wookiebender's 100 books in 2010 - chapter two
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Have passed the 250 mark in my old thread (http://www.librarything.com/topic/79496) so time to start a new one!
Hopefully will put a list of the previously read books (all 45 of 'em) here later. This is just a placeholder.
1. The Broken Shore, Peter Temple
2. At the Mountains of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft
3. The Welsh Girl, Peter Ho Davies
4. A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle
5. Blind Submission, Debra Ginsberg
6. The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry
7. Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta
8. Ransom, David Malouf
9. Dissolution, C.J. Sansom
10. The Boat, Nam Le
11. Shutter Island, Dennis Lehane
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
13. Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear
14. Girls Like Funny Boys, Dave Franklin
15. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
16. London Orbital, Iain Sinclair
17. Hush, Hush, Beccy Fitzpatrick
18. When Will There Be Good News?, Kate Atkinson
19. The World Beneath, Cate Kennedy
20. Cotillion, Georgette Heyer
21. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson
22. Shah of Shahs, Ryszard Kapuscinski
23. Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde
24. A World of Love, Elizabeth Bowen
25. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror, Robert Louis Stevenson
26. Sleepless: A Novel, Charlie Huston
27. Wanting, Richard Flanagan
28. Solar, Ian McEwan
29. Breath, Tim Winton
30. The Guards, Ken Bruen
31. Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh
32. Leviathan, Scott Westerfield
33. Death Masks, Jim Butcher
34. The Seventh Sinner, Elizabeth Peters
35. Passing, Nella Larsen
36. The Children's Book, A.S. Byatt
37. Soulless, Gail Carriger
38. Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami
39. The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
40. The Ask and the Answer, Patrick Ness
41. On the Art Of Making Up One's Mind, Jerome K. Jerome
42. A Shilling for Candles, Josephine Tey
43. The Act of Roger Murgatroyd, Gilbert Adair
44. Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America & The World, Barbara Ehrenreich
45. Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter
46. Graceling, Kristin Cashore
47. The City and The City, China Mieville
48. The Coroner's Lunch, Colin Cotterill
49. Love Among the Chickens, PG Wodehouse
50. The Chalk Circle Man, Fred Vargas
Bit of a sneak peek, I haven't written those last five reviews yet! But that gets me up to 50 books, end of July, and a nice round number for:
Books by male authors: 31
Books by female authors: 19 (could do better)
Non-fiction: 3 (possibly could do better, but don't wanna, I'm a fiction girl at heart)
1001 books: 7 (could definitely do better!)
Does the thread start malfunctioning if it exceeds 250 posts? Just wondering...
Also, nice review of Angela Carter's Nights At the Circus. I've got that on my tbr pile and been thinking of reading it soon since the author comes so highly recommended.
Hello everyone, and welcome to the New Thread!
iftyzaidi, it doesn't start malfunctioning, but for people who are on slower access, it does start getting very very slow to load. (Having only recently upgraded to ADSL2, I have sympathy.) About 250 messages seems to be the time to start a new thread.
Thanks for your comments on my review! It is worth reading, and I'm keen to track down some of her others now, too.
oo I enjoyed The Virago Book of Fairy Tales, its a great book for dipping into.
Wookie- Congrats on the 2nd Thread! Looking forward to your other reviews. I loved The Coroner's Lunch.
Mark, I was pleasantly surprised by The Coroner's Lunch. I wasn't expecting much, but I found it quite charming.
Reviews will have to wait until tomorrow, it's getting late now!
Wow! You churned out a bunch of great reviews on your old thread. Almost shames me into starting mine... I picked up The Knife of Never Letting Go, based on your exciting review. Can't wait! Just finished Child 44 and I have to say it is one of my very favorite picks for the year. Excellent! Well, I have you starred again, so see you soon.
Berly, welcome to the new thread! I do hope you like The Knife of Never Letting Go! I read Child 44 recently, but was a bit peeved with aspects of the book. I think I was expecting a more literary work, since it was Booker Prize longlisted. (Damn those prizes, and the heightened expectations they bring!) Shame, because as a thriller, it was a white-knuckled ride!
W--Totally agree with your assessment. Not so much literary, but a real page-turner! Child 44 An amazing debut novel. Knife awaits me tomorrow. ; )
#7 and #8> As it so happens I also happen to have The Bloody Chamber in my tbr pile! So, two highly recommended books to read soon. Oh, goody!
W-- Totally enjoying Knife! They have just left the second town with the army chasing them down....
Glad you're liking it, Berly! I recommend you have book 2 close by for when you finish book 1. :)
Wish I 'd read your message BEFORE I finished Knife of Never Letting Go!! You're right. I have to go find book 2 pronto. ; )
46. Graceling, Kristin Cashore
Katsa has been born with a special skill, and is known as a Graceling. She's easily identifiable by her mismatched eyes, as are other Gracelings, and ordinary people avoid her. Each Graceling has a specific Grace, and no two are alike. And Katsa's Grace is killing.
Considering some of the other Graces out there (cooking, holding your breath underwater, whatever you can think of, really), Katsa does seem to have gotten stuck with a lemon, as her Grace means that she's basically muscles for hire for her nasty uncle, King Randa. But she's our heroine of course, so she's doing underground work, using her Grace for good without King Randa knowing. And on one of her missions for good, she bumps into another Graced fighter...
And, yes, romance ensues.
This book is brain candy. Just what the doctor ordered: fantasy, adventure, romance, our heroine has a definite toughness and spine, and it's overall big dumb (girly) fun. I did have some quibbles about the plot resolving remarkably quickly towards the end, and lacking some depth at times, and the need for Katsa's Grace to somehow be softened (I didn't see the necessity for that as I rather liked having a butt-kicking heroine), but a good fun read, where you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. (Only I kept on staying up late reading it. It's got that "just one more chapter" feel to it...)
Recommended for the enjoyers of fantasy out there. (Ignore the blurb on the front comparing it to Twilight and its romance. While it's definitely got a romance angle happening, Katsa is no passive doormat. *coff*Bella*coff*.)
47. The City & The City, China Mieville
I've enjoyed almost all of China Mieville's work (some more than others, and some bits of some books more than other bits of other books). This one I picked up with some trepidation, however, as some of my friends gave up on it, while others have loved it. And further trepidation, as it's not classic fantasy (not that he was ever really in a "classic" fantasy genre to me), but a combo of crime and fantasy. Which sounds rather ghastly. But it is actually really rather magnificent, brilliant, compelling, and one of my favourite reads for the year.
The world that Mieville has created is a fascinating one. Two cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma, both share the same space. The residents of both cities have grown up knowing to "unsee" and "unhear" residents (and buildings, cars, etc) from the other city. To actively interact with the other city is Breach. This world is slowly created for us, and we get to tease out the various aspects of this world from the immersion we get to it through our hero, Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad of Beszel.
In addition to this clever and inventive world, the mystery itself is a good one. The body of an unknown woman has been found in Beszel, but it seems to be linked to Ul Qoma. A basic homicide? Or is this a case of Breach? Or something even more dastardly?
For those of you who have read Mieville before, this is quite a different book from his previous works. The prose is stripped down, and has a wonderful hard-boiled noir feel to it. He even thanks Raymond Chandler and Franz Kafka in his acknowledgements, so he's wearing his heart on his sleeve quite openly, as he also pays them homage through his prose and his plot.
Be warned: It does get quite involved with the politics, both within each city, and between the two cities. Like with his slow reveal of the world, you just have to be immersed in it and work it out for yourself as you go. But I found it wonderfully rewarding. (I want to go back to Beszel/Ul Qoma!)
While I've always said fantasy & sci-fi is my genre of choice, I do seem to have drifted far more towards crime over the past few years. But it was nice revisiting sci-fi with The City and the City, which crosses the border between reality and fantasy, and deftly merges the two disparate genres into one magnificent novel.
48. The Coroner's Lunch, Colin Cotterill
I picked this book up, thinking it might be something I could discard at 50 pages (I'd heard it was twee, and I'm not usually fond of twee), but it is actually rather charming (and not twee at all, IMHO). Great location, being set in Laos following the communist revolution in the 1970s.
