROW A CIGARETTE TO SMOKE TO LEAN ON A WALL AND SMOKE WITH OTHER SMOKERS SMOKING TO NOT TALK…” is about half the text from one of the shorter panels. Impossible to read to read it annoying was to impossible to read I found it.) But there was enough that I enjoyed to make the book worth reading with selections from Roz Chast, Cole Closser and Anya Ulinich being some of the highlights for me. I’ll probably read some other volumes of this if I get the chance.

Nov 20, 2016, 7:07pm Top

117. Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz
This was a really good non-fiction read looking at what we know about life in ancient Egypt. It’s full of interesting information, and it makes it clear about how much of it is speculation and the evidence it’s based on. It also points out the many misconceptions that get thrown around about the era. Just as importantly, it’s also extremely funny. Mertz writes in a very conversational style and often made me laugh. I listened to an audiobook version since it was the only one I could get hold of, but it was very well done and I liked the reader. Loved the book and I look forward to trying out some of her fiction soon.

Nov 20, 2016, 7:24pm Top

118. A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous
A really important first-hand diary account covering a two month period at the end of the Second World War starting just before the Russians reach Berlin. The anonymous account is extremely well written. It’s not the easiest read, since she goes through some really terrible things, with her and virtually every woman in the area being repeatedly raped by the invading soldiers, all while struggling to get enough food to eat. She manages to keep going through it all and somehow even keeps a sense of humour that shows through at times in the writing. It’s not something that’s going to be fun to read, but books like this are very important. Nothing can show what something was like better than something written by someone who was there.

Nov 21, 2016, 7:03pm Top

119. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The idea behind this book sounded intriguing and I’ve been meaning to read it for a while, and I’m glad I finally got around to it. This story about a woman who keeps repeating her life over and over, changing each time, is really well told. She gets feeling of déjà vu that cause her to avoid things that went badly before, but she usually doesn’t know why, and it doesn’t always turn out better. For most of the book we’re just seeing different versions of events. It covers a large span of time, but a lot of the book is taken by her multiple experiences during WW2, one interestingly where she ends up living in Berlin during the war, which coincided nicely with my previous read. It’s does have a lot of depressing themes throughout the book, and of course you get to see the main character dying in a lot of different ways, but I thought it was very good and I really enjoyed it. I plan on reading some more by Kate Atkinson.

Nov 26, 2016, 6:37pm Top

120. Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
This was a fun graphic novel with a really good art style. It follows a school girl who doesn’t fit in at school who falls down an old well in the woods and discovers a ghost, which follows her out when she is rescued. The story avoided being predictable and took some unexpected turns at times, the writing was good and the art was great. An enjoyable read and I hope to see more books from Brosgol.

Nov 26, 2016, 7:07pm Top

121. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
This was an interesting play set in a large country house in two time periods, switching between 1809 and the present day, or what was the present day when it was written in the 90s. We see events unfold in the scenes in the past, involving a young girl who has mathematical and scientific ideas ahead of her time, her tutor and the other inhabitants of the house. In the present, various scholars are researching different things and trying to piece together the events from the past, with varying degrees of accuracy. I listened to it in audio format first, but then read the book afterwards as the audio didn’t have any stage directions and could be confusing at times, especially towards the end when it’s switching quickly between the two eras. For a play, it does read very well as a book though. I can’t really say much about the play. It’s quite complex and hard to say what it’s about, but I liked it. And being Tom Stoppard, it does have some great comic dialogue in it (“As her tutor you have a duty to keep her in ignorance.”)

Nov 26, 2016, 9:09pm Top

122. The Manhattan Projects Deluxe Edition Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman art by Nick Pitarra
This collects the first 10 issues of The Manhattan Projects. It’s an alternate history comic where the atomic bomb was just a cover for stranger science fiction type developments. It’s quite fun in a very silly way, full of conspiracy theories and ridiculous technology. It’s also full of real scientists and other historical figures, though they’re not exactly faithful representations, leading to scenes such as Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman battling robots under the control of a resurrected AI version of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It’s nothing too special, but it was a fun read and I’d read more if I get the chance.

