wookiebender's 100 books in 2010
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Gotcha starred! I demoted myself to the 75, I'm not hitting 100 this year. Which is fine. Really. I'm not the least bit disappointed. No problem. I'll get over it.
teelgee, if it's any consolation :) I am impressed that you're going for a *quality* 75 read. I sometimes think that with my 100 books I'm skimming too much to make a target, rather than reading for the sake of reading.
But then again, I'm usually doing stuff in a hurry, so I can't see why my reading would be any different. (And I did knock off some chunksters in 2009!)
Found you Wookie! Can't wait to read with you again in 2010.
(Hi Teelgee! I'll see you around the 75, too. Richard says I am belittling myself, but I'm good with that. Tee hee!)
I'm in! I have over 300 books in my library which I have not read. I have promised myself a Kindle when I get this list down to a reasonable number. I haven't determined what "reasonable" is! I am hoping that by joining this group there will be some accountability which will help me meet my goal. The unsettling part is that at 100 books per year it will take me over 3 years to get through what I already have. 100 is a book every 3.5 days which is pretty ambitious. Hopefully this exercise and the prospect of a Kindle will cure my obsessive need to buy and stockpile books.
This is my first group. Do I post the titles periodically, say monthly, as I read them? Am I expected to write a review of each book?
Hi mamabear54, and welcome to the 100 Book Challenge for 2010!
Just set up your own thread somewhere, and post as you like. Some people (like me) write reviews (I only do 3-5 paragraphs) - I do it because it'll help jog my memory in a year or two's time when I wonder "what on earth was that book about...". And other people just post lists every now and then. It's entirely up to you and what suits you!
I like your idea of reading books that are already in your library. I really should read what's already in my library, but I do tend to be far too tempted by bookshops and all the glittering treasure within...
Okay, well then. That was supposed to be two champagne glasses toasting the arrival of the new year, but apparently the gif is not working, so I will resort to words: Happy New Year, Wookie!!
Happy New Year all! Time to start reading... well, not that I stopped, but you know what I mean. :)
Meep! I still have two reviews to write from 2009!!
re Message 6
Happy New Year and thank you for the kind welcome. I am starting my first book of the year. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
I always despised writing book reviews in school (35 years ago!) but I think it is a great idea so I'll give it a try as I finish each one.
re Message 6
Happy New Year and thank you for the kind welcome. I am starting my first book of the year. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
I always despised writing book reviews in school (35 years ago!) but I think it is a great idea so I'll give it a try as I finish each one.
Oh, that's been on my Mt TBR since last Christmas 2008! I really must make an effort to read it before Christmas 2010! I do hope you enjoy it, I've heard good things.
2009 is now complete! http://www.librarything.com/topic/66360 is the posting.
Now to start reviewing 2010's reads...
#15> No worries. :) I do website stuff for a living, so it's (almost) second nature to me. I hope you enjoy adding the pictures!
I agree mamabear. That was probably my most frequently recommended book last year for all those reasons!
1. The Broken Shore, Peter Temple
An Australian crime novel, set on the Victorian coast. Wild, wet, and windy. Not your typical Australian landscape! But the characters and the language are very Australian. Our hero, Joe Cashin, is an injured cop, returned to his childhood town to recuperate and be the local policeman. And he's not the only damaged goods in the book, almost every character has a past hurt that, at times, overwhelms them.
The book starts off quickly with a murder, of the local wealthy man who is part of the town's history and establishment. The initial thought is that it's due to some local Aboriginal kids, and while Cashin digs up evidence to spare them, it's hard for the public and the other police to give up their original theory, which has the advantage of being an easy case. But, of course, the actual reason for the murder is far more complex than expected, or even wanted.
Unfortunately, what was shaping up to be a fairly flawless gritty crime novel ends up with a slightly silly scene at the end. I can't explain it without major spoilers, but suffice it to say that I did roll my eyes when it happened. Others may not mind this scene, I just thought it was too action-y, especially after the verisimilitude of the rest of the book.
But this is still recommended to those who like their crime novels gritty, with racism, swearing, and corruption rife throughout it. It doesn't paint a pretty picture of Australia, but it is also sometimes a relief to read an Australian book that isn't all sunshine and surf.
2. At the Mountains of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft
In the 1930s, a large and well-equipped scientific expedition sets out for Antarctica to collect rock samples, fossils, and whatever else they can dig up. However, some of the expedition dig up more than they bargained for, uncovering fossils and actual samples of a bizarre five-sided plant/animal thing. Then silence descends, and when the rest of the expedition find their camp, it's all been completely destroyed and everyone killed.
As a friend of mine said, it's the standard Lovecraft plot: discover ancient evil, then either die or go mad from the horror.
Or maybe from the incredibly long, detailed, and boring scientific descriptions of the creatures discovered.
Once I got through all the descriptions, it did have some nice ideas. I particularly liked that the mythology was all previously set up: a "mad Arab", Abdul Alhazred, had previously written the Necronomicon which is repeatedly referred to during the descriptions of the creatures found; and there are also references to various ancient legends of Asia and art. And now I know what a Shoggoth is, which is important when you hang around with some of my friends.
But I can't say I'm inspired enough to continue reading any of these books. I shall have to continue to look politely puzzled when my friends bring up R'yleh, Azathoth, Dagon and the rest.
3. The Welsh Girl, Peter Ho Davies
This book was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize back in 2007, which is why it appeared on my reading horizon. Every year, a bunch of friends and I buy and share around the Booker Prize shortlist, plus any longlisted books that happen to be conveniently already owned.
It deals with three parallel and sometimes quite separate stories: Esther Evans, the welsh girl of the title, who is a young woman living with her father in a small Welsh village near a POW internment camp at the end of WW2; Karsten Simmering, a young German soldier at the camp; and Joseph Rotheram, a German of Jewish descent who fled the Nazis and ends up working for the British government interrogating German spies and, of course, POWs.
I do have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and knocked it off in pretty much a weekend (plus a day either end). I can see why it didn't make the shortlist for the Booker - it was nothing exceptional writing or plot-wise - but I was mightily entertained, and turned the pages very happily, soaking up the story.
It was good seeing World War 2 from a different point of view - German POWs and the Welsh, which was a nice change from The Blitz or an American viewpoint. I got the feeling that it was very well researched as well, it had that ring of verisimilitude to the details.
I did get some of the minor male characters a bit muddled, I don't think they were always well enough differentiated. (Or I was just terminally vague while reading it.) And the overall plot did seem rather familiar - I knew where it was going for the most part, even given its unusual setting. But I did enjoy myself while reading it, which isn't something one can always say about a Booker book.
4. A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle
After seeing (and rather enjoying, with some quibbles) the latest "Sherlock Holmes" movie, I was curious about the books. Especially since our friend, a complete fan-boy, reckoned that the movie really captured the essence of Holmes from the books. Seemed like a pretty big claim, given the modern movie makeover that Guy Ritchie gave it.
But, you know, I think he's right. Certainly there are no fisticuffs, explosions, or diving into the Thames in the book, but the essence of Holmes - the single-mindedness, the intelligence, the boxing, the lack of social graces, the sheer arrogance, etc - is there in the book and also in the movie. (The drugs obviously appear in a later book, and famously are not in the movie at all. While Dr Watson does mention that he acts occasionally as if he's partaking of narcotics, he sees no evidence. I have read ahead however, and there is evidence aplenty in the second book of the series, The Sign of Four.)
I still think Jeremy Brent is the better Holmes than Robert Downey Jr, however.
Anyhow, back to the book. This is the first in the "Sherlock Holmes" series, and I'm already regretting that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wasn't as prolific as Dame Agatha Christie. I'm disappointed that there's a limited number of books left for me to read.
It's fascinating going back to the start of the whole phenomenon, when Dr Watson, recently returned a physically broken man from Afghanistan, agrees to share rooms with a strange young student, Mr Holmes. The exposition is quick and easy, sets up the basics of Sherlock and Watson's characters, and pretty much ends (and the plot itself starts) with the classic phrase "the game is afoot"!
The plot involves a dead man, and a lot of red herrings. Two police detectives, Lestrade and Gregson, bumble about, while Holmes almost casually apprehends the perpetrator in an aside.
Then we have a strange interlude in America, but fear not, it does all make sense in the long run.
And of course, there is the final chapter, when Holmes explains all his deductive reasoning to Dr Watson. Bravo, Mr Holmes! Bravo Sir Arthur! Consider me a convert to all things Sherlockian.
For some strange reason I've actually never read a Sherlock Holmes book, though I have been through various adaptations, movies, TV serials and goodness knows what else. I've always been curious about whether I would enjoy them and your review has convinced me to give one a shot soon!
I have never read a Sherlock Holmes , and have no desire to, but I thought I would mention that there is another modern movie. It is called Young Sherlock Holmes and it set the meeting of Holmes and Watson during their teenage school years. It has an Egyptian mystery, and explains Holmes' lifelong aversion to women.
It is YA and I don't know if it tramples the cannon, but I enjoyed it.
I love Sherlock Holmes! They were some of my favorites when I was about 10 - 12, so my old paperbacks are tattered and dogeared and much loved. It seems like a lot of people around here are discovering the books for the first time right about now.
You're right - the drug use is more obvious later, in some of the short stories, for example. In one (don't remember which), it ends with Watson leaving the room as Holmes shoots up. My mother had a lot of explaining to do ("but why are drugs so bad? Sherlock Holmes does drugs!")
I love Sherlock Holmes too! I've yet to see the new movie, but I plan to remedy that sometime soon. Thanks for the review of the movie and the book.
I've seen many of the movie/TV adaptations too (Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation being a bit of a favourite, if only because Paramount got a Cease & Desist from whoever currently owns the Sherlock Holmes copyright - it's not out of copyright yet! or it wasn't 10 years ago or so). I remember "Young Sherlock Holmes", I enjoyed that as a teenager many years ago now. I also have vague recollections of Basil Rathbone as Holmes fighting the Nazis. (Oh! And Tom Baker! Doctor Who! in a "Hounds of the Baskervilles" TV adaptation!)
Having said/watched all that, I am mightily surprised this is my first foray into the books! (I did read Hound of the Baskervilles many, many years ago, but I'm looking forward to reading them all in order and meeting Moriarty.)
#29> jfetting, the second book starts with Holmes shooting up a 7% solution of cocaine! It was fairly in-your-face, and (since I've never read the books) I was slightly relieved that Dr Watson was quite disapproving. (I thought he would be, but you never know until you actually visit the canon.)
I look forward to seeing this years version. I covered your 2009 list off and on and enjoyed your reviews and the variety of books you read. Good luck on this year and keep the reviews coming!
You know, I'm almost caught up on my reviews. I'm in shock, I was always about six books behind last year. (Finished reading Blind Submission on the weekend...)
I postponed reading Sherlock Holmes for many years, which was a mistake, because I really enjoyed all the books. I liked Basil Rathbone as a coolly supercilious Holmes. Robert Downey must have given quite a different interpretation?
Have you read Arthur and George, which stars Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?
Oh, I've seen Arthur and George in the shops, but didn't realise it was *that* Arthur! I assumed it was about two unfamous old codgers. (And I'm not allowed to buy anything by Julian Barnes until I finish the books of his I already own, and have not read yet!)
Robert Downey is less cool, more vague. I liked his interpretation, but it's not up there with the classic ones.
> At the Mountains of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft
Drat. Now I have to add something to my TBR read list. I'm not really a horror fiction reader or movie watcher but I am slightly Antarctica obsessed.
Catching up on your thread--you are doing MARVELOUSLY with the upkeep on your reviews. Keep 'em coming! Signed, A Sherlock Fan
Funny all this talk of Sherlock, and me not being bitten by the bug. At my RL SFF book group tonight we picked books for the next 6 months. The book for August is Sherlock Holmes and the War of the Worlds by Manly Wade Wellman. I kid you not.
FicusFan, you've got to love a man called "Manly" though. :)
Berly, I'm running slow on reading now! Stuck towards the end of The Secret Scripture and at the beginning of Vanity Fair. I am enjoying Miss Becky Sharpe's company more than the company of 100 year old Irish madwomen, so next review I might post could be of Vanity Fair!
But no. I *must* finish off The Secret Scripture tonight so I can enjoy the guilty pleasure that is Vanity Fair, uninterrupted. (By other books that is. Small children always interrupt. But we still love them. Even in our snappish moments.)
#38> The book you mentioned reminds me of one I read last year - the bizarrely hilarious W. G. Grace's Last Case, or, The War of the Worlds Part Two by William Rushton. In that particular book, Dr. Watson teams up with W. G. Grace to investigate after the bowler drops dead in the middle of the pitch during a cricket match, struck down by an arrow. They are helped in their mission by Oscar Wilde, Jules Verne, Dr Jekyll and a gang of French impressionists, amongst others. All this while London is still recovering from its recent alien invasion (in War of the Worlds Part One).
The wackiness of the premise is made immeasurably greater if you know who W. G. Grace is (was?)
iftyzaidi, not a clue.
The book does sound wacky. I may have to check it out.
Actually Wookie, last night we were joking because there is another author listed, Wade Wellman. Someone said they were husband and wife. So is Manly or Wade the man ?
Berly, nope, it didn't pick up at the end. There was some muttering and eye-rolling even, and it lost half a star by the most ridiculous coincidence ever. I had high hopes, too. *sigh*
Still loving Vanity Fair, and now I can read it without thinking guilty thoughts about The Secret Scripture!
So, I'm two book reviews behind now...
iftyzaidi, you'll have to tell me who W.G. Grace is, too. :)
Hi, Wookie ~ Just stopping by to see what you are up to & to say hello. You've written some good reviews, I must say.
Ah, Sherlock Holmes! The very first mysteries I ever read, followed closely by Agatha Christie. I keep thinking that someday I'll reread both authors' novels. Someday, when there aren't so many new books to read. Loved Jeremy Brett's portrayal of the detective; haven't seen the recent movie because I'm afraid of being disappointed. Maybe I'll give it a try though.
On Lovecraft, I read him when I was younger and very much enjoyed him (as far as I understood him), but I have no real desire to go back and reread any of the Cthulu stories. Though they really were some of the scariest things I've ever read, they weren't as flashy as most horror fiction but the kind that creeps up on you. (Pun not intended.)
Hi Storeetllr. Friends have highly recommended I go on to Rats in the Walls by Lovecraft, but that's not in the book I borrowed from my mate. Will keep an eye out for it at the library.