Surgeon Dr Siri Paiboun was hoping for a gentle retirement following the Communist revolution, but unfortunately he's still considered useful by the new regime, who set him up as Chief Coroner, despite no training or knowledge of forensics. He makes do with what he can, and proves to be a wily and tenacious crime fighter. Which isn't always what those higher up the Communist ladder would like.
There's also a certain level of mysticism to the book. There's a rather exotic exorcism (is that an oxymoron?), and Siri also sees the dead, briefly, and they give him clues towards solving their murders.
While mysticism (aka "woo woo") is something I wouldn't ordinary enjoy in a crime novel, it's well counterbalanced by the darkness of the Communist regime, the feistiness of Dr Paiboun and his team, and some genuinely farcical moments. It does tread a fine line between being fairly whacky and being charming, and luckily doesn't lose its balance.
@20 Nice review. I must admit I really loved the book partly because it was so different anything else he had done it was so unexpected. I cannot wait to see how it holds up when I reread it.
not read a single China Mieville. Hmmm... your review makes me want to read this one. Another add to Mt. TBR.
Great reviews. Of the three, I have to say City and the City sound the most interesting. Keep 'em coming!
They were all good reads, but, yes City and the City was a stand out. It was just so unexpected! And a genre-mash, which I always like the concept of, but the execution is another matter...
Not sure how old your daughter is, but there is sex in Graceling. Not extremely explicit, but not exactly fade-to-grey moments either. If that doesn't bother you, then I think it's a great adventure story. Katsa is seriously kick-arse, there's one scene where she's surrounded by a large number of beefy burly guards, and within a few seconds she knows exactly how to take them *all* out. And you know she can...
Yes, read The City and the City!
I wouldn't mind reading the next Dr Siri Paiboun, but I've got to stop *starting* series, and make a concerted effort to read a few more in one series! I've read so many "book 1 of..." of late, and not many book 2s! (Or beyond.)
49. Love Among the Chickens, P.G. Wodehouse
A nice silly romp, as you would expect from Wodehouse. Author Jeremy Garnet, while waiting for inspiration to strike, goes to help a friend of his, the impressively named Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge, run a chicken farm using thoroughly modern ideas. But Ukridge has no idea about chickens. Or farming. Or even just being a gentleman, which is important in Wodehouse's world.
Disaster of course ensues, and our hero is in the thick of it, causing half of the disasters himself in his efforts to woo a pretty girl who has caught his eye.
And you've got to love a book with a chicken named Aunt Elizabeth, who has a particularly baleful stare. As a not-particular-fan of chickens (okay, I buy free range eggs, but that's the limit of my niceness towards them), I did have a giggle whenever she appeared.
50. The Chalk Circle Man, Fred Vargas
French crime. And, yes, the detectives do sit around all day, smoking Gitanes, drinking wine, and pondering philosophy. Not your usual police procedural this one, but a very interesting take on the genre, with the feel of a modern French novel, in that I can never quite get my finger on the emotions of the characters involved.
Someone has been drawing blue chalk circles on the streets of Paris, around various bits of discarded rubbish (my favourite was the swimming cap). And then one day, there is a body in the middle of a blue chalk circle.
Our hero is Jean-Baptise Adamsberg, who has recently been promoted to Commissaire in Paris after successfully solving a string of murders in the sticks. He doesn't use conventional logic, or steady and slow policework, but goes with instinct, having the rather strange notion that he can sense perpetrators of crime oozing cruelty.
This leads to the most interesting aspect of the book, since his second in command, Adrien Danglard, is determined to do nothing without clear evidence, ever since he once convicted a young woman of a crime, and her innocence only came to light after she'd committed suicide in jail.
In fact, Danglard is much more interesting than Adamsberg, who is quite a cold fish. Adamsberg is not exactly a people-person, to say the least. While Danglard is almost larger than life. He's not a great man, but he's a great character. He's struggling to raise his four (or was it five?) children on his own, he's struggling with alcoholism, he's struggling with life. He was a very human character, and I'm looking forward to reading more of this series for his character, rather than for Adamsberg.
The mystery seemed almost secondary to the book, but was actually quite gripping by the end. Although when I think of the whodunnit aspect, the resolution seems very far fetched now. But at the time, I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. The mark of a great story, where you don't think "hang on a minute..." until it's far too late.
Wookie- Good review of The Chalk Circle Man! I need to get back to Vargas.
I really liked The Coroner's Lunch, in part because of the location and the socio-political aspect, but also because I liked the relationships between the main characters.
Bonnie, you're right. I was trying to craft a paragraph about all the delightful other characters and their interactions, but just couldn't get anything pithy down, so gave up in the end. They're all so detailed and great, I couldn't summarise it. (And speed is of the essence when you've got 8 reviews waiting...)
51. 30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account, Peter Carey
Peter Carey returns to Sydney, from New York, in 2001, specifically to write this book. He's got a plan, which mostly involves hanging out with old friends and chatting to them about Sydney, basing his book on the three Chinese elements of earth, air, fire and water, but he gets waylaid along the way.
Peter Carey's friends are all rich and powerful now, so the books started off hanging out in a swankier bit of Sydney than I usually hang out in, so at the beginning I was preferring his recollections of his slumming it in Balmain when he first arrived in Sydney as a young man to the "now" content of the book.
Actually, most of the best bits were the history: while bushfires are a yearly occurrence every Christmas, there was a particular fear to the bush fires that encircled Sydney in 1994 (I too remember the ask raining down in the middle of the CBD); comments about the original settlers and convicts (I really must read more of Sydney's history); the unknown Arthur Stace writing "Eternity" in beautiful copperplate script on the sidewalks of Sydney (before my time, but I remember being mesmerised by a copycat "Eternity" as a small child).
But he gets sent off track of his initial themes and ideas by an old friend of his who has fallen on hard times, who takes him down Parramatta Road (not a beautiful stretch of Sydney) to the Blue Mountains (a beautiful piece on the outskirts of Sydney), where he's currently living in a cave. Matter of fact, several of his friends refuse to play ball with his ideas. While I have a sneaking suspicion that this isn't all true (in Carey's Wrong About Japan, he also invented a character who was the most interesting bit of the book), it definitely improved on the earlier "isn't Sydney beautiful" phase, because, let's face it, not all of us wake up to Harbour views every morning.
And there's a rather strange bit where he keeps on arguing with De Selby, an architect in Flann O'Brien's great The Third Policeman. While intriguing, it definitely seemed a bizarre and unnecessary aspect to the book.
Overall, I rather enjoyed this, but he was making bits of it up (I have never seen a conductor on a Sydney train!). I'm in two minds about this confabulation, because, like in Wrong about Japan, the best bits of the book were fictional. It's definitely a wildly distorted account, but it's fun seeing this city through someone else's eyes.
Hi Mark! It's late-ish here now (well, not that late, but the kids had me up at 5:45 this morning, so I'm feeling slightly shell shocked right now), so I'm heading to bed. (Just after checking a few threads, honest.) Just caught the first episode of the reboot of "The Prisoner" with Ian McKellar. Not as creepily good as the original, but interesting. I may be back for more next weekend.
Hi Wookie! Hey, I like the sound of Chalk Circle Man. Will have to get my hands on that one. And I just read The Knife of Never Letting Go and enjoyed it thoroughly. Have to find the next one now! Thanks for the great recs.
That Peter Carey book sounds a bit weird, but he's such a good writer. Can imagine that the book is even better if you're from Australia too. Haven't heard any stories about your kids lately. How are you/they doing?
#36> I finally got bored with waiting for the library to buy the third Chaos Walking book, Monsters of Men and filled out a little pink slip of paper and if they buy it (and they'd better, they've already got the first two!!) I'm first in line to get it when it hits the shelves. Woot! Great series, I'm dying to know how it all wraps up.
#37> It's not the best Peter Carey. I think I like his fiction better. But it was a quick read, and the bits that I recognised of Sydney were great!