Nov 27, 2016, 7:34pm Top

123. A Young Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov translated by Hugh Aplin
A collection of short stories, originally published separately in 1920s but all basically sequential. They follow a newly qualified Russian doctor as he moves to start working in a small village hospital. The stories are sometimes funny, but also quite graphic in terms of the procedures. Bulgakov apparently was drawing on his own experiences in the medical profession for these stories. It was a good quick read, with what seemed to be a good translation from Hugh Aplin, who also translated the version of The Master and Margarita that I read earlier in the year. I really need to see the TV series they made of this now.

Nov 27, 2016, 8:18pm Top

124. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
Another great novel from Vonnegut. This was his second book, and feels much more like his later style than Player Piano did. I really enjoyed it, though as is often the case with Vonnegut, it’s hard to really describe. It’s often funny, and I wasn’t too surprised when I looked up the book and found that Adams had cited it as an influence. It’s full of science fiction elements, interstellar travel, a very unusual invasion from Mars and “chrono-synclastic infundibula”, but it’s all used in the purposes of a social satire. The writing style is pure Vonnegut, it’s funny, a bit crazy, and feels like it shouldn’t make sense and yet he manages to hold everything together without losing the reader. It’s only just behind Slaughterhouse-Five and Mother Night for me.

I’ve just been distracted from actually posting this by an entertaining video of Kurt Vonnegut talking about the shape of stories on a graph: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP3c1h8v2ZQ

Nov 27, 2016, 8:32pm Top

125. The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend
I read the first Adrian Mole book over two years ago with the intention of starting reading through the series again, and then somehow completely forgot about it until I recently picked up this one off my shelf. This one is just as good as the first one, and this is when the books were at their best. Adrian’s diary here is consistently funny as he struggles through another year and a bit of his childhood leading up to his final schools exams while his family life becomes more chaotic than ever. It’s interesting to read this now as Sue Townsend incorporated current events into the diaries, so we also get to see Adrian’s views on the politics of the time and things such as the Falklands War. A lot of the humour comes from the contrast between his insistence that he’s an intellectual and his complete naivety and lack of understanding at what is really going on. (After talking to his father’s “ex”-lover and realising she used the present tense when talking about their relationship, his response is “It is absolutely disgraceful. A woman of thirty not knowing the fundamentals of grammar!”) These books are always a joy to read and hopefully this time I won’t forget to go on to the next one.

Dec 10, 2016, 9:01pm Top

126. I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
Another great Discworld read, the fourth in the Tiffany Aching series. This time, something is stirring up hatred against witches, and it’s causing it to be a dangerous place for both them and for anyone else people decide to take against. As ever with Pratchett, it’s a really good read, Tiffany is still amongst his best characters, and the Feegles are always fun. It’s really nice to also see the return of Eskarina Smith, who was only seen in the one book before and it always felt strange that he’d never returned to her. Another excellent book. Pratchett really was on top form right up until just before his death. And now there’s only one Discworld book that I haven’t read.

Dec 10, 2016, 9:10pm Top

127. Descender Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire art by Dustin Nguyen
This was a pretty good first volume collecting the first six issues of the science fiction series. It starts briefly where giant robot-like machines appear over the Earth and start attacking, and then quickly jumps ahead 10 years where a robot boy is awakening on a mining colony. In the meantime, robots have been effectively wiped out following distrust caused by the incident, and people are after the boy as he may hold the answers to just what the machines were and why they were attacking. It was reasonably well written. The artwork was done in watercolours, giving it quite a unique style, and was very effective, managing to convey beautiful large scale outdoor environments and contrasting them with stark plain corridors and other interiors. I think the art was the best thing about it and really made the book work. I enjoyed it and will hopefully get hold of the next volumes when I get the chance.

Dec 10, 2016, 9:31pm Top

128. Art by Yasmina Reza translated by Christopher Hampton
A three actor play centring around three friends and their different reactions to a painting. One of them buys a painting that is just a white canvas with some lines of white paint on it for an extremely large sum of money, his friend is openly hostile about hating it while his other friend is in the middle trying not to offend either side. The whole thing brings out grudges and hostilities and ends up tearing the friendship apart.