The other mate that I saw Sherlock Holmes with is a fan of the books - he was raving about how we were all going to go home and re-read the books. (The rest of us laughed, because none of us had read them before!) But it is a modernisation, so it does depend on how well you cope with such things. I'm generally forgiving, so long as I get a good movie-going experience out of it. I don't feel that movies should be slavish imitations of the book. If they were that, I may as well just have stayed home and read the book!
5. Blind Submission, Debra Ginsberg
I picked this up because I was in the mood for something light and fluffy, but engrossing. And, to be honest, I didn't have very high hopes for it, so I thought it might be a quick removal from Mt TBR in that I'd give up at the fifty page mark. And I nearly did give up at the fifty page mark, in complete annoyance at some of the clunkiest descriptions of our narrator's looks. The improbably named Angel has "wild mass of curls" which were "a difficult colour - mostly red, but with enough gold" to allow it be be described as "Titian"; a "smooth, almost olive complexion"; and "overlong" legs.
Now, as one who suffers from the duck's disease (bum too close to the ground), what on earth are "overlong" legs? How can one even have "overlong" legs??
But it's okay. She's got flaws. Namely, she has had difficulty finding a handsome intelligent man, until her current boyfriend and wannabe author, Malcolm. And the "overlong" legs. Let's not forget those. My God, she must be psychologically crippled by the trauma of it all. Oh yes, and she's just landed her dream job at the famous Lucy Fiamma's literary agency. Shame that Lucy is a complete sociopath.
Now, this is where I do have some sympathy for the character. (Oh yes, and she's a book nerd, which is guaranteed to make all readers love her. Even me, a little bit.) I have been in a job with a very difficult boss, and it does take a lot out of you. But this woman is beyond completely nuts: demanding; expecting her employees to read her mind; contradictory; playing her employees off against each other. I am yet to read The Devil Wears Prada, but it very much reminded me of the movie adaptation. A bit too much, at times. The Devil Publishes Paperbacks, maybe?
Now, the basic twist of the book is that Angel starts reading manuscripts from an anonymous author that parallel what is happening in Angel's life. That's the blurb on the front and on the back. Yet it takes nearly 100 pages to even start that plotline. And that's the main problem with the book: lots of noise and fluster, but not a lot of actual plot. I was sold this on the basis of the mystery, but it was much more a chick-lit book.
Of course, I don't particularly mind the occasional chick-lit, and I did power through this fairly quickly. It's nicely written (apart from the hideous exposition at the beginning) and is about a lover of books and reading, which is always appealing. Good entertaining chick-lit fare, but really not the mystery book I was led to believe it would be. Which is a shame, if I'd picked it up expecting chick-lit, I may have been a lot more entertained.
44 & 45-- storeetllr & wookiebender
There's a short story in Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things that supposedly combines the worlds of Holmes and Lovecraft. (I suppose it would be more correct to call it the worlds of Conan Doyle and Lovecraft or the worlds of Holmes and... whoever Lovecraft's main guy (if he has one) is.)
ANYWAY- your conversation above reminded me of it- you guys might enjoy!
Oh, title of said short story is A Study in Emerald.
Ooooh, Holmes and the Cthulu mythos? Sounds chillingly wonderful. Thanks, Ravenous!
Berly, I think if I'd been sold Blind Submission as chicklit, I wouldn't have even noticed her overlong legs - it's a staple of that genre to pretend to be all gawky and ugly, but really beautiful all along. But I was sold it as a mystery, so it just all got completely up my nose.
Holmes/Cthulhu sounds like a fun combo, especially if penned by Neil Gaiman! Love his books.
Checking out your thread, and it seems I must start reading myself some Holmes someday. I have the complete series (in two volumes) but uhm... never read a word. Now that I have read The Lost World maybe I should start on Holmes....
6. The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry
I had high hopes for this one, as it was a Booker shortlisted book (and I've had some good luck with them lately), and had been highly recommended by a fellow member of one of my bookgroups. Alas, I was disappointed.
Set at the beginning of the new century (millennium!) in Slough, an old insane asylum is being prepared to be pulled down, which means the inmates will need to find new homes in the new hospital. Unfortunately, that is smaller than the current dilapidated building, so some people will need to be reassessed for community living. Mrs Roseanne McNulty is almost 100 years old, and has been in the asylum for most of her life. As the book progresses, we find out about her past, and what caused her to be incarcerated. As a parallel story, we get notes from Dr Grene who is assessing all the patients and who becomes a friend to Roseanne as they talk over her life.
Unfortunately, it just doesn't ever really gel. I didn't really care about Dr Grene, and found Roseanne's story quite unbelievable. I'm sure it's all based it truth, but it just never really felt real to me, which is a major flaw for a novel. And then there's one of the most gobsmacking coincidences towards the end that had me almost wanting to throw the book across the room. I was even quite tempted to just skim the last 100 or so pages, but kept at it.
Probably the most interesting bit was the discrepancy between Roseanne's memories and the paperwork about her that Dr Grene manages to dig up (apart from the papers that the mice have nibbled). Did Roseanne - consciously or otherwise - rewrite her memories? Or were the facts rewritten by the authorities? But even then I just wasn't really interested in the discussion that Sebastian Barry wanted to have over them.
I'm sorry I didn't like this one more. It had a lot of interesting concepts, but it just never really came together into a whole that I could enjoy reading.
#51> You know, I realised after I started buying/reading this series, that I have memories of a complete Holmes collection on my father's shelves. D'oh! Oh well, classics are cheap at the bookshop, and on my shelves, they do make me look well-read. ;)
7. Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta
I picked up this Young Adult fantasy novel at the library, after reading a very good review in the Sydney Morning Herald. I'd also previously read Looking for Alibrandi by the same author, and enjoyed it very much. This is her first attempt at writing fantasy, and I do hope that she continues in this vein!
The beginning of the book is told in a dreamy, almost mythical style. A teenaged Finnikin and his two friends - Prince Balthazar and Lucian of the Mont - pledge to protect their kingdom Lumatere forever. Only then the Five Days of The Unspeakable happen. It's not clear to us - or to the characters in the book - exactly what happens, but the royal family is slaughtered; Finnikin's beloved father and stepmother are thrown into prison as traitors; an imposter King takes the throne; and the kingdom is locked off from the rest of the land by a curse, leaving Lumateran exiles searching for a new home, subject to the xenophobia or carelessness of their surrounding neighbouring kingdoms. And no one knows what is happening inside the kingdom.
We jump forward a number of years to when Finnikin, now a young man, is assisting the former King's First Man to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis (yes, the crisis is still going). He and Sir Topher pick up Evanjalin, a young novice and Lumateran exile, who can walk in the dreams of those within Lumatere. She proves to be the impetus towards finding a solution to re-enter Lumatere, rather than remain wandering in exile for ever.
This was a complete pageturner, one of those books I just couldn't get enough of. I resented spending time away from Finnikin and Evanjalin, and ended up staying up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it off. (I regretted that later, but not at the time.) And I want to re-read it. Right now. This instant. Matter of fact, why am I typing this, instead of re-reading it???
It's not a fluffy young adult novel. The exiled Lumaterans are subject to a whole range of harsh treatment, both from some callous Lumateran lords who are more interested in saving their own skins, and from the people of the other kingdoms of the land, who - at the very least - aren't interested in helping anyone other than themselves. There are tales of mass graves, slavery, abandoned children by the roadside. And then there is the fever, killing many people within the camps. And when you find out what's happened inside of Lumatere, well, they didn't have it any easier.
This was published a couple of years ago, when the refugee crisis and detention camps were big news in Australia. One can see that this was an important influence on Marchetta, and I found it rather invigorating to have such a topical subject in my young adult reads. While it's quite clear which side of the debate she falls on, I'm on that side too. Others of a different political persuasion might find it a bit more tub-thumping than I did, but I do hope they don't.
Highly recommended to any lovers of young adult fantasy, but with an adult concept warning for younger teenagers.
#52 I was disappointed in The Secret Scripture as well. I wanted to like it but I actually found it a little dull.
> 54 Well /gosh/. That's going on my wishlist right now, simply on the strength of that glowing review! Sounds right up my alley!
I always find it interesting when I coincidentally read two books in a row with really similar covers. Like above. The blue background, the black circle, the woman's face.
I have a slightly different take on The Secret Scripture: I liked it for the majority of the book, but then the twist at the end ruined it for me. This is not the sort of novel where I am expecting to suspend disbelief!
#57> I hope you enjoy it too, Aerrin99! I think it's being released in the States in a few months (she's an Australian author). Not sure about other countries, sorry.
#58> I didn't even notice! :)
#59> Oh, that twist. That's when I just gave up on it entirely. Up until then it was just a somewhat dull (& disappointing) read.
I liked The Secret Scripture, but largely because I enjoyed the discussion with my book group afterwards. The twist at the end was totally uncalled for! Plus I saw it coming halfway through the book.
Oh, there's something to be said for a good book group discussion. :)
8. Ransom, David Malouf
This one was a bit of a struggle to get - I got it out from the library, and then didn't get a chance to read it, then it was requested by another reader (go 'way! mine!) so I couldn't renew it. I then hovered around the 'M' shelf over the next few visits until it was returned and happily snaffled it again. And guess what? Yep, when I went to renew it, it had been requested. Again. At least this time I attempted to renew it early, so I had a week to read it before it was properly due back at the library.
Didn't take me a week. The only reason why it took longer than a several-hour reading session is because things like parenting, sleep, and work got in the way. I was completely absorbed in this lyrical retelling of one small - but very important - incident from The Iliad, when Priam goes to ransom Hector's body from Achilles who in a fit of grief-tinged pique has dragged it from behind his chariot away from the battleground.
It's a beautifully written meditation on majesty, fathers and sons, death, life, war. It was wonderful seeing Priam both in the centre of his court as a revered and conscientious king and as one old man, trying to do what is right by his dead son. And Achilles, who I've never particularly liked because of this incident with Hector, comes across as human, consumed by grief at the death of his lover, Patroclus. Instead of the spoiled brat of a hero I always felt he was.
And, much like Wolf Hall, I especially appreciated that these characters are not modernised with anachronistic thoughts and behaviours. They are part of their world, which is many centuries apart from ours, and that gives the whole story a wonderful otherworldliness to it.
I was hoping to read this with The Iliad as a companion piece, but time was an issue, obviously. But I am hoping to get to The Iliad as an independent read sometime really soon now. Really. And maybe when I get this out again from the library, I'll be able to renew it and keep it for a while!
I am adding Ransom to my TBR list as well. I've always loved Hector more than Achilles (I even named my golden retriever after Hector!) and thank you for bringing this book to my attention. I loved The Iliad more than The Odyssey due to the storyline of Hector and what happens to him. I agree, I always felt Achilles acted liked a spoiled brat through most of it.
intriguing! Ransom seems like a book i would like to get to some time.
Hey, hold up! Can I get on the ol' bandwagon too? :)
Ransom does sound good. Need to read it, definitely.
9. Dissolution, C.J. Sansom
The first of the Matthew Shardlake series, set in Tudor England with lawyer Matthew Shardlake, and highly recommended by a number of LibraryThing readers (you know who you are). Shardlake is one of Thomas Cromwell's men and is sent to sort out a murder at one of the monasteries that Henry VIII is busy dissolving. If Henry finds out about the murder (and the bodies do start to pile up) he will be cross. And no one wants a cross King.
This had a slightly slow start to me. It was a good murder mystery, but I do want slightly more than just a murder mystery. But then we got the slow build of politics, and I became quite engrossed in Shardlake's confusion and mental anguish, trying to integrate his high hopes for the new England that Henry and Cromwell are building, and the evidence of the inhumanity that this new England is being based on.
And the bodies did pile up, giving a very interesting background plot. Although other people may think that the politics are background to the murder mysteries, I prefer to think of it the other way around.
It was particularly interesting reading this fairly closely behind Wolf Hall. I'd never even heard of Thomas Cromwell before (my fault, not his, I'm sure), and now he's everywhere. It was good seeing another side to the story (albeit at a somewhat later time), and now I'd like to re-read Wolf Hall with this different viewpoint in mind.
I will be looking for the next in the series.
I'm hoping to read Dissolution later this month and I've got Wolf Hall on the wish list. Thanks for the review! Have you read any of Ariana Franklin's historical fiction series? I enjoyed both Mistress of the Art of Death and The Serpents Tale but have not yet read the third in the seires, Grave Goods.
Suddenly Shardlake is everywhere on LT. Thanks for the review Wookie. I've been thinking about reading Dissolution, so now will put it on the list.
Another one here who'd never heard of Thomas Cromwell. I wouldn't like to admit that I had him mixed up with Oliver, so I won't.
#74> Oh, the best fiction always ends up teaching you something. Or at any rate, all my favourite fiction has taught me something new.
#75> Yes, I read Mistress of the Art of Death (best. title. ever.) last year. I thought the first half was a bit stilted - it seemed far too anachronistic with the forensics. Like C.S.I: Medieval Europe or something. But then halfway through the forensics lessened, there was a plot twist I didn't see coming (well, I did a few pages before and immediately went 'noooooo!'), and I thought the rest was simply *marvellous*. I've got The Serpents Tale on Mt TBR.
#76> Oh, when I mention Thomas Cromwell to people, they all think it's Oliver for a little while, and then realise their confusion. You're not the only one who got their Cromwells muddled! When I first heard about Wolf Hall I spent quite a while trying to work out how (Oliver) Cromwell could manage to be around in two quite distinct periods of time...
>76: I wouldn't like to admit that I had him mixed up with Oliver
I did, too. You are not alone !!!
#77 #75> Yes, I read Mistress of the Art of Death (best. title. ever.) last year. I thought the first half was a bit stilted - it seemed far too anachronistic with the forensics. Like C.S.I: Medieval Europe or something. But then halfway through the forensics lessened, there was a plot twist I didn't see coming (well, I did a few pages before and immediately went 'noooooo!'), and I thought the rest was simply *marvellous*.
Oh, that sounds good! I picked up Mistress of the Art of Death at a used book charity sale a few months ago. I thought it looked anachronistic, but I couldn't resist. I'm looking forward to it now. Just love your "CSI Medieval Europe" description!
10. The Boat, Nam Le
This was read for my Australian Literature book group. It's won a number of awards in Australia (most notably the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Award). And for damned good reason: these are beautifully crafted short stories.
The first story, "Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice" is about a young Vietnamese Australian author, an ex-lawyer, attending a writing workshop in Iowa, and dealing with a visit from his father. He's having difficulty writing, trying to avoid falling into some sort of "ethnic literature is hot" trap, so has written about anything else, other than his Vietnamese background or family. This story had the most resonance for me: given its obviously autobiographical feeling (Le is an ex-lawyer, he did attend a writing workshop in Iowa, etc), I found it a fascinating post-modern look at writing and at the business of writing. It made me really think about the experience of crafting a story and what an author brings to it.