The kids are fine! We've just started term 3 at school (four terms a year, of about 10 weeks each), and Mr Bear has moved on to "extension" in his reading! Which means that he can get out chapter books and read them! In theory. In practice, he's still not a keen reader. BUT I did introduce him to Harry Potter, via the first movie, the last weekend of the school holidays. So now of course he doesn't want to read the first book (he already knows the story, and won't listen when I tell him it's missing all the details!), so, with much grumbling from me, we've started reading the second book.
He knows all the characters from his Lego catalogue (and my obsession), so he was chuffed to run into Dobby in the book!
Miss Boo is having a Difficult Phase, filled with not listening and being stubborn. (I don't have to wonder where she gets it from, it's me as a child. My poor parents...) She'll get over it, and we'll be back to Happy Families again, but at the moment, ARGH. But she's still enjoying school, having fun, choosing her own clothes (meep, she will insist on everything being all pink and apparently stripes do go with floral which at the same time goes with a completely different stripe), and planning on her career as writer and illustrator of children's books. (Do you think I had anything to do with that? ;)
And I just got an email - I'm going to see Neil Gaiman at the Sydney Opera House this Saturday!! http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/whatson/neil_gaiman.aspx?start=yes
Oh, I thought I'd never make it to see him ($80 tickets!! ouch!), and then I entered a competition with the local sci-fi bookshop, and SQUEEE! Damnit, work productivity is going to crash today, I've got to let everyone know just how lucky I've been!!!
Yes, I know, we're probably in z row behind a column, but I Don't Care. Squeeee!
What a happy, exciting message Wookie! I love you sense of humor with your kids and I hereby banish all columns which might interfere with your enjoyment on Saturday. Squeeee back at ya!
Yay! I love your stories about your kids. And I love stripes and florals. Come to think of it, I love stripes and stripes too. Congrats on scoring the tickets.
@38> Hope you have a great time with Mr. Gaiman! Sounds exciting!
Also, the Chalk Circle Man sounds interesting. Nice review!
careful with that lego obsession... I have a 12 year old that literally has a closet full of legos. I suppose there are worse obsessions ;-)
>38: re: kids & phases. In my experience, "a year in the life" always looked something like a sine wave. The "terrible twos" weren't terrible for 12 months; rather, there were highs and lows. And it has been the same for every phase. I also remember when my girls started making their own clothing choices. I've been through the "stripes and floral combo" phase, followed by more mainstream choices, and then a period in which she insisted on buying all her clothes from the boys department (come to think of it, that's kind of a wardrobe sine wave). Each of these phases passed eventually ...
Have fun with Gaiman!
#39> Berly, the babysitter has been booked (hurrah for my Mum!), I mentioned I was going on FaceBook and instantly got a comment from a not-seen-for-the-longest-time friend that he's going to be there too, it should be great! Can't see anything getting in my way of Saturday, apart from having to buy a new fridge tomorrow. (Fab. Got home, fridge not working. *sigh*)
#40> My husband jokes that if my family had a tartan, it'd be striped. Both my kids and all my sister's kids have been in a lot of stripes since birth. There just so cheerful!!
#41> Thanks iftyzaidi!
#42> I'll be digging around the backpack and finding my prescription glasses! I'm only slightly short sighted, so only really wear them driving at night, or at the movies. But I'm not keen on seeing Mr Gaiman in soft focus! Many years ago, while backpacking in Europe, I got a pair of collapsable cardboard opera glasses (while going to the opera at Vienna, from unreliable memory). I have lost them since then, and every time I go to the Opera House, I wish I still had them...
#43> The Lego obsession never ends. Mr Bear's collection was started by my husband, who's been carting around this mysterious collection of boxes and bags from house to house, ever since we moved in together. I never asked what was in them (and he never counted the number of boxes of books I had to move). Then Mr Bear turned five, and they all opened up, and we have SO MUCH Lego. It was *his* collection from his childhood, which was kickstarted by his older brothers' collection. The spare room is now the "Lego room". And Mr Bear spends all his (our) spare money on more Lego. Yeesh. Best. Toys. Ever. though.
#44> Oh, I wish Miss Boo would go to the boys' department for clothes! Instead she just looks at my clothes (jeans, t-shirts & workboots) and says "Mummy, how many skirts do you own?" and suggests lots of pink for me at the shops. Harrumph. I think she's mostly just tired at the moment, first year of school is always exhausting for the little ones. If she can get a couple of big sleep-ins on the weekend, we'll be right.
Thanks everyone for popping by!
I'm pretty sure the Opera House is column-less, so just bring your binoculars. How fun! Enjoy!
Oh, it is free of columns, but some of the back rows and edge seats have poorer viewing than others (there's a bit of an overhang in the Opera Theatre, so the back rows of the stalls miss out on the surtitles). We're in the Concert Hall, so we might be side-on to or even *behind* Mr Gaiman, depending on how they've set it all up.
But it's *FREE*, so I think I have no right to complain. I'm just happy to be there. :)
Oh, my poor neglected thread! Neil Gaiman was *brilliantly* *awesomely* *wonderful*.
As I posted on FaceBook: he could have stood up there and burped for an hour, and we would have hung on every noise, and still loved him. (I've never heard a Sydney audience being so quiet! Usually there's coughing everywhere, but we were spellbound.)
And Kevin Smith hopped up on stage briefly too, so I was in total fangirl heaven.
Now, if I could just get tickets to see Joss Whedon at the end of the month...
52. Child 44, Tom Rob Smith
This well-regarded crime novel (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2009) opens in Russia in the 1930s, it is winter, and the local villagers are starving. Out to hunt and trap a cat are two young brothers. One is capable and courageous, the other is short sighted and bumbling, but full of adoration for his older brother. But it all goes horribly wrong.
The next chapter, we've moved onto 1953 Moscow, and we have a small boy being enticed away from his older brother, and then his horribly mutilated body is found by the railway tracks. The family are suspicious that the death was not an accident, but this is Stalinist Russia, and to suggest the existence of crime in the Soviet socialist paradise is frowned upon. And believe me, no one wants to be frowned upon in this society.
Brought in to reassure the parents and family that it was all an accident is Leo Demidov, a star of the Soviet secret police, and a true believer in all things Stalinist. But some of what the parents say starts to sink in, and Leo starts investigating.
But it's more than just a crime novel, because of the era in which it is set. It exudes the paranoia of Soviet Russia, where you mistrust everyone. It also covers some very interesting topics: the "non-existence" of crime in a socialist state because everyone is happy and satisfied so there is no crime; homosexuality within this society; education; the mentally ill.
Overall, I rather liked it, but not completely. The plot and ideas were definitely good/intriguing, and I was white-knuckled for the last 100 pages (and more).
But the characters seemed to flim-flam too much. One second they're all for denouncing anyone who looks at them funny, the next they're on the side of good. The characters seemed to change depending on what the plot needed, instead of being solid characters who drive the plot.
I wonder if I'm being somewhat harsh on it, because I read it as part of the Booker Prize long/shortlist reading challenge I do with friends every year. One would expect better from a Booker longlisted book, I felt. If I'd been reading it just as a crime novel, I might have been more generous with my thoughts.
As a crime novel, it was a good fast-paced gripping read, set in a very unusual milieu, and I happily turned the pages and enjoyed the read.
As a Booker novel, it disappointed as the characters seemed to be at the mercy of the plot: they needed someone to suddenly turn good, so they did. I didn't always buy it, and while I can forgive that in a crime/thriller novel, I expect more from a Booker book.
53. Fledgling, Octavia E. Butler
A young girl regains consciousness in the wild after some unremembered disaster. She is blind, appears to be covered in burns, is in agony, but is also able to kill and eat a wild animal. She manages to recuperate, travel back to civilisation, where we discover (maybe it was patently obvious to everyone else, but I was surprised) that she is a vampire.
I did have a small feeling of "oh no, here we go again" when I realised it was about vampires. But while it had all the hallmarks of what I dislike about vampire stories (they're sexy, glamourous, compelling, and truly care for the humans that give them blood; puh-lease, give me Vlad the Impaler staking peasants any day of the week), it was also more unusual than most. Because Shori has lost all her memories, when she's reintroduced back into vampire culture, it means that we get in-depth descriptions of the world she has lost with her memories, as she tries to fit back in.