I recently went to an art gallery that had an exhibit of a particular artist, and every painting in that room was just a canvas painted plain black. Having seen that, the idea of this white painting amused me and didn’t seem as unlikely as it might have done otherwise, but I don’t think it’s really representative of modern art in general as the arguing in the play initially seems to revolve around. It doesn’t matter too much though, since it’s just a launching point for a play about a friendship between three people. It gets better as it goes on for a while, and reaches some very funny bits towards the middle, before it gets a bit too unpleasant to be comical. As a drama it works reasonably well, but I find it hard to imagine a painting causing problems in a friendship in this way, though it was hard to imagine these three people being friends anyway. I suspect a lot of how the play comes across will revolve around the portrayals of the particular cast. I enjoyed it, but it’s not something I’d likely feel the need to see or to read again.

Dec 10, 2016, 9:44pm Top

129. Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon
Now this play I loved. It was extremely funny at times, but also rather darker than the other Neil Simon works I’ve seen and read, featuring some quite serious conversations at times. It’s set in the 1940s, where two children are left by their father to stay with their grandmother, an hard woman to live with, and their Aunt who seems to have some sort of learning disability, though it’s never specifically specified. Later, their criminal Uncle also turns up. There’s lots of brilliant funny moments as always with a Neil Simon work, but the situation is generally quite tragic too, and there’s no easy resolution to a lot of it. I’d definitely love to see this on stage, and I could easily see it being one of my favourite plays. I only found out after listening to the audio version that it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, but I can certainly understand why.

Dec 25, 2016, 7:00pm Top

130. Blackout by Connie Willis
This book is the first half of Connie Willis’s time travel story where historians at Oxford University go back to WW2 to see what things were like. There are several characters at different places and times during the war and the chapters switch between them until they eventually start to come together. I loved it just as much as her other books in the series, if not more. She portrays the wartime setting well and the characters are interesting. Despite the length, it’s one of those stories that just fly by as it’s hard to stop reading. It gets very tense at times and it’s clearly not a happy time, but there’s plenty of humour mixed in there too as is usually the case with Willis. There are odd points where her research has missed something, even in the parts at the beginning in Oxford before they go back in time, such as when it’s mentioned with no further explanation that it would be illegal to have a relationship with a 17 year old, but I’m sure the research would be going into the wartime setting and not into things like that. And it’s an odd future anyway, since although it’s supposed to be 2060, apparently no-one has mobile phones and everyone has extreme difficulties finding other people. And the historians somehow seem to be completely clueless about anything that didn’t happen in the precise bit of the war they’re going to visit, often not even knowing about major things that happened outside of those few weeks. Somehow none of this bothered me though since it was so entertainingly written and I just wanted to find out what was going to happen. I’m hoping to get straight onto All Clear next month to find out how the story ends.

Edited: Dec 25, 2016, 7:15pm Top

131. Phonogram: Rue Britannia by Kieron Gillen, art by Jamie McKelvie
132. Phonogram: The Singles Club by Kieron Gillen, art by Jamie McKelvie
These are the first two collected volumes of Phonogram, a music themed comic. It’s a strange concept where phonomancers can use music in magical ways. Each volume works as a standalone with no cliff-hanger endings, so that was a nice change. It was quite well written, but I think I’m a bit outside the main target market for this. It’s mostly focused around the Britpop era and my knowledge of that is fairly limited. I was at school during that era, and under the idea that music was all rubbish based on the stuff I heard on the radio, so I didn’t get into music until later in life and avoided the stuff that I’d hated when I was a kid, so this was full of references to bands I’d never even heard of and music I didn’t know. It was still readable though, so I read both volumes since I had them. I enjoyed the second volume better than the first. The first contains one storyline across the six issues, and the artwork was in black and white. The second was in colour, which suited this style of art much better I thought, and it contains seven individual issues focusing on different characters, all on the same night as a club. They’re all separate stories but they interlink and events in one might be viewed briefly from another perspective in another story, so you understand what is going on more as you go along. It’s a clever structure and I quite enjoyed reading it. So I feel like it’s probably something I’d like more if I knew more about the era of music it’s based in, and it certainly wasn’t bad, and even had a bit of an Alan Moore-ish feel to it.