And it also made me doubt the autobiographical nature of it all: while the rest of the stories do follow the vague outlines of his non-Vietnamese stories given in "Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice" (Columbian teenaged hitman; a New York artist with haemorrhoids; orphans in Hiroshima; etc), it also showed that this is an author capable of the most convincing story telling and ability to get into other cultures and tell their stories. Which made me doubt the obvious autobiography of the first story. Was it true? Or was it just him crafting another clever, moving story?
I'm still puzzled. And intrigued. And impressed.
The following stories were excellent stand alone stories in their own right. "Cartegena" was a masterfully constructed story about a teenaged hitman in Columbia; "Hiroshima" was a poignant tale of children in that ill-fated city near the end of the second World War; "The Boat" (the final story) was an emotional tale set aboard a boat crammed with refugees, trying to flee Vietnam for Australia. Having known people who have come to Australia as boat people, I found this the most moving.
My least favourite of the stories were the ones set in western culture: "Meeting Elise" is about an older New York artist about to meet his long-estranged daughter; "Halfhead Bay" is about a young Australian teenager dealing with his mother's sickness and his own emotions during a turbulent summer; and "Tehran Calling" is about an emotionally distant American lawyer visiting an old college friend (and activist) in Tehran during a major religious festival.
It's not that they were badly written, it's just that these were far more about the emotions of people and their interactions. I'm not really an emotions person - I find people puzzling enough in the real world, and having characters just displaying their emotions without an inner dialogue to give me a handle on it, well, I got a bit lost.
But then again, maybe I've fallen into a white middle class readers' trap of "ethnic literature is hot" and I'm just far more interested in this author's multicultural tales than I am in his perfectly well done tales of middle class white people. (See? This author messed with my mind in the first story, and I still haven't got my thoughts all tidy.)
But after a while, it does all get a bit too much: every story is a downer. I even started playing "who's going to bite the bullet", second guessing the author to work out what the most emotionally devastating plot would be (and I got it right). As I commented, one story is even called "Hiroshima", you just know that one's not going to end well.
I would recommend these stories, but not to be read in one hit. Enjoy something lighter between the tales.
I have The Boat in my TBR pile- thanks for the review- I can read the stories over a period of time -good advice!
11. Shutter Island, Dennis Lehane
I picked this one up at the bookshop on the strength of some great comments here at LibraryThing. And I didn't let it linger on Mt To-Be-Read when I won free tickets (free!) to the movie adaptation the other week. I'm the sort of person who prefers to have spoilers with her movies, not her books.
It is 1954, and Federal Marshall Teddy Daniels is en route to an island, Shutter Island, in Boston Harbour which houses the criminally insane. He and his new partner, Chuck Aule, are there to investigate a missing prisoner, a war widow called Rachel Solando who is incarcerated for drowning her three children. And as they investigate her disappearance (from a locked room, no less, and leaving cryptic clues behind), the plot gets more and more tangled.
And what can I say? It was a great plot, it was wonderfully tangled, it was all brilliantly done, and I read it in record time, turning the pages to get to the ending. I wanted to re-read the book then and there, but opted for seeing the movie instead. And it was wonderful seeing the movie and getting all the clues and knowing where it was going.
And, given the seriousness of the plot, there was some almost cheerful moments. A black bit of humour when they start interviewing the inmates, in particular.
This isn't a light-hearted read, there were moments that had me snuffling pathetically (both book and movie). But it was a page turner, and I enjoyed the ride.
12. The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After: Being the Private Correspondence Between Two Prominent Families Regarding a Scandal Touching the Highest Levels of Government and Security of the Realm, Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Try saying that title three times fast. You'll turn blue in the face.
This is the third in the Sorcery and Cecilia series, which started with the truly delightful The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, and continued with the clunkier The Grand Tour. Given its predecessors, there was an even chance of another spiffing adventure, or a slightly disappointing romp.
Luckily, this one lands on the side of spiffingness. (Spifficosity? Spiffliness? Spifficity?) It is ten years later, our heroines - Cecy and Kate - are happily ensconced with their families, still merrily in love with their husbands, but now also with children and nannies underfoot. It has returned to the charming epistolary nature of the first book, with the friends separated once more by distance as Cecy and her husband go off to help out the Duke of Wellington find out what's happened to a missing magician who was doing some surveying work for a new train line. Meanwhile, Kate stays at home, minding all the children (with nannies, so it's not as much of a handful as you might expect!). This time we also get letters back and forth from the husbands. That was rather amusing, given that they tend to summarise the previous ten pages of flustered correspondance with a succinct comment.
One flaw of this book is that I can never quite tell Cecy and Kate apart, they don't have very distinguishing voices in the narrative. (They even look nearly identical on the cover!) It's not really important (I couldn't tell them apart in any of the books, to be frank), but it is a flaw regardless. And that the plot gets ridiculously confusing in the final chapters. But, I don't read these for the plot so much as for the lovely interaction between Cecy and Kate. Or is that between Kate and Cecy?
Anyhow, this is recommended (although do read the first book!) to anyone who enjoys a silly romp through Regency England with a couple of delightful young women.
Will keep my eye out for The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, I quite a enjoy a bit of regency pastiche.
and if Spifficity isn't a word it should be :)
Now I want Shutter Island! I'm not sure I can make it there before seeing the movie, though - so glad to hear it lives up to the hype!
I've pondered the Sorcery and Cecilia books for awhile now. I'll have to pick it up.
13. Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear
It is 1929 London when we first meet Maisie Dobbs, and we are immediately struck by the incongruency of her dress and manner (rather hoity-toity) and her language, which places her in a lower socio-economic class. And, of course, this is also an excellent comment that this is not a classless society that Miss Dobbs lives in. She, by virtue of a bright mind and a wealthy and charming patroness, has managed to break out of her class and set herself up as a investigator. But she's not your common sleuth, for Maisie has been trained to look into the psychology of her clients and offer them more than just facts, but mental healing.
And, in the era following on from the Great War, there are many people in need of healing, both physical and mental, in London. The class structure as well is beginning to be a bit shaky, following on from the war and the great changes it wrought to society.
Maisie's initial case involves a wealthy man who suspects his young wife of having an affair. Maisie finds out the truth, and manages to bring some comfort to both her client and his wife. But something doesn't feel quite right about the case, so after a rather long flashback to her upbringing and time during the war, Maisie gets stuck further into her investigation.
This was quite a moving book, dealing as it did with the aftermath of such a shocking war. And not just the men who returned with a gammy leg, but the men who returned shell shocked, or with severe facial scarring, who are not able to integrate back into society. I saw a documentary on the history of surgery last year, and there was one episode that dealt with the men who returned from The Great War missing eyes, ears, chins, noses (and the development of early reconstructive surgery). It was confronting stuff, but gave me some great background to understanding the pain that these men must have lived with.
There was some kookiness that didn't particularly sit well with me (Maisie's mentor telling her to read the auras of her clients, for example), but this could be seen as fitting with the prevailing mindset of the time, with an increase in mysticism as a reaction to the war.
Overall this was a good solid read, with some great characters. I really enjoyed it, and will be looking for further books in this series, as Miss Dobbs is an excellent heroine.
14. Girls Like Funny Boys, Dave Franklin
I received this through the Early Reviewers program here at LibraryThing. The title was engaging (and truthful, of course girls like funny boys!), and it appealed to me. The beginning, set in Australia with a bunch of teenagers during the 1980s (my decade!) made me anticipate good things too. Unfortunately, it did not live up to its promise and I have to confess I did not finish it.
For one, Johnny Goodwin wasn't really all that funny. He was cruel and his one-liners were all about sex. Maybe this is typical of young men, and I should be praising the veracity of the author, but he did not paint the portrait of someone I wanted to spend time with. At one early scene, Johnny's beloved old dog dies. My initial reaction was "oh, get a grip" as Johnny fell apart. Obviously, I didn't care for the character at all.
And the really annoying thing is the way the female characters brayed with almost hysterical laughter at his jokes. It was all too much. Even if the jokes were funny, it was a ridiculous over-reaction. When I decided to not go any further (I did read the first 100 or so pages) I read ahead to the last chapter (not my usual practice, but I wanted to make sure that I wasn't giving up on this one too early) and it was still patently ridiculous stuff.
And the plot seemed to suddenly just happen at times, without any real development, but with jerks and shudders from one incident to another.
I am also worried about the amount of drinking these teenagers did. I wasn't a teetotaller myself, but they're out getting drunk every night. If that was in any way normal in that era, I must have been the abnormal one. (And why weren't they ever asked for I.D. at the pubs?)
The writing is fairly easy to read, in that I did churn through 100 pages before I put it down (and then realised I didn't want to pick it back up). I'm sure this book has an audience out there, it's just not for me.
#86 I discovered Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series last year and have since read and enjoyed all of the books in the series. Pardonable Lies was my favorite because I thought the characters had more depth, plus the plot was well developed and interesting. I'm glad you liked the first book in the series. Nice review.
OK, I'm 2 months late to the party - just found you here and am now going back to read all 88 posts! Just saw that you're reading 1984 - so am I. The Reinach public library has a limited selection of English books, but quite a few classics, so it's Good For Me.
#88> Thanks, loriephillips! I am looking forward to the rest of the series.
#89> Hi Cushla! I've been on a bit of a classics kick lately (well, for me, I usually read fairly new stuff all the time!). It's always good to return to the old excellent reads. I've had to put 1984 to one side to quickly read When Will There Be Good News? because it's due back at the library this weekend; and then I'll have to read Cate Kennedy's The World Beneath for bookgroup. But then I'll get back to Winston Smith and Big Brother!
Day off with a sick boy today, I might get another review or two done. Then again...
Wookie, you have been reading a lot of the books that I should be reading!!
Ransom and Finnikin of the Rock have been waiting for me for far too long.
I enjoyed your review of Girls like funny Boys - you said what I felt when I tried to read it!
#91> Berly, thanks for not influencing my thoughts in advance - so far, I'm loving it, but I also adored her first two Jackson Brodie books so maybe I'm just in one of those worshipful states where she can do no wrong. :)
#92> Judylou, they're both worth reading! And neither will take too long (a plus for me! - I like changing my reading fairly regularly). Girls Like Funny Boys was rather dire, wasn't it? It's been getting pretty negative ratings and comments. I wanted to be positive and support it, but I just couldn't even finish it! Such a shame.
15. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
I picked this one up because I wanted to continue reading about the Great War, following on from Maisie Dobbs. And, yes, because it had been gathering dust on my shelves for far too long. (Must stop acquiring books faster than I can read them!) This is considered one of the great war (or anti-war) novels, and while that's not a genre I've spent any real time in, I do have to say that this is one of the best books I've ever read. (So, a shoo-in for best war novel I've ever read.)
I read the brief introduction in the front of my edition, which informed me that Remarque served during the Great War, and at the end of the war all his friends and his mother had died, leaving him alone and bereft.
Sounds like a barrel of laughs, doesn't it? Well, actually (and surprisingly), this was a very amusing book at times. There were just so many incidents that had me chortling while I read it (my husband asked what I was reading, and I had to confess that I felt almost guilty saying that I was laughing at All Quiet on the Western Front). All the soldiers returned from the front, sitting around on portable toilets in the sunshine in the middle of a meadow, enjoying their time and each other's company while attending to nature is an image that I may never forget. The changes that occurred to make these young men (some of them still boys, really) lose all self-modesty is only one of many changes that occur during wartime.
The other changes are, of course, much less amusing. The deep bitterness they display because they've been trained for nothing but killing is heart-wrenching. All these young men, having their lives ruined by wasting their youth in the trenches, well, it's just plain heart breaking.
Only, with the knowledge that all of Remarque's friends died during the war, it is a bit of a moot point that none of the characters in the book are at all suited to civilian life. You rather know they're not going to be getting much of a chance at it.
So, not so much with the funny by the end. The war is going badly for Germany, our previously merry band of soldiers is weary, hungry, and dropping like flies. There's one description where a bunch of new recruits hop off a train, to be mowed down by enemy fire before they've even realised where they were. That drove home the pointlessness and meaninglessness of the whole war, and emphasised the cynical veteran status of our young protagonist and his remaining friends, because it came across as a heartless sort of black joke. At twenty, to be so inured to death and waste.
A powerful novel, deserving of all its status.
Great review. I read it last year and loved it (and didn't know why it had taken me so long.) Have you read Pat Barker's Regeneration? Its another favourite WW1 book of mine.
I agree great novel and a good review, I must admit I chuckled when you reminded me of the scene in the field ;) I think by the end I had forgotten much of the humour, overtaken (as it were) by the tragedy.
The end is heartbreaking - it actually makes me cry. I really, really did not want what happened to happen.
>95: I was going to ask the same question! Regeneration doesn't say much about what happens at the front, but the psychological after-effects. So these are soldiers who survived -- physically anyway. I guess today we'd call it post-traumatic stress. But this is another novel that drives home how pointless war is.
I need to read AQotWF; many of my respected LT friends have raved about it (juliette07, cmt, and now you wookie).
Thanks everyone for your comments!
I was really quite taken aback by the humour, it was really not what I was expecting! At all! But I think it's probably what makes it such a classic (apart from the whole story and the beautiful writing). A touch of humour makes it all so much more readable than an unrelenting tale of the horrors of war. But, yes, the ending was not a happy one, and the last few chapters definitely left me teary as things went from bad to worse.
I've not read any Pat Barker as yet - a workmate has the trilogy that contains Regeneration (I think) and has promised to lend it to me. But she was a bit shellshocked herself after reading the first book, and the loan has stalled. (I'm not fussed, she's loaned me lots of other books in the meantime!) It is one I'd like to read, but I'm not actively searching it out.
16. London Orbital, Iain Sinclair
I feel a bit cheating writing a review when I didn't make a huge dent in this book (out of 500+ pages, I made it up to 87). But, damnit, I read 87 pages, that has to count for something.
One day, Iain Sinclair and some of his friends decide to walk the London Orbital, the M25, which circles London and divides it into the city and the not-city. I even remember getting lost on it once, many years ago! But this is an exercise in "psychogeography", not a travelogue or a history.
I've been giving this a try on-and-off for a few months now. But I think I might have to give up hope of actually finishing it. I'm finding it half fascinating, half frustrating. I like the writing style (reminiscent of the newspaper headlines he so admires, it is short and punchy in the extreme), I like the idea, I like finding out these interesting things about a London I certainly know very little about.