Unfortunately, I can't say that that these in-depth descriptions knocked my socks off. There seemed to be too much explaining of the culture, and not enough plot. I'm beginning to think I like plot in my books. But it was well written, and did finally have some nice ideas, and I knocked it off in record time. It's not at all *bad*, but sometimes while reading it I was wondering when something was going to *happen*. Which is weird, because things were happening in it. Maybe the constant explanations were distancing me from enjoying it on a more emotional and visceral level.
We read vampire stories for horror, and I think that was what was lacking from this. Some of the vampires are mean and nasty, but I never got any sense of terror about them. Unlike, say, Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt, who, while on the side of good, you'd never want to run into in a dark alley.
There was also a fair amount of discomfort for me with Shori's constant sex with her human companions (and sources of food). Would have been okay if she was described as a fully grown human woman, but she's clearly and explicitly described as looking like a twelve year old. It was all rather disturbing.
I found a lot of it frustrating - she spent more time explaining/describing the vampire community than concentrating on the interesting plot points, which weren't raised until fairly late. And they were very interesting plot points, about the value of human life, about racism, about blind hatred. Why was it so long getting to these interesting ideas, and why were they given such short shrift while there was interminable exposition about vampire's sex lives?
#51> Yes, overall I enjoyed it. And from a slightly further distance (I read it at the beginning of July) my complaints have lessened. I'm beginning to look forward to the sequel now. :)
I thought the controversy about its Booker nom was just because it was a genre book, not "literature". I may have missed something though.
I've heard that Gorky Park is better, but I haven't read my copy of that yet! Soon!
ETA: And, funnily enough, my complaints about Fledgling increased, and I even docked it half a star while writing my review. So now it's a 6/10 book, plus 1/2 a star for the ending. :)
Thanks Mark! I've seen The Passage in the bookshops, and, yes, I am contemplating buying it when I'm allowed to buy books again (almost halfway through my No Book Buying pledge!). I've been meaning to read Gorky Park for ages, my best mate at high school loved the book, and it's always guilted me that I never read it.
My other best mate loved The Tin Drum. I barely made 50 pages into that when I tried it the other year, so now I'm feeling guilty for not liking her favourite book!!
Hi Wookie! So glad your concert was amazing!! Such fun. I really liked Child 44: I agree with your character assessment and also wouldn't call it a great piece of literature, but I was reading it purely as a crime novel and thought it first rate. I didn't know there was a sequel, so that makes me very happy. ; )
Hey, Wook ~ So great you got to see Neil himself the other night! I'm so jealous (in a really good way, of course). Thanks for your review of Mieville's The City and the City. I tried one of his previously (can't remember which) and just couldn't get into it, but based on your review and a comment that it's of a similar ilk to Neverwhere (one of my top 5 of the year), I'm going to try it. Do you think it would be good as an audiobook? Assuming I can find it on CD.
I also liked the one Vargas I read awhile ago & have been meaning to get back to her. Thanks for the nudge in that direction.
#55> I saw the sequel in the bookshop the other day... :)
#56> I'd actually describe Mieville's Un Lun Dun as being more like Neverwhere (which I am yet to read, but I have seen the original BBC adaptation which came before the book!). Also a very good read in the young adult genre, although the first third-or-so did seem to lag a big.
And Mr Gaiman was *awesome*. Mr Joss Whedon is appearing at the Opera House this weekend, but no one seems to want to offer me free tickets, dagnabbit.
54. Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
I was a sad fan of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as a child, so I'm never quite sure why I didn't ever read any other Jules Verne novels. But now, finally, many years (decades!) after my childhood, I've read another Jules Verne novel!
I have seen the Steve Coogan/Jackie Chan movie adaptation a few years back, and much as I do like Steve Coogan & Jackie Chan, it wasn't much of a movie. Luckily the book is much more fun.
The terribly English Phileas Fogg undertakes a risky bet to travel around the world in 80 days. If he fails, he will be ruined. With his French valet, Passepartout (who was looking forward to a nice quiet life looking after a nice quite English gentleman of regular habits), he travels around the world. Regardless of the risk of losing his fortune, he also detours (and loses precious time) on more than one occasion to be a perfect English gentleman and rescue people in distress.
The key to the book is the delightful character of Phileas Fogg. While at first he comes across as remarkably dull and rigid (one can see why Hollywood wanted to turn him into a mad inventor instead), he is a man of his word and of honor, and a wonderful travelling companion. Passepartout is a lovely counterpart, with his bizarre previous employment experience and his energy.
But most enjoyable was the lack of condescension towards or dislike of the many people he met as he travelled. Well, maybe the suttee in India was unpleasant, but on the whole it was a charming view of the world. And the Americans had a lot of fun poked at them too, but I'm sure they'll recover.
Overall, a good fun romp (don't make them like they used to).
55. A Few Green Leaves, Barbara Pym
This was the first book I've read by English author Barbara Pym, and I found it very charming and delightful. It was published posthumously, after Pym died in 1980. There was an amusing barbed wit to the writing, and while it was hardly a rambunctious plot, it was still a satisfying read.
In this book, Emma Howick, an anthropologist, moves to a quiet English village to write a book, possibly about the inhabitants of the village. And, well, that's about it for a plot.
But the characters are quite delightful. I particularly liked one older grumpy woman who relishes telling them the tale of a coach tour where one of the older gentlemen on the trip had gone mysteriously quiet.
'And do you know what?' Mrs Dyer waited for an answer.
'He was dead?' Emma said brightly. 'Or was it an old woman?'
'No, it was an old gentleman.'
'I thought as much - a woman would have more consideration than to do a thing like that, to die on an outing, with all the inconvenience.'
The dilemma related over whether to return home, or stop, had me giggling.
And I also got to giggle a lot at 70s fashions (especially food fashions). But ew! the descriptions of food! I don't know what a ham mousse is, but it sounds very wrong. And the veal marinated in Pernod and then served with a pineapple and cream sauce! Oh, vomitous. While I should add that the food descriptions were intentionally unpleasant, and part of Pym's snarkiness, the rationing in England and the food fashions in the 1970s both have a lot to answer for.
I've heard so much about Pym over the years since joining LT. I guess it's time to put one of her books on my TBR list. I think it'll be Crampton Hodnet. I assume that's the name of a town. British town names are so wonderfully strange to the ear of this American (who never minds when anyone pokes fun at Americans because we all really do need it).
#60> I do have a copy of Jane and Prudence in Mt TBR - will need to be read sooner rather than later as it's a library copy! And I think my Mum has a number of Pym novels, so will raid her shelves one day too.
#61> English village names are also strange to the ear of this Australian. :)
And I forgot, you asked above if I thought The City and the City would work as an audio book: I'm not sure. I'm not a great listener (get too distracted), so I'm no expert! It'd be great on one hand, because of the hardboiled nature of it all (I'm thinking a Sam Spade/Humphrey Bogart sort of voice!), but it is rather complex on the other hand and I don't think that sort of thing works well on audio. But that might just be my personal preference.
I'm also sort-of currently listening to Northanger Abbey. It's beautifully read by Anna Massey, it's a great story that I know well, yet I keep on realising I've missed several chapters because I've been thinking about other things! People tell me they're good to listen to in the car, but I'm never in the car for long.
Wookie- I have not read either Verne or Pym, although I have seen the classic film versions of Verne's work. I should be getting The City and the City any day now and hopefully I can squeeze it in!
Mark, Verne is good charming fun in Around the World in Eighty Days. I believe 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is blacker, but it's been too long since I read it (and was aghast to find I'd been reading an *abridged* edition as a child when I dragged it out to catalogue on LT!). Will have to re-read that one rsn.
I think you will enjoy The City and the City!
#61> English village names are also strange to the ear of this Australian. :)
Australia has some pretty good names too! I had a friend that lived in Lilli Pilli, and we used to go to Wollongong. And then there's Wagga Wagga. Canadian names are pretty boring. Other than Buffalo Head Smashed In Jump, Alberta and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Woolloomooloo! That's my favourite, it's a bugger to spell (I got it right that time!), but it's lovely to say. One of the inner-city suburbs of Sydney.