Dec 27, 2016, 6:26pm Top

133. Not Funny Ha-Ha by Leah Hayes
Like the previous two reads, this was a random pick out of the collection of comics and graphic novels I have from various bundles, and I’m reading them without reading up on them beforehand. I think probably I’m not in the main target audience for this book, since it’s a sort of guide to abortions, helping to show what the process is like and how it works and to help guide people through who have decided to undertake it, without going into any moral judgement on the issues. It follows two women undergoing two types of abortion, and seems to be good for what it is. I might not be the person it’s aimed at, but I’m glad a book like this exists.

Dec 27, 2016, 6:52pm Top

134. The Siege by Ismail Kadare
This was a good book and I enjoyed reading it, though having read the afterword at the end, I feel like I was also missing a lot so can’t really say a lot about it. It’s set around a 15th Century siege by the Ottoman Empire against an Albanian fortress. It’s mostly about the life in the Ottoman camp and the people there, mainly focusing on a chronicler. I missed most of the references to the time it was written due to lack of familiarity and read it as a straightforward historical story, which the author says it isn’t, but I still enjoyed it anyway.

Dec 27, 2016, 7:12pm Top

135. Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers
The third of the Lord Peter Wimsey books. I really enjoyed reading this one. It was a lot of fun, though the main plot twist I actually saw coming from very early on for once. That doesn’t affect anything for me though, and I loved the characters, and it wasn’t really an whodunit story, but rather an investigation to work out just how they did it. There’s some racist language at one point in the story which is uncomfortable but thankfully only brief and not from the main characters, and the character referred to is portrayed sympathetically, which made it slightly easier to bear. Overall though, it’s a good read and I’m looking forward to carrying on with the series, which I intend to do much quicker this time.

Dec 30, 2016, 9:22pm Top

136. Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler
This play is a fictionalised account of Rosalind Franklin and her role in the discovery of the structure of DNA. It was interesting and well written, though I think how well it worked as a play would depend very much on the production. It’s a fairly straight forward telling of events, though it’s hard to say how accurate a lot of it is, and at times the characters, reliving events from some sort of afterlife, dispute how things happened between themselves. Franklin is an interesting subject for a play and definitely worthy of more attention, though she sadly died so young that we don’t have much in the way of her side of the story to go on. The play portrays her fighting the sexism of her colleagues, but also being defensive to the point of pushing away anyone who tries to be friendly, though really that may have been necessary for her to even get to her position in the first place. But that’s just the version of her from the play anyway, which admits openly that it’s a work of fiction. I enjoyed it anyway but feel it would work much better actually seeing it. I’m hoping to read more about Rosalind Franklin fairly soon though.

Dec 30, 2016, 9:25pm Top

137. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab by Gideon Defoe
The second in the Pirates! Series of books, and it’s another fun read, though it’s not quite as consistently funny or surprising as the first book was. I loved the original, but I think possibly the style is never going to work as well when repeated. It still had plenty of funny moments though and it was never boring and kept me entertained throughout its short length and I’ll probably read more at some point, though probably I wouldn’t want to read them too close together.

Dec 31, 2016, 6:41pm Top

138. Lumberjanes Vol. 5 by various writers and artists
This volume contains the previously missed one off issue 13 and the next three part story. The first is a really fun flashback issue showing the girls arrival at the camp, with the original writer and artist, and I really enjoyed it. The second story is the point where Noelle Stevenson left as writer, but it’s not lost too much thankfully. It wasn’t quite as good as the excellent fourth volume though, but it still has some good moments in it and I feel it improved as it went along. I change of artist is much more of an issue though. Brooke Allen has left completely now and the artist from the third volume has returned. Again, the characters look nothing like they did before, the art style is completely different and just doesn’t seem to fit the series. It has a big impact as the art in the original issues was excellent and the art here often just looks strange. I think the next issues have another new artist though, so hopefully they’ll capture the style of the comics a bit better, and the writer will have had a chance to settle in m

Jan 1, 2017, 10:02pm Top

That's my reading for 2016 wrapped up, and my thread for 2017 is at:

Group: Club Read 2016

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