But my deity, a bigger bunch of wankers I have never met. Sinclair and his friends are the sort of people who, if you met them in the pub, you might be tempted to kill if only they hadn't lulled you to sleep with their arrogance and artsy-fartsy wankery.
I mean, one of them buried 100,000 pounds in his fields. As art. Now, I often leap to the defence of modern art, but this one just pissed me off. What a waste of money, when the world is full of poverty. Hell, not even the world, London itself. And the most annoying thing? I'm sure if this mate of Sinclair knew I was pissed off at him, he'd be chuffed, because outrage is probably part of the response he's searching for.
I may return to this at a later stage (but don't hold your breath waiting). As I said above, I did like quite a bit of it: it's a very dense read, where you have to pay attention to each word; and the content was really rather fascinating, with such an unusual view of modern London, unlike anything I'd ever read before. Maybe this just isn't the time for me, and in a year or two I'll be up for it. Then again, maybe not.
17. Hush, Hush, Beccy Fitzpatrick
Twilight with fallen angels. No, really. (Apparently there's even zombie romance in the burgeoning paranormal romance genre. Colour me grossed out.)
The plot parallels are obvious: the young girl who falls in love with the dangerous (but not really dangerous) handsome young boy at school, who turns out to be more than human.
But, unlike Twilight, this is well written. There is genuine humour, some plot, and some fairly steamy unresolved sexual tension. (It is young adult, so no actual sex occurs, but only because the plot gets in the way every time the main characters are about to go that bit too far, not because they're holding back or restraining their urges in any way.) I found it an easy and positively addicting read, polishing it off in one day.
It is still badly flawed however, and only really recommended for fans of the genre. Patch (a name that recalls a misspent youth watching "Days of Our Lives" for me) is genuinely creepy. While this is a nice change from the pathetic "oooh, I'm really scary, even though I glitter in the sun" put-on attitude of Twilight's Edward, he is actually too creepy at times, so much so that I found him quite unpleasant. There's not a lot of plot, although there's enough happening to make the pages turn. (My husband asked what the plot was when I was nearly halfway through and all I could tell him was "Twilight with fallen angels", and that was obvious enough from the cover alone.) And the plot certainly does not stand up to any serious analysis.
But I didn't particularly care. This is not a book to think about, it's Big Dumb Fun for anyone wanting an entertaining read in the paranormal romance genre.
#102> Thanks! Always glad to help reduce toppling Mt TBRs. :)
#103> It was rather fascinating, but was just far too dense for me at this time. Maybe when I have a week to myself, no kids to look after or work to get to, and it's miserable weather so all I'll want to do is curl up on the sofa and read... maybe that's the time. I read it in far too many bits - the writing style rather lent itself to that (newspaper headlines!), but I think it's something that should really be immersed in.
The good bits were so good, but overall it just ended up being far more challenging than I could deal with.
Mmm, Slow Chocolate Autopsy...
Hi Mark! Yes, I did finish When Will There Be Good News? - it's next up for a review. (Now to find the time to write it!) I thought it was wonderful stuff.
I'm juggling a few books at the moment, can't seem to stick with one in particular. But if I'd chosen Mr Huston's My Dead Body, I'm sure I'd be focussed. :) Will keep my eye out for Sleepless as well!
All Quiet on the Western Front is one of those books i've got to read again. Thanks for reminding me--and another book to give to my son. And if he doesn't read it, I can at least pound him over the head with it! Just kidding! He's much bigger than I am.
18. When Will There Be Good News?, Kate Atkinson
The third Jackson Brodie novel, by the incomparable Kate Atkinson. It opens some time ago however, with a young girl coping with her family falling apart around her, since her father has uprooted them from the city to live in the countryside for his art (he is an author; his wife is a painter, but her art comes second to her role as a parent/wife now). And then said father does a runner to go and live with his mistress instead, and his deserted family comes to a tragic end. All in just a few short pages.
Meanwhile in the present day, Jackson ends up (for complex reasons that aren't worthwhile going into here) on a train to Edinburgh which drops him in the middle of a whole lot of ongoing plots and leaves him to be very confused, but do what he does best: help people.
There is Reggie, a very smart young woman who is currently being "mother's help" to the wonderful Dr Hunter, whose own world revolves around her baby, Gabriel. And Louise, who we met in the previous book (One Good Turn) who is now struggling with marriage to the perfect man. (No, struggling. Really.) And many other minor plots, all of which get far more tangled before Atkinson teases them apart and works it all back together into a tapestry that makes sense, even that initially incongruous beginning with Joanne and her family.
Not completely however, because that would be cheating. I have a few questions still bubbling around in the back of my mind, which is quite a delightful feeling. A book that was so nicely resolved that I was very happy, but still leaves a couple of niggling doubts? Brilliant.
Like the Stieg Larsson series (The Girl Who...), a lot of this book deals with men's aggression towards women (and sometimes with no less brutal result). In particular, Louise is dealing with a woman whose violent and controlling estranged husband is still ruling her life, even though he has disappeared. But one never knows when (or if) he will reappear, waving his shotgun around, so he is still calling the shots in reality.
This book, much like the other Jackson Brodie novels, made me laugh, cry, think. Atkinson manages to squeeze an amazing amount of plot and detail in her books, making them a wonderful read. It's not quite crime, it's not quite high-brow literature, but somehow manages an incredible balancing act between the two, leaving me totally satisfied.
Kate Atkinson looks very good, I've added her to my wishlist.
I enjoy your reviews very much, thanks!
Great review of that last one Wookie. I read it last year and had no idea until now that it was part of a series. I really liked it so will hunt up the others sometime this year.
Wookie- Loved the review! I'll be finishing the book today and I agree with you, wholeheartedly! She's a terrific writer!
Thanks all! I'm an unashamed fan of Kate Atkinson's books (although I do have to admit I'm yet to read anything by her that isn't a Jackson Brodie novel), happy to push her on anyone. :)
I've got a few days off work this week (yay!), so will hopefully catch up on a few more reviews!!
19. The World Beneath, Cate Kennedy
This one was read for one of my bookgroups. It revolves around an ex-couple, Sandy and Rich, once environmental activists, now stuck in middle-aged ruts; and their teenaged daughter, Sophie, who has been raised by her ineffectual mother, and who has some serious issues of her own.
Sophie is now 15 years old, and her father wants to be in her life again, after walking out when she was just a baby, and erratic contact ever since. So he organises for them to do the Cradle Mountain bushwalk in Tasmania, a gruelling seven day trek, but one full of beauty and wilderness, if also rather too full of other bushwalkers.
And you just know it's all going to go horribly wrong.
The characters were scarily believeable in this book. If I could have reached into this book and slapped Rich for being such a pretentious try-hard, I would have, he irritated me so much. I obviously don't deal very well with arrogant hypocritical prats in books. And probably in real life as well. Ahem.
I had more sympathy for Sandy, even though she was rather a drip. I felt for her willingness to try and save the planet, even though she was crippled with indecision and was at times more interested in the trappings of environmental awareness than in the actual tiring, exhausting, nitty-gritty detail of environmental awareness in modern times. I think I saw a bit of me in her at times.
While this was a good read overall, and I did zip through it quickly and fairly happily, the perpetually irritating nature of the main characters meant that this wasn't the most entertaining read I've had for a while.
(Edited to fix touchstones.)
I wonder what you'll think of Scenes Behind the Museum as it's the only Atkinson's I've really love, loved! It's a coming-of-age novel (which you know I'm a sucker for) rather than a mystery.
Bonnie, I think I'll probably like it, I'm a bit of a sucker for a coming-of-age story too. :)
mamabear54, WHOOHOOO!!! Always good to know I'm ahead of where I thought I was. :) Serves me right for some sloppy cut'n'pasting, it's not the first time I've put the wrong number in, but it's the first time someone else pointed out my error! Thanks heaps.
wookie, I've been eyeing off The World Beneath for what seems like ages now. I have heard from people who love it and I have heard from people who hate it, but now that I have heard a rather balanced review from you, I won't cross it off the list just yet.
The World Beneath had quite a bit going for it, but it was the main characters that just got to me. None of them were particularly likeable, and I do prefer books with characters I can enjoy and like. But she did draw her characters very well, there was an awful lot of realism to their annoyances.
20. Cotillion, Georgette Heyer
I picked this up because everyone seemed to be talking about Georgette Heyer and, while my sister (who read all the Georgette Heyer novels she could get her hands on as a teenager) seems to be drifting to my genre of choice (fantasy/sci-fi) thanks to trashy paranormal romances, I had to acknowledge that somehow I seemed to be drifting into her genre of choice for unfathomable reasons.
If anyone asks though, I still don't read romances. Regency pastiches, sure. Romances, no way.
This starts out very bubbly and light, with young Kitty being told by her cantankerous and miserly guardian that she must marry one of his nephews, and her refusing to marry any of those assembled in front of her, and storming out. One doesn't blame her, because they are a dunce, a married idiot, and a pompous idiot. There is a further problem for Kitty in that the one young man that she is sweet on (Jack, who luckily is one of her guardian's nephews) has not responded to his uncle's summons.
In a temper, she runs away, and bumps into yet another of her guardian's nephews (Freddy; how many nephews does this man have?), and persuades him into a engagement so she can escape her guardian to London for a brief while, and make Jack jealous.
Freddy is a charming creation, a wonderful, slightly daft, but very good hearted young man, who is completely over his head with the fake engagement to Kitty. He picks up all her bills as she has a beautiful wardrobe created, rescues her from inappropriate situations, and helps her to develop into a fashionable young lady about town. And (to paraphrase Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett) he's gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide. But that's probably a modern interpretation, not intended by Ms Heyer.
Kitty is another delightful character, determined to befriend and help everyone, and also determined to have a good time. And her guardian and his useless nephews were amusingly cast as the baddies.
I do have to say the language was rather boggling when I first started reading (dash it all, nearly made a cake out of me!), but after a while I got into the swing of it. The plot sagged a bit towards the end, where all the tangled threads just seemed to tangle even further without any sign of straightening out, but then it kicked into gear and ended on a delightful high note.
Recommended for lovers of Regency pastiche. Because it's not a romance, no.
(Edited because I numbered this review incorrectly! Again!)
I've read a couple of Georgette Heyer's books, and I don't think they are for me, but I really enjoyed your review.
Fun review! What year would that book have been written (approx). I'm not familiar with that author. Are we talking old, sort of old, not old?
I believe she was writing in the mid-1950s. Yep, just checked Wikipedia and she was writing from the 1920s all the way up to the 70s, and Cotilion was written in 1953.
I think that classifies as sort-of-old to my mind. :)
Yep, from where I'm sitting, that's sort of old too. Thanks for the info.
21. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson
Now, this is a silly thing to say, but bear with me. There's an episode of "The Simpsons" where there's a movie that looks suspiciously like the adaptation of John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos - The Village of the Damned - with a whole lot of blonde kids being chilling and mysterious. And speaking in really bad English accents, in unison. Now, I can't help but say the title of this book in a high-ptiched, bad English accent, with minimal expression. "We have always lived in the castle..."
Imagine my disappointment that there was no mysterious pale English children, speaking in unison, in this book. Damnit, it's not even English!
But all the characters still spoke in English accents in my mind.
Anyway, to get back on track: this was one of those books that I'd never even heard of until I started reading the forums on LibraryThing, but all of a sudden it became one of those books that I simply had to read. And then, as if some semi-benign book god heard my thoughts, it suddenly became available in Australia (along with several other books by Shirley Jackson, there goes my budget...).
This is the story of Mary Katherine Blackwood ("Merricat"), who lives in a run-down estate with her older sister, Constance, and her crippled Uncle Julian. Some disaster struck the family some years ago, leaving this Blackwood remnant in hiding from the local villagers. And the plot of this book is about the slow reveal of what happened in the past, with one small release of information at a time.
It's one of those books that was disappointingly short (I wanted more!) but was also a perfect length. Any more, and the story would have been stretched far too thin. (But I wanted more!)
My main quibble would be that I wished I'd read this book earlier, when I was a less experienced (or cynical) reader. The reveal towards the end wasn't a big shock for me, I could see it coming, so the power was diluted. And that's a shame, it would have been wonderful to have read this without realising where it was going. But for a 40+ year old, this still holds up as an excellent, atmospheric, spooky read.
@124 ha! Your review made laugh.
I do agree it would of been great to read this when much younger. I wonder if today's audience have too much experience of twists and unreliable narrators to not see it.
Although it didn't help that my copy had one of those introductions that give it all away (luckily really I always read those afterwards)
Great review! Isn't it just great when the semi-benign book god shows up?
#125> Oh, I don't read introductions, because they do so often seem to give plot points away. I do mean to go back and read them after the book, but then I can't quite see the point... :)
#126> It's only a semi-benign god, because it always leaves me poorer financially (but richer in a bookly sense, and as a friend told me, I'm not buying *things*, I'm buying *knowledge*).
22. Shah of Shahs, Ryszard Kapuscinski
I picked this up at the library, having heard good things about Kapuscinski's The Shadow of the Sun, so the author's name caught my eye. This was a series of essays written in Iran during and soon after Iran's Islamic revolution of 1979. I've skirted around Iran in a few of my literary travels (Persepolis, House of Sand and Fog, and one short story in The Boat), and have a child's memory of the revolution being on the news. But this is the first time I've dipped my toe into non-fiction regarding the revolution.
Kapuscinski writes wonderfully. This is no mere reportage of this-happened-then, but is meditations on human nature, on torture and fear, on privilege and power and greed, and even on the nature of revolution itself. I may still be fairly shaky on the what-happened-when of the Islamic revolution, but I feel as I was allowed a glimpse into the insanity of revolution. And I'm far less sympathetic towards the Shah than I was previously. Not that I approve of the revolution, either. It all seems one great big disaster that turned into another great big disaster.
Sorry to quote such a large chunk, but this was something that I'd never considered before and I find Kapuscinksi remarkably plausible:
When thinking about the fall of any dictatorship, one should have no illusions that the whole system comes to an end like a bad dream with that fall. The physical existence of the system does indeed cease. But its psychological and social results live on for years, and even survive in the form of subconsciously continued behavior. A dictatorship that destroys the intelligentsia and culture leaves behind itself an empty, sour field on which the tree of thought won't grow quickly. It is not always the best people who emerge from hiding, from the corners and cracks of that farmed-out field, but often those who have proven themselves strongest, not always those who have proven themselves strongest, not always those who will create new values but rather those whose thick skin and internal resilience have ensured their survival.
It's a chilling summary for any traumatised country, trying to throw off the shackles of tyranny: it's not going to be easy, or short-term. (And so many politicians in these days just want short-term solutions to everything.)
This is highly recommended for anyone interested in the modern history of Iran, or in modern history.
23. Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde
The first in Jasper Fforde's new Chromatica series, this was a no-brainer when I saw it at the bookshop. (Okay, I did flim-flam and prevaricate over whether I needed a new book... for a few minutes, at least.) Being a big fan of Fforde's Thursday Next series, and a moderate fan of his Nursery Crimes series, this was something I was looking forward to.
And it didn't disappoint. Mostly.
Set in the distant future of this world (or maybe another world?), merit is dependent on how well you see colours. But not all colours, each person can only see one colour. And what that colour is determines your standing in society. Purples are highest, greys (who can see no colour) are lowest of the low, and are basically used as slave labour for the Colourtocracy.
This has the usual Jasper Fforde insanity. Our hero, Eddie Russett, is keen to marry young Constance Oxblood and become head of the Stringworks. But he's in disgrace (for some radical thinking that would make queues more efficient) and is sent in disgrace on a "chair census" to East Carmine. On the way, he visits such exciting exhibits as the Badly Drawn Map and narrowly misses seeing the Last Rabbit. And as the book progresses, it becomes like 1984 on acid at times, with an amazing rewriting of history.
However, Fforde's world building here isn't as effective as that in Thursday Next's world, or the world of the Nursery Crimes. He's gone that bit too far away from just twisting normal society (into literature freaks and a world where nursery rhyme characters actually exist), and he didn't really explain the whole Colourtocracy to an extent that I was happy with. I had the hang of it by the end of the book, but I was a bit lost and confused at times during the middle.
But Eddie is a great solid character, Jane Grey is a wonderfully psychotic foil for him to bounce his potential-pillar-of-society off of (and she has such a cute nose), and the world is definitely intriguing and twisted enough that I am looking forward to the second book of this series. And hopefully it will explain more about how this strange world came to be.
24. A World of Love, Elizabeth Bowen
I picked this one up as Elizabeth Bowen was the author-of-the-month over at the "Monthly Author Reads" LibraryThing group, and I managed to find a second hand copy of this particular title. It's not one I would have chosen if I'd been given a choice, but it was on the "1001" list, and seemed slim so even if I didn't like it, it wouldn't take long.
Being slim wasn't the best aspect of this book, but it was a positive aspect.
In a rundown Irish country house in the 1950s, one very atmospherically hot summer day, a young girl finds a bundle of love letters from Guy, who had died during the Great War. Her mother, Lilia, had been engaged to Guy, and the country house belongs to Guy's cousin, Antonia, who lets Lilia and her husband (another cousin of Guy's) and their children live there, while she is off with her career as a photographer. Given the complexities of the surface relationships, you'd be right in thinking that there's going to be a lot of sublimated emotions going on. And there are, and that's not the sort of book I particular enjoy. Especially when the dialogue (which usually gives you insight) is as short and brief as, well, this:
'We were thinking of having supper.'
'Do as you please,' said she.
'What about you?'
'Today, you surpassed yourself.'
'Oh? - sorry.'
Etc. See? I'm not getting insights.
But it wasn't all awful. There were some wonderful thoughts on how the dead are still with us, the living, affecting our lives still through their untimely absence.
...though a generation was mown down his death seemed to her an invented story. Not that it was unlike him to be killed - lightly he had on the whole taken that for granted; they all sooner or later were; why should he not be? - but that it was unlike him to be dead. ... It would be long before Guy was done with life... It was simply that these years she went on living belonged to him, his lease upon them not having run out yet. The living were living his lifetime; and of this his contemporaries never were unaware. They were incomplete.
And, while the fact that the 1001 book describes this as her "funniest" book does fill me with dread when faced with the other Elizabeth Bowen novels on the 1001 list, it does have some amusing black humour with the incredible macabre nature of Maud, Lilia's youngest daughter. And the ending is a rather uplifting affair, suggesting that the next generation may be able to throw off the despair and ennui of the previous generations and find love of their own, and create new happy lives.
Great review on the Bowen book. Your take on her is about what I've gotten from her so far, but I'm determined to like her one day.
Nice review of Shah of Shahs and some interesting thoughts on Tyranny and Revolution. I suppose in some senses, the danger with any kind of revolution, no matter what the ideals of the revolutionaries at the beginning is that they are in danger of being hijacked by the most extreme elements in society. The French Revolution was appropriated by the Jacobins, which led to the Terror, the Russian Revolution was hijacked by the Bolsheviks and something similar happened in Iran. In all the cases, the grievances were genuine and many of the original revolutionaries started with high ideals, but the logic of violence means that the clique who was willing to use the most extreme methods managed to gain the upper hand in the social upheaval that comes with any revolution.
#131> Thanks, Nickelini! I must admit, I'm rather determined to like her too one day. There was a band in Sydney that I liked called Eva Trout, so I guess that's the Elizabeth Bowen I must track down!
#132> Thanks, iftyzaidi! There was actually a very interesting bit immediately following the revolution when Kapuscinski went to the HQ of the new ruling elite and asked about all the people who helped the revolution along. Not only were the revolutionists not there, not one of the people there even knew of any of these people. One group seemed to do the revolution, and another group seemed to step in to run the country afterwards. It just seemed rather messy and quite unutterably sad. (Not that I think that revolutionists are necessarily good at running the country, but it was a big sidestep from one set of ideals to another.)
25. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror, Robert Louis Stevenson
This was a re-read, although the first time I read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was well over 20 years ago and is very fuzzy in my memory, so I thought it was going to count as a new read. But it's such a well known story, that it was more like revisiting an old friend. I had to keep on reminding myself that this was ground-breaking stuff at the time, because it's just so familiar (and obvious) now.
I won't bother summarising the plot, as we all know it all already, though most probably through the movies or other references. (Hopefully better movies than the recent "Van Helsing" or "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen".)
The most interesting parts of the story aren't the transformations (although they are the money shot for the many movie adaptations), but the battle between good and evil raging between Jekyll and Hyde, and Dr Jekyll's addiction to evil. I particularly liked how Dr Jekyll has all the appearance of good, but is really evil underneath even before Hyde is unleashed. How many other people out there have these trappings of civilisation as a mere thin veneer? (Which always makes me rather afraid for society, that the rules and structures we have in place can be so easily torn apart by evil, and if that many people are evil... *shudder* It just doesn't bear thinking about.)
And the physical difference between Jekyll & Hyde is startling, not least that Hyde is small and weak, not at all the giant monster modern movies have made him out to be. While there is a strong indication that evil is physically manifest in Hyde, this evil is not shown in Jekyll. Our first real description of Mr Hyde:
Mr Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice.
And yet it's not just an unpleasant physiognomy and attitude, but something that cannot be described (or even pinpointed) that makes Mr Hyde universally reviled. It's an interesting idea, that somehow the practice of evil makes you somehow appear evil.
And once Dr Jekyll starts unleashing Hyde, he finds it difficult to stop - psychologically in that he doesn't want to stop, and then physically as the transformations can no longer be controlled. And, maybe it's just my reading, but I felt that he never particularly wanted to stop, but was forced into it. I feel that he would have been quite happy had he been able to let Hyde loose for the occasional debauch.
This book also contained the short stories The Body Snatchers and Olalla. The first is a black spooky re-imagining of the famous Burke and O'Hare murders (they killed people to supply bodies to the anatomical schools in Edinburgh); the second is a vampiric tale set in Spain. The first tale was a good macabre piece of gothic fiction; the second was more dated and clunky, but the notes in this edition were excellent and gave me a good understanding of this style of gothic fiction (so it wasn't a dead loss).
If you haven't read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde before, why are you waiting?
@128/132 I agree with iftyzaidi its a great review and a very interesting quote. I have just started Among the Believers: An Islamist Journey by V.S Naipaul and he visits Iran just after the revolution and it's given me a taste to know a bit more about it.
>128 - oh, were you listening to radio national? Have you read The Emperor? What did you think of the debate about truth in journalism? He sounds like he has deep insight into dictatorships, and what longlasting-and-not-so-obvious-from safe-parts-of-the-world damage they do. Hmm makes you think about Afghanistan which has been at war for so many generations (is it 30 years?)? Where are the new green shoots to come from from those sour fields?
And yet another review calling me to Shirley Jackson. That semi-benign book god better be listening!
>144 As to there being something indescribable but instantly felt about evil, conversely I think about the Dalai Lama, and how apart from physiognomy and attitude, you instantly feel that here is someone unfathomably good (both wonderous and strange, but much D.L. nicer to think about). I actually feel a bit nostalgic for evil such as Hyde, good old 19th century evil, since evil became banal, it has been much more depressing.
Dear Wookie, from the Land of Oz ...
It has been ages since I have been able to check your thread because of the recent major health issues for me.
However, I am re-connecting with my friends here on LibraryThing slowly, but surely, and today is your lucky day to be added back into my regular/daily reading threads.
I hope that you (and yours) have been well. I don't know if I will be able to read all the posts, but, I will be able to read enough to get a flavor for how your reads are going.
Ruthie in Tallahassee, FL
#137> Ruth, good to see you're back! Do take care of yourself.
#136> I haven't read any other Kapuscinski books (although I'm certainly on the lookout for them now!), and I rarely listen to the radio. (Although if I were going to, RN would definitely be on the shortlist.) Whatever the debate said, I hope it came down on the side of truth in journalism!! (Might go and see if I can find a podcast, any hint of what to search on?)
since evil became banal, it has been much more depressing
I hadn't thought of it like that, but you're quite spot-on. Just think of the Dalai Lama's smile, that'll cheer you up. (I got to see him talk once! And he walked past me only a couple of metres away after the talk! I shared *air* with him!! I still feel rather warm and happy about that day, and it was probably 15 years ago or so...)
26. Sleepless: A Novel, Charlie Huston
It is the very near future (northern hemisphere summer, 2010) in Los Angeles. And the world has collapsed: global financial crisis, climate change, and most worryingly of all: SLP, a mad-cow-like disease that leaves its sufferers sleepless. There is no cure, 10% of the population is infected, death is inevitable, and the only help is a rare drug called Dreamer that at least gives sufferers brief relief. In the meantime, sufferers make do with bizarre drug combinations (heroin plus Ketamine) that at least knock them unconscious for a few seconds, or spend their time shuffling about night markets, or playing endless games online.
Charlie Huston's world building is magnificent. This is a very believable future, or maybe I'm just a pessimist. (The nice thing about being a pessimist is you do tend to be mildly happily surprised all the time, because it's never as bad as you imagined. And when it is as bad as you imagined, well, then you get to wallow in your "I told you so" moments.) And, being a Charlie Huston novel, our protagonist Parker "Park" Hass, is a wonderful man. Trapped in the middle of all this mess, he's trying to cling to civilisation and his beliefs, trying to do the right thing, even when surrounded by chaos, insanity and greed.
I won't go into any plot details (you can read the book for that), but suffice it to say that the pages just kept on turning, as Huston twisted the plot and created small asides that added to the realism of his future.
This is not a book for the faint hearted: there is violence, swearing, drug use, and the only humour is extremely black. This is not a pleasant vision of the near-future, as it is filled with grasping evil people who would kill their own grandmother (and dance on her remains) to get ahead. Unfortunately, the world (both literary and in reality, see note above about my pessimistic nature) is short a few Parks.
Wookie- Loved the review and thanks for reviving the "Charlie Huston Bandwagon". Maybe we will spark some new interest! I should start a Ken Bruen Bandwagon next!
BTW, I also loved Park's character!
Hi, Wookie the Bookie -
I don't know about Sleepless. I'm having quite a bit of insomnia lately and I'm uncertain that I want to read a book about not being able to sleep. Good review, though.
It's nice to be back in touch with you and looking forward to more reviews of your current reading materials.
wookie, I have been reading lots of dystopias lately, and have been trying to wean myself off them, but this review has certainly piqued my interest!
I have never heard of Charlie Huston, but Sleepless sounds right up my alley.
Here is the link to the show on Kapuscinski: www.abc.net.au/rn/bookshow/stories/2010/2870120.htm
I would make exceptions in these circumstances :)
edited to just type link and not try and be tricky
@139 well the review sparked my interest, I haven't heard of Charlie Hutson before.
Just stopped by to see what's shaking.
Later, love -
#141> Only another six (or seven) reviews to go before I catch up. Oh help!
#143> Thanks for the link! I've read the summary and it sounds *fascinating* (trust RN to come up with the goods!). I'll download it to the iPod for listening later.
And I do wholeheartedly recommend Charlie Huston. He's mostly a crime/thriller sort of writer, and there's a fair amount of violence, but his main characters are just so wonderful and damned *heroic* (even if they are a vampire standover man for the vampire gangs of New York, *coff*Joe Pitt*coff*).
I've read the first four Joe Pitt novels (starts with Already Dead) and am leaving the fifth and final one to savour. They're a bit tricky (but not impossible) to find locally, I'm personally hanging out for easy access to The Mystic Arts of Erasing all Signs of Death. What a fab title! I've not read the Hank Thompson series (starting with Caught Stealing) but that's just because it's not readily available in my favourite bookshops. (Will have to ask them to order it in...)
Hi, Wookie -
Passing through on my way to stay caught up with reading what you and my other friends are posting about.
I'll be back, too.
Hi wookie - I think I read on the girlybooks thread that you son wasn't that into reading (I might be paraphrasing wrongly). Didn't want to threadjack but was interested because our just turned 6 y o isn't wild about it either. How old's your wee boy? There are a couple of Lego readers out there that F loved, but the biggest hit for us has been the Astrosaurs series by Steve Cole. He **adores** having us read them to him.
Anyway, would love to swap notes on good books for boys if they're around the same age.
I liked your review of Shah of Shahs - I loved Shadow of the Sun and have Imperium here to read. I saw a huge book called Non fiction at my favourite bookshop today by him, but it was in Polish (very cool to see so many books in foreign languages at this shop, but not much use.)
Right, dinner to cook, spot ya later.
#147> Hello again, Ruth!
#148> Yes, he likes books and library visits, but he just really wants to find things (or Wally) in cutaway books (he's fixated on a human body book this week, although it's often Star Wars ships) and play with the kids furniture at the library (he makes a great submarine out of the cushions and chairs).
He's seven-and-a-half now. I've had some success with Roald Dahl (Fantastic Mr Fox, George's Marvelous Medicine). And he often picks those DK early readers with Lego stories or Star Wars stories. (And can I say that the Star Wars stories are appalling? Badly written, stupid stuff.) And his Dad's happy to read him Simpsons comics, I'm less happy though (mainly because I can't do the voices, although, yes, also issues with the language and content at times).