Parramatta. Indooroopilly. Toowoomba. Ulladulla. Cootamundra. Gundagai. Ngunnawal. Manjimup.
(Yay for Google maps for jogging my memories and helping with some spelling! There's plenty more there, too.)
ETA: Saskatechwan is pretty damned cool too.
56. Howards End, E.M. Forster
I started Howards End with some trepidation because because the last book of Forster's that I read, A Passage to India, left me dissatisfied and positively grumpy. However, by the time I'd finished the first few pages I already knew I was going to simply love it.
To start off with, I completely fell in love with the Schlegel family, from Meg's sensibility to Helen's extreme emotionality, and with young silly Tibby being a wonderfully young silly highly intelligent adolescent. Forster captured family dynamics wonderfully with these three siblings and their interactions.
While reading, I found it quite astounding the number of times I thought "yes!" at various phrases. I loved Meg's "I used an affected word" because I use affected words all the time. I also loved Helen's comment that her younger brother "starts a new mortal disease every month". Aunt Juley discussed how a friend of hers can go around an art gallery and talk about how each painting affects her emotionally, while she can't. And that while she likes music, she doesn't consider herself musical.
A slightly muted "yes!" to that incident though, because I don't think Aunt Juley is quite someone I want to aspire to.
It's also one of those books where it's written in and of a particular moment in time that is crystallised. In this case, England prior to WW1 (published in 1910, I believe). In addition, because it concerns an English family, who are also half-German. I couldn't help but feel slightly depressed about the immediate future of the young men in the book. Had a similar "oh no" feeling when I realised A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book was going to cover WW1...
Overall I thought this was a marvellous read - the clash between old and modern, bohemia and stultifying class structures, and (I feel old-fashioned for mentioning it), men and women. But I never felt that any of the characters were type-cast into one particular mold (well, maybe Charles Wilcox, the idiotic son). The writing was lovely (so many passages I wanted to re-read and underline! not that I write in books, but I *wanted* to). And, also by virtue of being written and set just prior to WW1 a heightened sense of being a portrait of its time.
My maiden name is Schlegel which is a very uncommon name in the US (perhaps less so in Germany?), so I always found it interesting that this was the name of the family in this book. I've actually never read it but have seen the film. Great review!
Great review of Howard's End. I'm saving that one for a time when I know I'll be able to savor it. Have you seen the movie? It's wonderful too.
Wookie- Great review! I have still not read Howard's End but I plan on it at some point! I am a big fan of the film too! It's excellent!
I haven't actually seen the movie - will have to save it up for a night when it's just me at home - my husband has already seen it and was bored. Not that I take his judgement on movies seriously, he did like the recent adaptation of "The A-Team". :)
Lovely man, but we have very different tastes at times.
Oh, I know what you mean. I have a stack of my favourite DVDs that my husband says are like watching paint dry. And he has a bunch of favourites that I can't stand. But like you say, lovely man.
So timely, your review of Howard's End, as I have it on my Kindle to read soon! Think perhaps I'll nudge it up a bit closer to the top.
Oh, I do hope you like it, Storeetllr! Always a worry when I've loved something so much, and then discover that we all have different tastes. :}
Which does make the world go around, of course. Nickelini, yay for our lovely men and their differing movie tastes.
57. The Long Firm, Jake Arnott
Last year I caught, and enjoyed, the BBC adaptation of The Long Firm with Mark Strong as Harry Starks, so was chuffed to find this on the library shelves, just begging for a new reader. And it was a great read, filled with (gay) sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll. Or at least Judy Garland.
The Long Firm is set in the seedy underbelly of London in the swinging 60s. It's not a crime novel per se - there is a murder at some stage, but it's really rather secondary to the creation of the character of Harry Starks, a homosexual (*not* gay, he gets peeved if you call him gay, and you really don't want to make him angry) crime boss. I have never cheered on a baddie quite so thoroughly. And he's really not a nice man (vicious, brutal, but loved his Mum), but he was just so fascinating and well written.
We see Harry through various viewpoints - one of his rent boys; a sleazy M.P; a down-on-her-luck actress; and, finally and most amusingly, a young enthusiastic sociology academic who brings education to the prisons, but (of course) gets more education from Harry than he gives.
Great character, great book, great read.
58. The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
The Good Earth was patiently waiting on Mt TBR for Far Too Long. (My parents had a copy and I used to be fascinated by the name "Pearl S. Buck". It still has a certain almost-otherworldly charm to me now.) I picked this up finally because several people mentioned it on the "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" group, in terms of "why isn't this one on the list"?? A very good question, and one that I shall ask myself.
The Good Earth tells the tale of Wang Lung, a peasant farmer. At the start of the book he is a young man on his way to collect his wife-to-be, an ex-slave from the great House of Hwang. And by the end of the book... well, I don't want to give any spoilers, but his life has changed drastically. But not always for the better, because he never quite outgrows the need to be seen by others as a great man.
Wang Lung and his family, especially his wife O-Lan, were wonderful creations. I was a bit worried that a book written by the daughter of missionaries in China over 80 years ago would be somewhat condescending towards the Chinese, or that her christianity would overpower any story. I shouldn't have worried, Buck has a lot of compassion for her characters, and none of them are ever anything less than three dimensional.
It was an almost simple story with its straightforward narrative, unlike many a modern sprawling novel with far too much busyness and distraction. But the depth of the characters saved it from being anything other than a wonderful read. And I guess that's why it's still a popular and well-loved book, even after eighty years.
I stayed up far too late far too many nights reading it (*yawn*). Which is unusual for me and a book that isn't a thriller/adventure style yarn. And when I finished it, I regretted having to say goodbye to Wang Lung and his family. I think they knew how to write books in 1930. And why isn't this one of the "1001 Books I Must Read Before I Die"?
Two great reviews, both wetted my appetite so on the wishlist they go and Pearl S. Buck IS such a great name.
And why isn't this one of the "1001 Books I Must Read Before I Die"?
I've wondered that for awhile, too. It really is such a great book.
Mark, they were both excellent reads, both are highly recommended. Although quite completely different books!
Jake Arnott has written some other hardboiled crime books - I've also picked up He Kills Coppers from the library, I'd better get around to reading that before it's due back! (I've heard The Long Firm is his best, but I think the other ones will still definitely be worth reading.)
Wookie- I'm getting ready to start The City and the City. I've been anxiously waiting for that one! Have a great weekend!
Mark - I hope you enjoy it! This weekend has been fine so far - all weather forecasts were about thunderstorms and flooding and rain... but all we got was some rain. (Although a lot of this corner of Australia *did* get thunderstorms and flooding, it just seemed to miss me.) Fathers' Day tomorrow, we have present stashed around the house, and the kids are far too excited about it all!
Bonnie - it's because they *are* good!
59. Good to a Fault, Marina Endicott
I had to read Good to a Fault for my online book group. I must admit, I dragged my feet towards starting this one, fearing it was going to be one of those tug-the-heartstrings style books, which I was not at all in the mood for. Luckily it didn't actually push any emotional buttons too severely, and was just quite fascinating and well written. I tore through it in no time at all.
Clara is a single middle-aged woman, who has spent most of her recent life looking after her ailing mother. Now that her mother has died, she still seems unable to get out of rut that her life has become, until she accidentally collides with another car. In the other car is a family, down on their luck. None of them are seriously hurt, but at the hospital the mother is diagnosed with leukaemia, so Clara volunteers to take on the family to live with her while Lorraine undergoes treatment.
Suddenly having a family to look after (three young children, one still just a baby; the no-good-nik husband; and the crotchety ghastly grandmother, Mrs Pell) gives her life some structure and meaning.
I enjoyed the wealth of domestic details as Clara discovers about life as part of a family, there was a lot of truth in some of small events that happened, and I found the characters well written and fully fleshed out. Unfortunately for what was a great read up until near the end, the final part just dragged. You knew where it was heading (and I was happy with where it was heading) but it took too long and was too angsty on the journey there. But overall an enjoyable read, which I found hard to put down.
60. Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belport, Edith Wharton
I was given an early reviewers' copy of Fighting France: From Dunkirk to Belfort by Hesperus Press, a series of essays written by Edith Wharton while in France during the First World War. It was fascinating being in France during this period. I'd seen this war from various aspects through various books, but this was the first time I visited France, so to speak.
Edith Wharton was in Paris when World War 1 broke out, and wrote these essays as a way of advertising France's plight to her country men and women, back in America. Colm Toibin wrote the introduction, and I liked his comment that while foreign correspondents were excluded from the war zone, no one "had ever managed to exclude Edith Wharton from anywhere", so she managed to travel the full length of the fighting line, and even got right up to the front-line trenches. You do get a good feeling for her character during this book.
Overall it was good, but definitely veered towards propaganda: the German soldiers were thorough in their nastiness; all the French soldiers were noble, brave, wondrous; the conditions at the front showed a remarkable "can-do" attitude; those left behind mucked in and didn't complain.
I muttered darkly that she was there during *summer* and it would have been a whole different kettle of fish in winter, or after four years of war.
But it was a great contrast having this devastating war occurring during a wonderful European summer (buzz of insects drowned out by shelling, etc). And I did like the descriptions of the villages set up by the soldiers behind the front lines, it was something I hadn't considered before. (And she had many a luncheon with the officers in these makeshift villages! This is not the mud and rain and hunger and craziness and misery of war that I've read about elsewhere, especially in All Quiet on the Western Front.)
As we sat there in the grass, swept by a great mountain breeze full of the scent of thyme and myrtle, while the flutter of birds, the hum of insects, the still and busy life of the hills went on all about us in the sunshine, the pressure of the encircling line of death grew more intolerably real. It is not in the mud and jokes and everyday activities of the trenches that one most feels the damnable insanity of war; it is where it lurks like a mythical monsters in scenes to which the mind has always turned for rest.
I'm glad I've read this, but I will be happier when I get a chance to revisit some of Wharton's fiction.
61. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
What can I say that hasn't already been said hundreds of times?
I am a Harry Potter fan, and drift towards re-reading the series every year or so (less now that LibraryThing and its denizens keep on recommending so many new books to read!).
When I first read this (back on January 1, 2000, while sipping champagne and enjoying the start of the new millennium (*coff* yes, I know, it wasn't really the start of the millennium) while watching friends play croquet on the grassy lawns of the B&B we'd rented for a long weekend of watching Sydney burn from the y2k bug), I was a bit "meh" about the whole phenomenon. Sure, it was cute and fun, but I wasn't really hooked.
Then I picked up the second book (my Mum very thoughtfully had supplied both for Christmas presents that year), and never looked back.
And here I am again, more than 10 years later, re-reading the whole series. Again. And not for the last time, I'm sure.
War is generally not my topic of interest, but this sounds intriguing - love the Toibin quote. And you do make the books sound good, even those you don't like so much.
oh yes thanks for reminding me that I haven't reread Harry Potter for a few years... I'll get busy on it!
My wife and I bought the first three HP books for our daughter for Christmas one year (2001 I think). I picked one up with the same attitude you had... hohum let's see what it's all about... and didn't set them down til I had read all three (which took about 2 days after christmas). Ever since then we anxiously awaited the next release, even going so far as to camp out at the bookstore for the last couple.
62. Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren
This was a birthday purchase for Miss Boo, and we spent some weeks slowly reading it, enjoying the story, and the beautiful illustrations by Lauren Child.
Pippi Longstocking is a wonderful creation, a bohemian girl living by herself (well, with her monkey, Mr Nilsson), and defying convention to do what she wants to do. Even if that does rather shock her two neighbours and friends, Tommy and Annika. Not to mention their mother.
I think life would be good if we all took the occasional leaf from Pippi's book, and lived less by the rules. Just don't tell the kids I said that. :)
63. Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger
I was, of course, a fan of Audrey Niffenegger's The TIme Traveller's Wife. (Weren't we all?) So I was happy to have a chance to read this one, even if overall it wasn't a great read.
Identical twins Julia and Valentina, perpetual college dropouts and unsure of what to do with their life, move to London after their aunt Elspeth dies and leaves them her flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery, on the condition that they live in it for a year, and that their parents do not visit. Elspeth and her identical twin sister (who is, of course, Julia and Valentina's mother) had some falling out many years ago.
Living in the same block of flats is Elspeth's younger lover, Robert, who is writing an endless thesis on the Cemetery, and Martin, an academic with obsessive compulsive disorder, and his wife Marijke, who is slowly coming to the end of her tether looking after her husband and his obsessions. And then there's the cemetery.
Yes, there are a lot of separate plots in this book. Some were worthy of time (I particularly liked Marijke and Martin's story), others were less so. Sometimes it felt like I was reading four different books as each chapter seemed to be about different characters!
Instead of the wonderful exploration of one fascinating idea that we had in The Time Traveller's Wife, we got a mismash of plots and ideas and characters, and I don't think any of the plots and ideas were very well thought through. Some plot twists in particular I didn't like - they seemed to just make things harder (or slightly ickier) for the plot (or characters). I don't think she quite knew what to do with her plot, resulting in these strange nonsensical events and a somewhat underwhelming and obvious ending.
On the plus side, it was a remarkably easy read, and I powered through it. The characters were well rounded and interesting, some of the ideas were great, and I loved the Cemetery itself. While I mostly liked it, it did seem to be more of a collection of interesting ideas vaguely held together, rather than a coherently plotted book.
64. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, Stieg Larsson
In case you've been living under a rock for the past few years, this is the third book in the Millennium trilogy, featuring one of the best characters in modern crime fiction, Lisbeth Salander. Oh, yeah, and the author's obvious alter-ego, Mikael Blomkvist, crusading left wing journalist and babe magnet. (Can we say "wish fulfilment", boys and girls?)
I went into this one with some nerves, since Larsson had planned a ten book series, but sadly died after only writing the first three books. I was worried that the story would not wrap up satisfactorily at the end, but it turns out I needn't have worried about that.
This book follows straight on from the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and it would have been better if I'd read it closer to the second book. (Shoulda, coulda, didna.) But as it was, I just dived on in and picked up enough to fill in the gaps in my memory. I tend to feel that the Larsson books are all like that anyhow, he throws so much information at you at the beginning as he sets up his incredibly detailed background for the action of the second half of the book, that you do tend to be in a sink-or-swim situation. In this book, did I really need that much level of detail on the Swedish constitution? I think not, and I wish Larsson had a better (by which I mean more ruthless) editor.
But even though I kvetch about the level of details, I find these oddly compelling reading. At times, it would take an earthquake to drag me away. They're incredibly violent and vicious and revolve around the most horrendously misogynistic people and acts, but still, I'm reading on. I think I can lay that at the feet of Lisbeth Salander. She's one brilliant character, not someone you'd want to have to deal with in real life, but I adored spending my reading time with her. At one stage, I was very worried for her as she was in a serious situation, but then it was all okay. She'd gotten a sharpened pencil to defend herself with, and I could put the book down and get some sleep.
On the whole I enjoyed this book very much, although at times I was ready to strangle someone over the level of detail in all the set up. It was a satisfying end to the trilogy, although my first thought on finishing was sadness over never being able to read a new Lisbeth Salander book again.
the author's obvious alter-ego, Mikael Blomkvist, crusading left wing journalist and babe magnet. (Can we say "wish fulfilment", boys and girls?)
ha! That made me laugh out loud. And these books are bizarrely compelling reading, aren't they?
Wookie- I'm glad you enjoyed The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. I'm saving it for later in the year. I like your point about reading them closer together, so what I plan to do is watch the dvd of The Girl Who Played With Fire, when it comes out in October, for a refresher.
BTW- Loved The City and the City. This author just made my "must read" list!