I was thinking some of the non-offensive Enid Blyton might be worth a go - The Magic Faraway Tree, perhaps? I have only read her "Famous Five" and "Secret Seven" stuff, and from memory I would not be keen on the gender stereotyping now. But I got over it, I'm sure he will too if we go down that path.
I rather like the look of the Max Powers stuff, but he doesn't seem so keen.
It's just not an age I can remember my reading, so my experience isn't much good!
I will search out Astrosaurs!!
It used to drive me crazy when I'd take my kids to the library, and all they'd want to do is play on the computers and puppets. The way I made myself feel okay about it was that I knew they had an incredibly rich book shelf at home and so they didn't need to look for more books in another environment. (Never mind that we in addition to books, we also had puppets and a computer at home).
Anyway, if readers are reluctant with fiction, sometimes they really click with non-fiction. But you already knew that.
I believe that some children are just not born to read. Out of my three, the oldest and youngest are voracious readers and always have been. Both early readers and reading well beyond their age level.
The middle child, however, did not "learn" to read until he was about 7 and has never particularly enjoyed it. He reads the occasional novel, and when I say occasional, I mean he rings me up to tell me, it is such an occasion (and he knows his mum will be proud;), but he prefers to read non-fiction -politics, war, economy - and devours newspapers and magazines. So I am not worried.
Each child will find their own way.
27. Wanting, Richard Flanagan
This was read for my online book group. I'd read one previous book by Richard Flanagan, Gould's Book of Fish, and had enjoyed it immensely. But, from comments from other people around the biblioaddict world, it seems that Flanagan is a bit of an acquired taste.
This book has two timelines and stories that it cuts between: Tasmania in the 19th century, with the genocide of the Tasmanian aborigines (through active warfare, neglect, and disease). The Governor of Tasmania and his wife, Sir John Franklin and Lady Jane, have been unable to have children, and as a impulsive decision, Lady Jane chooses Mathinna, a young aboriginal girl to bring up as a white lady, almost as a scientific experiment, although one horribly contaminated by her lack of parenting skills, or even self-knowledge of what she really wants from this situation.
The second plot involves Lady Jane some years later. Sir John has returned to his first love, polar exploration, and is missing, presumed dead, and even more repugnant, presumed succumbed to cannibalism while lost searching for the Northwest passage. Lady Jane enlists Charles Dickens to help rehabilitate her husband. Dickens does this with a will, and becomes somewhat obsessed with the story himself, leading to him and his friend Wilkie Collins staging a play about Arctic exploration, and his subsequent obsession with one of the actresses (Ellen Ternan) in the play.
Both stories are linked by Lady Jane herself, as well as the theme of wanting: we all want what we cannot have. Mathinna wants to return to her childhood, Lady Jane wants a child, Dickens wants Ellen, etc. Unfortunately, I didn't feel the two stories mixed all that well. They are good standalone stories, but there didn't seem to be enough of a link between the two, I kept on expecting more of an "ahah!" moment when the two stories finally entwined completely. (Which they never really did.)
However, I do seem to be in the "love him" camp when it comes to Flanagan. I found each individual story fascinating, beautifully written, and quite compelling. I did prefer the Dickens story: it had arctic explorers, cannibalism, passion, unhappy marriages, and 19th century London. While the Tasmanian story was interesting as well, overall anything involving the Tasmanian aborigines leaves me profoundly depressed. You just know it's not going to end well.
Both stories also did what I love best about good literature: teach me more about the world. You know it's a good book, when after I finished reading I'm on Wikipedia researching more, and finding out further details.
And just a quick note: Mr Bear has asked for Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator - we put that one to one side several chapters into it well before Christmas, because he wasn't interested. But now we're back into it, one/two chapters a night, and he's having a great old time. Review will hopefully be forthcoming one day... this year...
Due to agreeing with your views on Cushla's thread I've wandered over to star you :)
And actually finding some similar books - though I haven't got to my copy of Shades of Grey yet...
Well, welcome BekkaJo! Do you have a thread I can read too? I like reciprocating, where possible.
I'm running shockingly late on my reviews (I think I've got seven still to write), but they'll come out in dribs & drabs as I find time to do them. :)
Hi Wookie! Love you reviews as always. Loved Jasper Fforde, and also went through a Georgette Heyer period long ago. The Shah book looks interesting and I hope you enjoy Charlie with your son. I am reading the Charlie Bones series with my daughter. Cheers!
I like Richard Flanagan, have not read this one, but as you say, usually if it involves Tasmania, not just Tasmanian aborigines, it's not going to end well.
We are still up to picture books here at the flat, and I am intrigued and impatient to see where both boys end up reading wise. They see us reading so much, that they will either think it as normal as breathing, or come to loathe it!
#156> Hi Berly! Nice to "see" you online again. :)
#157> I'm sneaky like that.
#158> I did actually read a book set in Tasmania recently that did end on a bit of a positive note! The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy. It was well written, interesting plot, believeable characters. But characters you wanted to *shake* sometimes, so not the most fun read I've had all year.
I believe The World Beneath is winning the People's Choice Award at this year's NSW Premier's Literary Award - I personally voted for Ransom which was just wonderful, although I was also very keen on Jasper Jones. Ransom is coming third, according to some reliable scuttlebutt, and Jasper Jones second.
Ransom is my favourite, and beats The World Beneath as a literary work, but I'll understand if The World Beneath is more popular.
#160> Did you see Cate Kennedy on First Tuesday this week? I thought she was rather good, I hope they get her back another time. She's appearing at a few things at the SWF this year, I should see if I can catch her. (Unfortunately I'm not going to any paid events, due to vet bills - stupid cat got an infected bite on his paw - followed by a parking fine, which was entirely my fault, can't blame the cat for that one.)
Edited to remove an extraneous apostrophe.
Love First Tuesday. But why is it still only a half hour program? You can see where they edit it to pieces. There must be so much more chat that we are not privy to!
28. Solar, Ian McEwan
It is the year 2000 when we first meet Michael Beard. He is a scientist and is more concerned with his failing marriage (his fifth) than he is in climate change, even though he is Chief of the National Centre for Renewable Energy, a post he got from resting on his laurels: a Nobel Prize for his Einstein-Beard Conflation (usually just referred to as the Conflation). Of course, any normal person would be more concerned with a failing marriage, but for Beard, you pretty soon get the feeling that he is interested in pretty much anything other than his work, apart from the status and money he gets as a famous name in physics.
The book jumps to two other timeframes: 2005 and 2009. As time progresses, Beard becomes more powerful and respected in public, yet we see just how useless and arrogant and selfish he is. McEwan takes great delight in skewering the hypocrisy of Beard (while he's supposed to be saving the planet from climate change, he is really just enjoying the perks of being a bigwig, such as first class travel all over the globe), and also the scientific and government establishments in their continual support of Beard, although he obviously is a one-hit wonder. (Although what a hit! A Nobel Prize!)
It takes a while for the serious plot to kick in. For a while there, I thought maybe it was an unusual McEwan in that there would be no "moment in which everything changed". But, no, it's there, he just takes great delight in his character and world building and is in no hurry to get to any particular dramatic moment. And even the dramatic "moment" seems slightly swamped by McEwan's fun in creating and belitting Beard.
This was sold as McEwan's comedic novel. While I was reading it, I did feel that he'd not only gotten confused between the thin line between humour and grotesquerie, but took great delight in being completely grotesque and passing it off as humour. But, you know, as I discuss this book with others, I'm giggling and sniggering and almost in tears retelling some of the incidents.
The ending in particular is a brilliantly orchestrated disaster, with incident piling on top of incident, all topped up with some deep fried cheese that had me turning the pages, cheering McEwan on.
Unfortunately, the long-awaited and much-enjoyed comeuppance of Beard meant that a lot of other, perfectly innocent, people were hurt in the process. That did not make me feel very comfortable: I was very happy to see Beard humiliated, but I almost wanted him saved as his destruction mean the downfall of so many other people.
29. Breath, Tim Winton
Well, I've always said that Tim Winton leaves me cold, I'm never engaged by his books, and often not particularly entertained. Sometimes I can see the appeal, but the book just doesn't appeal to me.
Either I've changed in the past few years, or Winton's writing has. I think it's more likely the former, which means I'm going to have to search out his earlier books for a re-read, because I enjoyed this one immensely.
Young Pikelet and his adrenalin-junkie mate Loonie learn how to surf on the coast of Western Australia, and also learn about life at the knee of their surfing guru. There is a feeling almost of a cult, albeit a very small one, around these three men.
Along the way, things get very intense and strange, and it all builds compelling up to an inevitable conclusion, but it only seemed inevitable in hindsight. At the time, I wasn't quite sure where it was going.
It is more of a bloke's book than I usually read (maybe that's why I haven't been a fan of Winton up until now), with the only female characters fairly minor, or distinctly strange. And while some parts of the plot seemed a bit implausible to this female reader, I was definitely along for the ride all the way.
#165> Thanks Nickelini! Next book up for review is The Guards, so not quite one word. :) (Spoiler: I liked it.)
#166> Thanks Mark! I had quibbles with Solar, but it was mostly of the it's-making-me-uncomfortable form (which is a Good Thing in books, even if I don't particularly enjoy the sensation), and his sense of humour tending towards the grotesque (not my sense of humour). I think I like it more now that I'm further away from it (I read it a while back, and am only just catching up on reviews now).
I have a week off work. Along with all my myriad of things I want to do (Sydney Writers Festival; the Biennale; volunteering at the kids' school; etc), I'm hoping to catch up on some reviews. And some reading. :)
It's now just before 9am on Sunday morning. My morning with the kids: I sleep in on Saturday, my husband sleeps in today. The small ones are fixated by cartoons while I make toast, tea, cereal, and sneak off to catch up on LT. ;)
And, yes, it's the Ken Bruen, read on your recommendation. :)
Hope you are having fun/had fun at the Writers Festival down your way!
Oh, I've been slack. I haven't made a single event!
I have however made the Biennale at the AGNSW; the "100" exhibition at the Mitchell Library; looked after not one, but two sick children; saw "Robin Hood" (I'm a sad fan of Mr Hood); had High Tea and bookshopping adventures with my Mum; volunteered at the kids' school for reading with the kids and setting up for next week's book drive; and just general catching up on sleep/reading/friends.
It's not been a bad holiday, although it did morph from what it was meant to be focussed on. :)
I'm not fond of the Winton books either, and I've had to read 2 or three of them for book group. Always love the kid stories, Tania! This is what I love about LT. I don't think we'd be friends in real life even if we lived on the same street. I'd probably be old and boring to you, but I think you're hilarious, so am glad to be able to enjoy your company here.
Bonnie, old and boring!!!!! Never!! You know I'd be over at your place, nattering about books and shushing kids and demanding endless cups of tea and offering scones (with jam and cream) in response.
And, btw, I think you're incredibly funny too! Yeesh, talk about selling yourself short!!
Yep, Bonnie, I could've written Wookie's post!!! But mine would be telling me to stop talking about books.
Tania, reading books I don't really want to is why I peter out with book groups. I know that sometimes they can open your eyes to wonderful books, but so does being on here - without the work!
Doh, I just re read that after I hit send, and now I realise it was you Bonnie who's read the Tim Winton books for book group. See - never post with a 3 year old at your feet being a photo-taking kangaroo.
30. The Guards, Ken Bruen
The first Jack Taylor mystery. Jack Taylor is an alcoholic, a retired Guarda, and currently eking out a living as a very informal private investigator, whose office is the local bar.
Being Irish, a truly heroic amount of alcohol is drunk. I almost felt slightly tipsy reading it at times.
But through the fog of alcohol, Jack keeps on delving into the suicide of a young girl whose mother believes she was murdered. And uncovers the truth about it all, and comes to some rather startling and scary conclusions about himself when he's drinking.
It's a fairly brutal crime novel, our "hero" is not particularly heroic, I could have done with less drinking and more sobriety, and the humour is fairly far between and dry. But I rather like my crime novels gritty, and will be looking for more in the series.
Cushla, have you let your child loose with the camera? I hardly ever see my phone any more, the kids are always taking photos on it, or videos of their bears dancing. (So cute.) My husband quite pointedly keeps his phone away from the chaos monkeys, but I love seeing what they produce. (Apart from the photo of my bottom as I climbed the stairs the other day. THAT one went straight to pixel heaven!)
And I do agree as well about book groups: sometimes they make you read fascinating stuff outside your comfort zone, but sometimes one just wants to be in one's comfort zone, reading trash and eating bonbons.
31. Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh
Well, this was an absolute corker of a ripsnorter of a novel! I was sold from the very beginning, when the young landbound Indian villager, Deeti, sees her vision of a ship; through all the bizarre pidgin language of the Chinese lascars (and the even more bizarre pukka-talk of the English living in India); and the journey of a young black American man who is "passing" as white on a reconditioned slave ship. And all that in the first 20 or so pages.
Then there are further characters and plots, all piled one on top of each other, higgledy-piggledy. Phew!
I don't think I could pick out a favourite character, or a favourite scene. It was a heady read, packed full with so many fabulous moments.
I'm just peeved I have to wait an unknown length of time for the next book, as this one ended half way through a great story!
LOL to the photo of your bottom. Nope, a pretend Disney camera from a silly magazine (in the supermarkets here - I buy so much more rubbish since we moved). If I let them loose on the good digital camera I would be toast!!
I loved Sea of Poppies too, and can't wait for the next one. Is he even writing it? He can't make us wait forever.
#180> I checked out his website, and there isn't even a title for the sequel yet! I think he's going to try and make us wait forever...
That ain't right! Especially with the way Sea of Poppies ends - definitely not a stand alone novel.
#183> Mark, I am rather red-faced to admit this, but, ahem, well, you see, um, er, I don't think I noticed any crime novel references. *blush*
Maybe I'm not quite up to date with crime novels.
Oh, do I have to read them in order? The local branch of the library doesn't have the second book, but does have the third. While I can request the second book to be transferred from one of the other branches, that can be a hassle.
And do read Sea of Poppies! Although it's going to be a long difficult wait for book #2...
Well, I wasn't fishing for compliments but the "nattering" and the tea and scones sounds lovely! Yum! I may have to stop and take a drive to my neighborhood deli to buy some oatmeal and raisin scones for breakfast--my favorite because they're not too sweet--but who am I fooling? I could never wait until morning. Enough about food, I'm going to read Sea of Poppies this weekend, so stopped reading your comments after, "...this is an absolute corker of..." I'll come back to read them when I get finished Saturday or Sunday.