Oooh. I've been wondering if those books lived up to the hype. I might have to try them!
jfetting, it's *strange* how compelling they are. There I am, reading about violent crime and detailed discussions of Swedish law, and I can't put them down! I think it's partially Lisbeth Salander, and partially cheering on the comeuppance of those nasty misogynists. Another case of wish fulfillment, maybe. :)
Also makes me realise that he must have been an *excellent* journalist, being able to make such dry stuff as the Swedish constitutional law interesting. (Well, dry to me. Other people may have different opinions. :)
Mark, yay for another convert to China Mieville! Next up, I'd recommend Un Lun Dun. It's young adult, a bit slow to start, but brilliant once he's got it all working together. His latest - Kraken - just came out here in AU.
The second Millennium movie starts rsn now in Sydney, I'm going to have to make time to see it, I thought the first was an excellent adaptation.
Aerrin99, I do love the "Girl Who..." books, but be warned, you'll start reading them and think "why am I reading about corporate fraud in Sweden, how *dull* is this going to be??" but bear with it, it amazingly all works out and they're great reads.
Just love Pippi Longstocking!! Hope Miss Boo enjoys her too! And I have the second "Girl Who" near the top of my TBR pile. I know I will enjoy it a whole lot more than The Postcard Killers, which I just finished and was just fair. I am also looking forward to re-reading Harry. I think I will start with the last book and take a look at that again before I see the movie. Comes out next month I think...
65. By the Pricking of My Thumbs, Agatha Christie
My first Tommy and Tuppence mystery by Agatha Christie, and it seems I've missed quite a few given the hints of back story she gives out in this one. Overall it was quite good fun, even with a somewhat messy ending (too many threads and clues to tie up), and as usual I enjoyed the Englishness of Christie's novels.
Morning Wookie (or at least that is what it is here!). I love Agatha and her Englishness. I haven't read one of hers in a long time. Might be time to dust one off again.
66. Silent in the Grave, Deanna Raybourn
This is the first in a series of historical mysteries with Lady Julia Grey. And it has one of my favourite opening lines in a book for a while: To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching on the floor. Superbly good fun, and while that level of humour was not kept up for the whole of the book, I shall be hunting out the rest in the series.
Luckily Edward's death frees up Lady Julia from a relatively unhappy marriage and allows her to become an independent woman of means. She is thoroughly wealthy, and because she comes from an eccentric family (who I am looking forward to meeting more thoroughly in the later books) she seems quite determined to not follow what she "should" be doing as a widow in Victorian England. And "hurrah!" we all cry.
This is really more of a romance with a mystery angle than a mystery with some romance. But it was very good fun, and I appreciate that the relationship was no where near resolved at the end of this book. I'm rather over authors stretching romances further than they should go, and this one is nowhere near finished and has plenty more to be said about it.
I breezed through Silent in the Grave in one weekend (rather an achievement, since weekends are also a flurry of washing and cleaning and cooking and shopping and negotiating truces between the two smaller members of the household; to compensate for my lack of down-time, I am learning to flip pancakes while reading. It's quite a skill, so quite often we have slightly crispy pancakes, ahem).
The ending, for me, is probably the weakest bit of the book, because it lost the delightful humour that started the book, and was one of those endings that needed to tie up an awful lot of plot. It wasn't a bad ending, but it was a serious one and I was enjoying the silliness of the whole thing up until then.
Hey Berly! (It's late evening here, and I think the kids are *finally* asleep!) I read a lot of Christie's novels when I was a teenager (staying on my grandparents' farm and Grandma was obviously a fan of hers too!). And have only recently rediscovered them.
The Englishness is my favourite thing about them. Vicars and high tea and manor houses. No one else quite does the same!
67. Empowered Volume 1, Adam Warren
The first volume of Empowered by Adam Warren introduces us to a superheroine with a very naff name (yes, her superhero name really is "Empowered"), a skin tight costume that rips to shreds at the least provocation, and body issues. While I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, I enjoyed it and its meta-textual asides.
At first, I found the mini-story style (more vignettes than real stories) a bit distracting at first (I wanted more!), but then it all clicked rather.
There was a lot of good humour, great minor characters (at one stage she imprisons an alien evil entity - the Violator of Worlds - into an alien artefact, and then gets stuck looking after it; by the end of the book the Violator of Worlds is part of the gang, and demanding boxed set DVDs because they've got it hooked on TV), and nice mangaesque art.
68. Empowered Volume 2, Adam Warren
Not as much fun as the original, as it seemed to be in a holding pattern plot-wise and the humour wasn't quite as wicked (or maybe I'd just gotten used to it). But still enough to make it an enjoyable read, and it's fun hanging out with Empowered and the other characters. There are some very strange superheroes in this world!
69. The Ghost Writer, John Harwood
A rather atmospheric book, about a boy growing up in a desolate Australian country town, who dreams of the life his mother left behind in England. He starts up a pen-pal friendship with an English girl, and that relationship comes to dominate his life, until as a young man he travels to England to find her and find out the truth about his mother.
I wanted to like The Ghost Writer more than I did. It had some genuinely creepy moments, but the ending completely failed to convince me and, frankly, lessened a lot of the horror. (Which, considering it was past midnight when I finished, might have been a good idea! My husband doesn't like it when I insist on sleeping with the lights on.) It also relied a lot on spookily similar stories-within-stories and I kept on getting it all confused, which characters were in which story. And while the short stories within the story were the creepiest bits, I sometimes just wanted to yell "get on with it!" as we hit yet another bit of exposition, or those awkward first pages as the scene is set and the characters are introduced. (The start of books is usually my least favourite bit, as it almost always feels forced, that initial set up that explains the characters and world. So imagine my frustration when we got that over and over again each time a new story was started.)
I found the ending disappointing, a messy over-the-top resolution that really spoilt the rest of the book and its atmospheric set-up for me.
wookie- Good to see you and it looks like you've been knocking a few books out!
70. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
This was a very old copy (with a $1 price tag!) that I may have read as a teenager, but then again, I may not have! Too long ago to really remember, and I had to wipe quite a thick layer of dust off of it.
Had a slightly slow start to me (I find anything written a significantly long time ago difficult to get into as I get used to the language and mindset). While I could put down some of the awkardness to our age difference (it was written nearly 200 years ago now), I do have much fewer WTF moments when I read Jane Austen who is of a comparable vintage.
Sometimes I think Mary Shelley was making up words: "compassionate" (as a verb); enfranchise (I only know "disenfranchise", but that's probably my loss); and "contemn". I believe they are all proper words used in a proper context, so I should really be thanking Shelley for improving my vocabulary. (I love it when I can use "behoove" in the crossword, that's one that Jane Austen - via Mary Bennet - has taught me.)
My main quibbles (which did not distract from the actual story) were about things like the monster being able to read, or his understanding what Frankenstein had done after he was created (maybe while he was completely freaking out he paused to write in his journal "what have I done???" but I didn't get that impression at the time). Just little continuity issues that I could happily ignore in favour of the story and emotions.
And, even though I'd been forewarned, I was rather shocked by the differences from the movie(s).
Where was Igor in the tower during a lightning strike?? I still expected that much, at least! The actual creation scene was a complete anticlimax after the build-up from all the Hollywood movies.
It's strange how Hollywood ran with it and turned it into such a different, yet still iconic, story. And I do urge you to go out and read this book, if only so you can know it from the source, rather than from Hollywood's rewriting of it.
And Mel Brooks was obviously too big an influence on me as a young person, I'm insisting on pronouncing our protagonist's name as "Fraaaahnk-en-schteeen". (I keep on even correcting myself mentally when I do pronounce his name correctly. Oh dear, what a misspent youth!)
There were lots of nice meaty things to think about: the role of nature in the book (wow, those glaciers sound awesome!); the role of family and how Frankenstein fails in that regard to his creation.
Hi, Wook ~ Just stopped by to see what you've been up to lately and see that you are a fan of Niffenegger (sort of) and that you like graphic novels. I don't know if you've heard, but she's coming out with a new graphicnovel! A friend of mine sent me the following a few days ago (sorry for the length ~ if you want me to delete any of it, let me know and I will):
In Audrey Niffenegger's latest — a graphic novel — the heroine discovers there's a mysterious power in the universe keeping track of everything she's ever read, including her diary.