And laughing at your kid stories as usual! :-) I'm not just being nice when I say you should write a book. You could probably get tons of readers with a blog, but I selfishly don't want you to do that, 'cas I worry you'll be too busy to post on LT. Have a great weekend!
wookie- Maybe I should have made it clearer about the "crime novel references". Usually at the beginning of each chapter he would have a quote from a crime novel, that's all. I would try to read them in order but if you can't, oh well. I'm only on the 3rd, BTW. I have to try finding a copy of Sea of Poppies.
Bonnie, I hope you liked (or are still liking!) Sea of Poppies. And no time to read a book, I recently suddenly thought that Twitter was a good idea, because all I have time to type is the occasional bon mot anyhow. (Avoiding Twitter. FaceBook is enough of a time sink.)
Mark, I'll see about getting book #2 from one of the local branches. It's no biggie, I was just being lazy, I think. :)
32. Leviathan, Scott Westerfield
My first official foray into steampunk! Chosen because several people on LibraryThing mentioned it positively, and it turns out that Scott Westerfield is now a Local Author. (And knowing us Australians, he'll be "our Scott" even if he only stays here for a few months. Unless he then goes and divorces Nicole Kidman or something.)
Leviathan takes place during the eve of World War 1, with Europe on the brink of war. In London, a young girl is posing as a boy, Deryn Sharp, in order to gain a place as an apprentice on the flying ships England uses as transport, and as war vehicles. And young Aleksandar is a young nobleman, suddenly fleeing for his life in a steam driven war machine.
In this universe, in Europe, they have developed giant steam driven machinery. Meanwhile, the English have discovered the ability to create machines from DNA, giving them giant airborne jellyfish as zeppelin, strange hippo-lion crosses as powerful pulling engines, etc.
And these two sides are going to end up fighting each other. (I want to see a huge mecha in trench warfare!)
I did enjoy this: the characters are fascinating, the action is exciting, the world is very interesting. I'm not completely convinced by the darwinist monsters; but I think I'm mostly peeved that I bought this without realising that the subsequent books hadn't been published as yet. Now, I have to suffer the long wait until book 2 is out.
I've never tried the steampunk genre either (I don't think that His Dark Materials really counts), but I'm going to have to give this one a go. Great review!
Thanks! I unfortunately loaned my copy to a friend as soon as I finished it some weeks ago, so I had to crib a bit from Wikipedia for the details. (Hopefully I didn't get too much wrong!) It's a good romp, and a fascinating world. I do like the idea of the mutant animals (and they are VERY cleverly thought out), but I didn't quite buy into it. Maybe the second book will convince me. :)
I really must write my reviews sooner...
Wookie- Good review of Leviathan! I remember Richard recommending this one, so it's all-ready on the WL. I have not ventured into steampunk country yet!
#192> Oh, the library has his Uglies trilogy. I keep on trying to *not* pick them up (seven unread library books at home already), but my willpower is weakening...
Wookie!! This will not do. Two great books in a row that do NOT have their sequel out yet? No, I just can't do that to myself. Will have to put them out the wishlist and wait a while. Sigh.
Don't worry - you can do all three Uglies book in a marathon weekend! The lovely thing about Westerfield is that he manages characters and plot and world as well as being the sort of read that just flies by. He also has a great ear for language I think.
I really like Uglies and Pretties - you could probably skip Extras if you wanted, but it was decent too.
Haven't read Leviathan yet, but might have to wait until the sequel is out too. But I can vouch for the Uglies trilogy. They were great.
33. Death Masks, Jim Butcher
Another rip-snorter of a Dresden case file from Jim Butcher. Is it just me, or is that the, well, butch-est name ever? One would never mistake him for a writer of anything but excellent adventures, on the blokey side of things.
This time, Harry (no, the *other* wizard called Harry) needs to save the world... hang on, doesn't he do that every time? Yes, but that's why we love him. Amazingly, he gets some sleep on occasion, instead of the usual several day adventure with no sleep. I found this quite a relief, as I feel exhausted just reading about his endless adventures on no sleep.
This is a great series, that just keeps on getting better and better, as Butcher trickles out the back story on Harry and his family, and Harry ups the ante fighting the good fight, and the baddies get crosser and crosser. Wonderful stuff, recommended.
34. The Seventh Sinner, Elizabeth Peters
I'm a fan of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series, so sat up and paid attention when I discovered that she'd written other series. This one is the first Jacqueline Kirby mystery, and was first published 1972.
And all I can say is that Peters' writing has improved dramatically since then.
The exposition was clunky, the plot was pretty ordinary, and the characters weren't very well described. Especially Jacqueline - I understand she is supposed to be a fairly hard character to pin down, but it just never gelled for me.
I only finished this because I wanted something that didn't require brains to read one weekend.
35. Passing, Nella Larsen
Well, I thought this was quite a fascinating novel.
I particularly liked the atmosphere of the society during the "Harlem Renaissance". I wasn't even aware before reading this book that there had been such a moment in time. And I feel that this book is very much a product of its time. Not that this is a bad thing: I feel that it's refreshingly free of any angst or overly-wordiness that I am somehow associating with modern black American literature. (Hello, Toni Morrison. Although I love her novels, they are quite an emotional drain by the end.) It's just accepting of black American society, and free of any stereotype I can think of that I can see on American TV.
The plot is also interesting, with pale-skinned Clare married to a white racist, who has no idea of her past or heritage. And, of course, being married to such a man means that Clare has had to turn her back on these things as well. The narration by her old friend, Irene, is very well done. Irene, of course, is emotionally involved in the story, so makes a wonderfully unreliable narrator. How much of the story is true, and how much is from 'Rene's worried imagination? We will never know, which makes it a great book to return to.
Great comments on Passing. You've reminded me that I want to track down that book!
And if you think the name Jim Butcher is great for a blokey adventure writer, you may appreciate the name Garth Butcher. He was a professional hockey player in the NHL who's job it was to hurt the other team. A goon, in other words. And he even had that protruding brow that is stereotypical of thugs. I always wondered if he ended up with that career because of his name. And now I wonder if Garth & Jim are relatives ;-)
...as I feel exhausted just reading about his endless adventures on no sleep.
I know! I can only read his books one at a time because they are so exhausting. But I love them none-the-less...
Oh, *all* the Harry Dresden (aka Dresden Case Files) books are well worth reading. My husband is hanging out for #12 to be catalogued at the library - they've got it, but until it makes it onto the catalogue, we can't borrow it. I'm much further behind!
He's also enjoying Butcher's other series, the Codex Alera (?). I've managed to resist them so far.
They're just excellent, fast paced, page turning, exciting adventure books. Great stuff.
Nickelini, you're right, Butcher is a great name for a goon. :)
Speaking of which, the great Irish writer Colm Toibin was in Sydney for the writers' festival a couple of weeks back. I missed seeing him in the flesh, but he got on TV for the national book club show (First Tuesday Bookclub) and he looked like a complete goon, the sort you'd run from if you saw him in a dark alleyway. But a wonderful writer, and he came across as immensely charming.
36. The Children's Book, A.S. Byatt
I've been a fan of A.S. Byatt's books for some time: for the detail, the characters, the history, the plots, the wonderful writing. So I was very keen to read this, especially since it's based around the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th century, and it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize (lost to Wolf Hall, another wonderfully detailed historical read). I'm nothing if not a literary prize floozie.
We are introduced to the Wellwood family, a rambling brood of children, being brought up in a rambling house, called quite delightfully "Todefright". Their parents and friends are Fabians, artists, and quite bohemian, and Olive Wellwood is a well known and popular writer of children's fairy tales (she is based on the author E. Nesbit, whom I am yet to read). And there are also the city Wellwoods, And the Cains. And the Fludds, and Warrens. And then a whole cast of people over in Europe. Somehow I managed to mostly keep them straight in my mind, and while I didn't always approve of them or their behaviours, I did love them, especially as we got to be a part of their lives, until the children grow up, and World War 1 looms.
I spent a lot of time seeing the foreshadowing of both World Wars as the book progressed, knowing that life was not going to be easy for some of the characters. Small asides about German characters being Jewish, for instance, almost broke my heart, knowing what was going to happen a decade or two after the book does finish.
Yes, I cared about the future of these characters that much.
Overall, this was a wonderful read, I could hardly bear to put it down at times, even if it was well over 600 pages long.
37. Soulless, Gail Carriger
Soulless was one of those books that caught my imagination: recommended on LibraryThing, and Book 1 of the "Parasol Protectorate" (which made me giggle), it looked like a great fun steam punk romp, with vampires, werewolves, and a Buffy-esque main character.
Unfortunately, it was less Buffy and more Twilight, with far too much romance, and not nearly enough slayage. The romance kicked in on page 8. Honestly. Couldn't we just have one book with young women fighting the good fight against the denizens of the demon dimensions without romance? Yeesh. And sometimes this was far more soft porn than romance, with some fairly explicit scenes. I am also less amused by romances where the heroine and hero are so obviously going to fall in love, or have even already fallen in love, during the course of the book. These books are written with the premise of *unresolved* sexual tension, and then they throw it all away with the couple falling into bed in the last chapter^ and the following books suffer for it.
I also did have a quibble with one character being described as having a slight Scottish accent, then on the next page he is rumoured to be Scottish (well, I thought the accent gave that one away), then on the next page he says "Aye".
I GOT IT ALREADY. HE'S SCOTTISH.
At least the romance wasn't with a vampire (they're undead, people!), but with a werewolf. I can see the appeal of werewolves much more than vampires. (And anything's better than zombies.)
Overall, while I had some moments of fun with this, I just can't see myself sourcing the next book in the series.
Not bad for what it is, but I am a bit over the whole paranormal romance genre.
Moving onto Norwegian Wood.
^ Not a spoiler. Honestly, it happens every single book.
Great review. I **have** to get to this one soon - I bought it before we left NZ! I loved The Railway Children as a child.
Thanks Cushla! I've got another outstanding seven reviews, so am trying to get them out as fast as possible (proof reading? we don' need no steenking proof reading! - apologies for any obvious errors), so that's why your comment got a bit out of order there!
Soulless had its fun moments, but I think anything after The Children's Book would be a disappointment! And this definitely didn't stand up to the post-Byatt glow.
I'm wondering why all the vampire romance books have to be "soft" porn? Something that I can't feel good about giving to my 14 yo daughter. Sookie Stackhouse, Soulless... I'm no prude, and neither is my daughter, but still, it's kinda like the TV show Weeds if I just hand these books to her.
#210> divinenanny, I think I was hoping that Soulless would be so different that it'd be a nice change, but, nope. Too many quibbles from me to really completely enjoy it. (It's not that I don't like fun fluff!)
#211> kcs_hiker, I wouldn't be recommending Soulless to any 14 year old! (Unless they're much more sophisticated now than I was when I was 14. Which they probably are. But still.) That was probably the best bit of Twilight, no sex scenes. But hardly a healthy relationship or a decent strong female character, so still banned from any 14 year old I know!
Probably the best so far has been Hush, Hush - reviewed at http://www.librarything.com/topic/79496#1844255 above - because while it was rife with unresolved sexual tension, it remained unresolved. (I'm pretty sure. I've loaned my copy out and can't double check that there wasn't a sex scene I've forgotten about.)
Also happy two thumbs up for the Sorcery and Cecilia series for any teenager. No sex (it's all terribly Regency), no vampires, but good romance and fun magic and clever heroines.
I'm nothing if not a literary prize floozie.
Oh my, I didn't know that about you! Thanks for the warning, and the great review of The Children's Book. I'm looking forward to that one, one day when I've knocked Mnt TBR down a bit.
Nickelini, I'm with a group of friends who pass around the short list of the Bookers and the Miles Franklin each year. At the moment, I've got two Booker shortlist books in Mt TBR as part of this scheme - Child 44 and Not Untrue, and Not Unkind. No Miles Franklin books at the moment, but there's usually one or two around.
And now I've been convinced of the extreme worthiness of the Orange Prize, and I've always rather liked the Pulitzer...
Oh, I just got Child 44 from the library today, Wookie-Bee! I can't who recommended it to me first, but for sure Mark and Bonnie liked it, so I'm counting on it being a good read. Glad to hear it's on the Booker shortlist too. I almost always like the Bookers. I'll eventually read the The Children's Book, if only for the cover. Happy reading!
Bonnie, interestingly Child 44 isn't getting many good comments from my Booker-reading mates. There seems to be some snobbishness, in that it's "just" a thriller. (I have also heard it's a pale imitation of Gorky Park - also on Mt TBR - so they might be right.)
I'm still looking forward to it though (MUST pick it up soon!), because of LTers recommendations.
Well, I haven't read Gorky Park, so I won't be able to make that comparison, and sometimes a thriller is just what I want to read--although I didn't really read thrillers much before joining LT, so blame you all for corrupting me!
Oooh- so glad I caught up on your reviews! I started The Children's Book in the middle of the semester and just didn't have time to get into it. I'd forgotten all about it- but am now requesting from the library. Thanks!
38. Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami
This has been on my shelves for far too long! Finally picked it up for a Group Read (although, as usual, ran out of time to join in the discussion). I've read a number of Murakami's other works, so was expecting something quirky, unusual, and possibly spooky; hopes were also raised with the knowledge that this is insanely popular in Japan. Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed.
This is a semi-autobiographical tale of Toru Watanabe, a young student in Tokyo, and his relationships with two women, Naoko and Midori. The book meanders through a year or so of Toru's life, listlessly attending lectures, hanging out with the occasional friend, playing guitar, and being confused by the two women in his life. Neither woman is really believable to me, although I did enjoy Midori's company, as she was fun and quirky. (Frankly, Naoko was a bit of a downer.) And there is a fair amount of dialogue in this book, none of which ever struck me as at all natural.
Now, with Murakami's other books, the characters and dialogue never struck me as natural either, but because it dealt with all sorts of surreal strangeness (talking cats, men living down wells, sheep - trust me on the sheep), it did work for me. For this, with its much more straightforward plot, without the trappings of magical realism, it just fell rather awkwardly flat.
And now I'm worried that maybe if I re-read one of his "quirky" books (say, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles), then I'd be disappointed by the characters and dialogue, that this book has spoilt his writing for me by making me realise the clunkiness of his prose. (Hopefully, my fears are unfounded.)
I've still given this a fairly good rating however, as it wasn't a dreadful book, just a forgettable one, which isn't what I would expect from Murakami.
39. The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
A library find, and an absolutely brilliant read. Post-apocalyptic young adult fiction, and one of the more unusual settings I've yet come across. I don't want to give much away, so I'll just quote the first line:
The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say.
And it's quite true. Manchee is a great dog, but his dialogue is mostly along the lines of "Poo, Todd, poo". Which I think is probably quite accurate, having known a number of dogs in my lifetime.
But why Todd and Manchee can talk to each other, well, go and read the book and find out for yourself. Trust me, you won't be able to put it down, as the story is slowly revealed and you'll be in for a white-knuckled page-turning read. And then you'll have to run to the library the very next day to get out the second book in the Chaos Walking series, The Ask and the Answer, just like I did.
Nice description of this book, Tania! I liked Toru better by the end of the book, but for a long time I just couldn't understand his appeal to the other characters; his comments sounded so politely, boringly mundane.
40. The Ask and the Answer, Patrick Ness
Yes, I went straight to the library and got this out, mere hours after finishing the first Chaos Walking book, The Knife of Never Letting Go. And then read it in a day, devouring it up. Another white-knuckle ride into Ness's amazing post-apocalyptic world, and the stakes are getting higher, and the horror is getting more terrifying.
And now I'm in agony, since the library is yet to process the third book in the series, Monsters of Men.
#222> Thanks, Bonnie! I must admit, I read it *ages* ago (doing the old catch up on reviews thing tonight) and was quite stumped as to what it was about. Had to crib from the back of the book, hence my description of it as "forgettable".
But it's beyond huge in Japan!
I've never read anything by Murakami yet (I keep meaning to, but you know how it is), and I'm guessing you wouldn't recommend Norwegian Wood as a first attempt. What should I try first?
221 I haven't been really been paying attention to LT recently but 1st time reading you thread and I see my wishlist has suffered already. I am going to have to hunt it down at the library :)
I got Wind-up Bird Chronicle first--primarily for the cover--and liked the writing of the first couple of chapters, but didn't feel the urge to keep reading. Then I heard on LT that it moves into the surreal which I am not fond of at all, so haven't been tempted to go back to it. Now that I've read Norwegian Wood, I don't think I'll ever bother. Just gotta find someone who will appreciate it for more than the cover. Happy reading, Tania! And speaking of things being "mundane," how's 'normal' life after your exciting weekend?
#225> I wouldn't recommend Norwegian Wood, but I would recommend The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I thought that was a great rollercoaster of a book. But if you're like Bonnie (#227) and aren't interested in surreal, then skip his fiction and try his Underground which was a collection of interviews with victims/perpetrators of the sarin gas attacks on Tokyo's underground. Disturbing (mainly because he tells stories from both sides without much judgement), but fascinating.
#226> Yes! RUN TO THE LIBRARY, DON'T WALK!!!!
#227> Well, after my singing at the Sydney Opera House on the weekend (brag, brag; but bear in mind I was one of a massed choir, I'm not the soloist type!) I'm slowly settling back into mundane life. Which would be a lot more mundane if it wasn't for some ridiculous work requests. (Nine days to build a brand new website with all sorts of fandangled functionality! And they want a working demonstration tomorrow. They can see their functionality tomorrow, but it sure ain't gonna look pretty since we only got the mockups at COB today...)
Luckily I rather thrive on stress, and it's a good team working on this. (Yay us!)
And next Queen's Birthday long weekend (June 2011), I'll be back at the Opera House for Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis". Should be fun!
Oh, the buzz still hasn't quite worn off. :)
(Edited to fix pesky touchstones.)
the buzz still hasn't quite worn off
I bet not! Don't get me wrong, I loved my kids, but wasn't it exciting just to have a weekend with 'the girls?'
I'm also waiting anxiously for one of my libraries to get Monsters of Men in! It's one of the few books I'm almost tempted to just go buy instead of waiting on...
I really liked The Ask and the Answer - I think Ness is getting stronger as he goes and really growing his protagonists believably, and I think he does some really interesting stuff with the Noise. Can't wait to read the next one!
Ok, I'm convinced, I've added The Knife of Never Letting Go to the wishlist. It sounds very intriguing.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is already sitting here in my TBR pile, but I think I'm not going to read it until I have the next two sitting right next to it!
#229> Bonnie, of course we love our children, but we all need some "me" time to wind down! Kids have no "off" switch, although you can hypnotise them for an hour every now and then with the TV. :)
#230> Aerrin99, I'd rush out and buy Monsters of Men, only it's hardback and $33! That's just not quite in the budget at the moment (especially when I don't own the first two, and I am a completeist). But I did find the second cliffhanger was less OH MY GOD NO!!! than the first. Dying to know how it'll resolve, but less immediate panic.
#231> loriephillips, you won't be disappointed. It's a great read!
#232> Looking through the Murakami novels on my shelves, I'd suggest next Kafka on the Shore, it was my next favourite. Then I enjoyed-but-would-not-rave-about Sputnik Sweetheart and Dance, Dance, Dance. And now I have a Murakami gap! No unread books of his on my shelves! Oh dear.
#233> ronincats, I understand! If I'd *known* about the cliffhangers and had noticed that the library didn't actually have book 3 (I got all muddled), I would have held off for a while on borrowing them... At least all three books are out, unlike other series I have started with no book 2 (or end) in sight!
> 234 I've discovered the problem - it doesn't come out here until September! Grrrr! And since it's already been several months since I read the second... I suppose I might as well wait a bit longer.
#235> Aerrin99, this is one advantage to being in Australia - we often get British books earlier than you in the States. :)
#236> Hi Mark! Oh, I'm glad you liked Norwegian Wood! Sorry I didn't participate in the discussion, life got away from me, rather. I must admit, I'm rather happy to know I can now buy a Murakami novel without chastising myself with "but you've already got X unread by him on your shelves already" (hello, David Mitchell...).
Your Opera House singing sounds unforgettable. I heard Missa Solemnis a few years ago in our arts festival and it was wonderful.
The only Murakami I've read is South of the Border, West of the Sun and I didn't love it enough to read any more by him. My husband is a huge fan - we have almost no overlap in books!
41. On the Art Of Making Up One's Mind, Jerome K. Jerome
A short and nicely presented selection of essays by Jerome K. Jerome, best known as the author of Three Men in a Boat, which has apparently never been out of print. (Proof that occasionally good things get the rewards they deserve.)
I read the intro before reading the essays, which did explain why they have an almost morose and slightly bitter tone, not what one would expect from Jerome K. Jerome, knowing how wonderfully light and silly Three Men in a Boat is. (Financial difficulties, in a nutshell. Interesting to see that suing the pants off of people for libel isn't a twentieth century invention.) Still amusing and fun - written merely for amusement value, and nothing wrong with that - although a bit too much fun poked at women at one stage. Gentle fun, but still, keep your pithy amusing observations to a minimum.
Highlights included the mental image of a tarred-and-feathered angel (one who offers people the chance to relive their lives), and an unhappily married Cinderella because she married outside of her station (both from "On the Disadvantage of Not Getting What One Wants"); useless Victorian D.I.Y. furniture and bric-a-brac (picture frames fashioned out of ginger beer corks and shelves made out of egg boxes) in "On The Exceptional Merit Attaching to the Things We Meant To Do"; and drunken ponies pulling carts in "On the Inadvisability of Following Advice".
Overall this was a rather charming read, if not as charming as the book that made Jerome K. Jerome's name.
Thought I would pop in and finally catch up. The Maisie Dobbs and Fallen Angel books look interesting.
Hi Wookie! The Knife of Never Letting Go sound awesome. Moving that to the top of my I-need-to-get-my-hands-on-it list!!
Hi Berly! I think you might just like The Knife of Never Letting Go, it was an adrenalin rush!
Oh dear, I'm now *11* reviews behind! Work's gone and gotten insanely busy, my husband has time off from work for the school holidays so he's home at nights now (he usually shift works and is out most nights) so I can't spend all evening on the computer (wah! well, actually, I probably could, but it does seem awfully antisocial!), and now it's midwinter and I can feel a nasty headcold coming on. *cough* *sniff* *whinge* *whine*
Hi FicusFan! Hush, Hush was trashy, but so much fun. :)
And Maisy Dobbs was one of those sneaky LT recommendations in that everyone was talking about it. Well worth the read, I'm still to source the next book in the series, but it can't hide from me for much longer!!
Hi Mark! Pesky headcold is still hanging around, the insufferable thing! But not so bad that I couldn't go out drinking with book buddies last night (and come home with three books for myself, and who knew that Redoak did a chocolate stout?). Hoping to catch up on reviews soon! (Yeah, I've said that before...)
Luckily on the weekend the librarian renewed some books for me that she shouldn't have (already been renewed twice!) so that's several more books I can review with the book in front of me, instead of having to rely on my memory.
Ooh, the local library has Duane Swierczynski's Severance Package on the shelves, I might just pick that one up this weekend. :)
Hope your head cold is now gone. I am quickly catching up to you in terms of reviews I owe...10 and counting. Sigh. At least I am finding time to read!
Berly, headcold much better, thanks! Was actually just getting set up to quickly knock off some reviews, I might be down to single-digits only soon. Only I haven't picked up my latest book (Howards End) for over 24 hours now. Beginning to feel a bit twitchy!
Mark, picked up Severance Package this weekend, looks promising!
42. A Shilling for Candles, Josephine Tey
My previous exposure to Josephine Tey was a couple of decades ago with The Daughter of Time, about Inspector Grant, lying in bed recuperating and, to keep himself occupied, researching the history of Richard III, because he can't believe that someone with such a noble face could have been such an evil character as depicted by history. This book is an earlier Inspector Grant mystery, with him up and running about the English countryside, trying to unravel the murder of a young, beautiful woman. He's still interested in physiognomy, and has many an aside on class and society. He was a good character to read about, the book was very entertainingly English with its dry humour and stoic characters, and it is quite amusingly written with delightful asides that kept me smirking.
I particularly liked how it was such a different era to ours that was depicted, a fascinating slice of English life before the stresses of modern living. I don't know about you, but that's one of my favourite things about reading older books, getting a glimpse into a world that has gone, and it's all so unaffected and unresearched, since the author wrote about milkmen or being out without a hat or flannel trousers, because that's what life was about back then. (And what are flannel trousers, anyway?)
There was some discomfort with the description of the Jewish character as being "like one of his race", although he does subvert that with a fine Shylockian speech. (Which is then completely disregarded by Inspector Grant. *sigh*) A "product of its times" moment that you wish wasn't there, and not nearly as discomfiting as Merchant of Venice (and many others, I am sure).
But apart from that, it was a cleverly plotted book, charmingly written, with interesting characters. Well worth a read, especially for anyone with a fascination of England in a previous time.
43. The Act of Roger Murgatroyd, Gilbert Adair
For those of you who know your Agatha Christie, or the Golden Age of British crime, the title of this book will speak volumes. It is, as you would expect, a spoof of the great era of crime writing, and, in part, a homage to Christie's exceptional The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. This book involves a British manor house, an amateur sleuth, the usual range of British upper class (and not-so-upper class) characters, and a locked room mystery.
It is rather amusing stuff, with a great meta-analysis feel as our amateur sleuth, Evadne Mount, is a writer of mystery novels herself, with some gentle fun being had at the expense of the genre. Lots of "oh, but when I wrote cheesy murder mystery title..." comments, and a general disdain of locked room mysteries, which Miss Mount would never write, oh no. Particular mention also has to be made of the map at the front of the book: completely useless and unnecessary, and then one of the characters gets to complain about completely useless and unnecessary maps at the front of murder mystery novels.
And the crime itself was rather good, I didn't guess whodunnit at all. I'd read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd a few years ago, and it was good having it sort-of-fresh in the back of my mind, but not essential to enjoyment of this book, I would think.
I won't rush out for the next Evadne Mount book, but will happily pick it up when I see it at the library. (And how does one pronounce "Evadne"??)
44. Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America & The World, Barbara Ehrenreich
Picked this one up at the library, having heard good buzz about her previous book, Nickel and Dimed. This one covers the "positive thinking" school of thought, and while I found it very US-centric (regardless of the title), it was well written and very interesting and I stayed up too late reading in horror on more than one school night.
It tracks the relentless pressure to be seen as being happy, to ignore warning signs, and to be up-beat about everything. The first chapter, about the author undergoing breast cancer therapy and being overwhelmed by pink fluffy fundraising toys and the positively shrill insistence that she been seen to be happy about her disease was truly frightening. More than one sufferer/survivor was quoted as saying that breast cancer was the best thing that had ever happened to them, which is frankly completely incomprehensible to me. Surely if you are sick, undergoing nasty therapy, and have a good chance of not surviving, you are allowed to express your fears for you and your family?
While that first chapter had a lot of pain from Ehrenreich's personal experience, the following chapters also have an emotional kick because of the insanity that positive thinking was creating. And, once finished, I wanted to go and find some stupid smiling people in positions of power and kick them.
But I do have to say, I liked the way it made me want to bitch/whinge/whine/grumble/kvetch about stuff and to *be happy* doing it, not embarrassed for somehow being negative. I'm seeing it as training for being a grumpy old woman, so look out.
45. Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter
I've been meaning to read a book by Angela Carter for the longest time, she's always been highly recommended by friends of mine whose taste I trust in books, and I have to admit I'm a sucker for a modern fairy tale. I'm also a sucker for an old fashioned fairy tale, but let's get one thing straight, the ending where the prince and princess swan off into the sunset staring into each others' eyes is always the dullest bit of the tale. I always preferred the bit where the wicked stepmother was made to wear red hot shoes and dance until she died, or the Baba Yaga's house was surrounded by a fence where the posts were topped with skulls with glowing eyes, or the wolf was chopped open and Granny popped out as good as new, or the mermaid's every step on dry land was as if she was walking on knives. Yep, I was a macabre child.
In this tale, a young American journalist, Jack Walser is sent to interview an aerialiste, Fevvers, in London on the eve of her touring Russia with a circus troupe assembled by your prototypical American poor-man-made-good, Captain Kearney, complete with cigars, mint juleps, a stars-and-stripes waistcoat, and a prognosticating pig. Fevvers is the showpiece of this circus, since it seems that maybe, just maybe, the wings that are essential to her act as an aerialiste are actually real.
I can't really go into the plot too much, because there is so much in it, and because it was such a delight reading it unknowing what was coming up. But I do have to say I loved the monkeys to bits. And you've got to love a winged Cockney heroine called Fevvers. :)
It's a book quite unlike any other, reminiscent of fairy tales with its magical realism, and deeply charming with its tale of Fevvers, even though I possibly liked her back story (told in the opening chapters) more than the actual story that takes place during this book.
Hi Wookie- It's looks like you been busy! Good reviews! Hope you like Severance Package. It's a lot of fun!
10 more reviews to go, Mark! I really should just put in a quick comment, but once I start typing, I do find it hard to stop. "Hang on, I also wanted to mention that..."
The problem is getting around to *starting* reviews. The kids have been off on school holidays, so that put a crimp in my computer time!
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