By Nick Owchar Los Angeles Times
October 3, 2010
The Night Bookmobile, A Graphic Novel
Abrams Comicarts: 40 pp., $19.95
What would a library of your entire life's reading contain? What kinds of material — not just books, but anything you've ever read, such as instruction manuals, classified ads and cereal box tops — would you find? Can you remember every single thing you've ever read?
If you can't, don't worry: Alexandra, the main character in Audrey Niffenegger's graphic novel "The Night Bookmobile," discovers that there's a mysterious power in the universe keeping track of such things.
Alexandra finds her private library on a lonely Chicago street in the early morning hours. It's inside a Winnebago.
A quiet, balding man with bifocals sits in the driver's seat, skimming a newspaper as she approaches. The music from his radio — Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff," a favorite of Alexandra's — lures her to the vehicle. When he notices her, this man, Robert Openshaw, asks: "Would you like to see the collection?" He's a librarian, he tells her. No matter how nice the driver seems, shouldn't you refuse such an odd invitation? Alexandra, however, is too muddled to say no — she's walking the streets, trying to cool off after a big fight with her boyfriend Richard — and her judgment is foggy. The fog clears when she stares at the bookmobile shelves and makes a startling discovery.
"From Jane Austen to Paul Auster, from 'Betty Crocker's Cookbook' to 'The Raw and the Cooked' to my college biology textbook, every book on the shelves was familiar… And then I saw my diary," she gasps.
Niffenegger has given readers strange, ghostly scenarios in her novels "The Time Traveler's Wife" and "Her Fearful Symmetry," and here perhaps she wants us to see that homely Winnebago as a version of the soul — or of one's deepest, dearest memories. As dawn breaks and Openshaw gently tells Alexandra that the bookmobile library hours are over, she emerges somewhat reassured. And even though the bookmobile vanishes and doesn't reappear in her life for many years — by then Richard's gone, she's training as a librarian and reading so much that the bookmobile has added more shelves — what abides in her life are books.
"The Night Bookmobile" is oversized like a children's picture book, but it's strictly for adults. Even though there's a fairy tale element to it, Alexandra can't abandon her empty life and realize her wish — "I want to stay here," she told Openshaw, "I want to come with you. I could be your assistant…." — by simply falling down a rabbit hole or stepping through a wardrobe into another land. To join him, she must make a very tragic, absolute decision.
"When I began writing 'The Night Bookmobile,'" Niffenegger explains in an afterword, "it was a story about a woman's secret life as a reader." She also found herself thinking of H.G. Wells' short story "The Door in the Wall," in which a man encounters a green door that appears and offers him escape into a magical garden. Niffenegger also explains that the story evolved into something more about the seductiveness of reading.
Books are indeed seductive here — in fact, they're the only things Alexandra has (beside infrequent encounters with Openshaw). Even though Niffenegger's illustrations — besides being a successful novelist, she is also a talented visual artist — portray Openshaw as kindly and sympathetic, a reader can't help but feel something sinister about the whole story. Books are havens for the soul, yes, but aren't they supposed to eventually send you back into the world after you've licked your wounds? Alexandra retreats deeper and deeper into her books — so deep, in fact, that if you had been with her when she first spotted the Winnebago, you would have said one thing to her: Keep walking.
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
Oooh, thanks for that, Storeetllr! (No need to trim!) I do like a graphic novel or two (there's another five waiting for review, oh my), and while I was disappointed in Her Fearful Symmetry, I still think Niffenegger is worth tracking.
Hi Mark! I missed your message last night, in my review writing frenzy. I've been reading a lot lately, but haven't had much computer time to write reviews! I was going to give up and just put in placeholders, but then I think "no, I really wanted to say X about that..." and the next thing you know, a mini-review! But I'm 14 books (about six weeks) behind in reviews, so they're going to be a bit vague for a while. :) (Did you notice I couldn't remember the characters' names in The Ghost Writer? It's been returned to the library so I couldn't check, and it's not in Common Knowledge here...)
I hope you are going to put the Bookmobile review up on the book page--it definitely deserves a thumbs up!
71. Foundling, D.M. Cornish
The unfortunately named Rossamünd ("a boy with a girl's name") is one of the children at Madam Opera's Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys and Girls, a benevolent society that looks after orphans and gets them ready for a role in the Navy, sailing the vinegar waves. Rossamünd misses out on his ideal job as a vinegaroon however, and ends up being picked as a lamplighter, and sent to start his job (lighting lamps to keep the monsters at bay). Of course, there is something in Rossamünd's past or family that is unknown to him (and us), and this is the start of a very big adventure.
This is a cracking story, full of action and adventure, and also beautifully illustrated. It turns out the author - D.M. Cornish - is originally an illustrator, and I knew his art looked familiar, as he also did the illustrations for a gorgeous picture book called Emily and the Dragon which was a hit with both my kids. (Girls can't fight dragons. Harrumph to that!!)
I'm looking forward to continuing the series, and finding out more about the world in which Rossamünd lives, and finding out more about Rossamünd himself!
Glad you liked Foundling. The illustrations are excellent. The second book in the series is good too. I'm eager for the third which I believe comes out this month. This series was my first venture into "Steam Punk" literature. Have you read Leviathan by Scott Weterfield? It's the same genre with some really good illustrations as well.
edited because the touchstone was going to a Georgette Heyer book.
Berly--when you put the title in brackets, look to the right and if it shows the wrong book, click "other" to choose the correct one. Problem is sometimes it works and sometimes it messes up any other touchstones you may have in your message. Frustrating!
I read Foundling several years ago, and have been anxiously awaiting the sequel(s). I'll have to go back and reread the first book of course ;-)
Glad you liked it.
I've got the second book in the "Monster Blood Tattoo" on Mt TBR, and the third book should be out any day now in Australia. Did you know Cornish was an Australian author?? I certainly didn't, it wasn't until it twigged with the illustrations that I'd seen his work before in an Australian book.
Gorgeous illustrations, they're worth a Google. :) http://www.monsterbloodtattoo.com/
Scott Westerfield (who wrote Leviathan, which I did enjoy too, Lorie!) is also Australian. Well, he lives here for part of the year, so we're claiming him. (Had a conversation with a workmate from South Africa yesterday about how J.M. Coetzee is now "our" Nobel Prize Winner, because he lives in Australia now. Sorry, South Africa isn't getting him back. :)
#114 Thanks Lorie. I'll try that next time I have trouble with a touchstone.
Wookie- Your touchstone for The Foundling is incorrect but I don't see one for that book! Strange. It sounds like a good book and the beginning of a good series.
Mark, whoopsie! Sorry, I write my reviews in just text elsewhere and then copy and paste them over (that way they save if I shut down the computer half way through a review!). But I do tend to forget to check the touchstones that way.
Fixed now! And still recommended! (And I'm sure Georgette Heyer's The Foundling is a spiffing read too. :)
ETA: The book I'm reviewing is just Foundling, not The Foundling. That might be why you're not getting a touchstone for Cornish's book.
Mark, that's some mighty fine reading you've got ahead of you. :) Enjoy!
Oh, I'm beginning to want to re-read American Gods and Anansi Boys now...
Hey! I just added American Gods to my iPod! Not sure if I'll listen to it next, but soon!
Just de-lurking to say, #121 Mark - American Gods is brilliant! Enjoy.
72. The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
This is the world's introduction to Tom Ripley, a needy yet superficially charming con man. And a complete sociopath.
Overall I did like The Talented Mr Ripley, although knowing that there are sequels is a bit of a spoiler for the ending! The cover blurb called Tom Ripley "charming". I thought he wasn't so much charming as creepy, but I did like seeing what made a sociopath tick.
And, surprisingly and somewhat contradicting my usual attitude to sociopaths, I was cheering him on most of the time. So maybe he was just a little bit charming.
Unfortunately, the movie was a bit omnipresent in my mind (and I haven't even seen it!). Shame, it would have been more fun going into this one cold.
73. Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith
This book introduces us to Arkady Renko, chief homicide investigator in Moscow. Most of the murders he investigates are drunken crimes of passion, but the current trio of bodies found in Gorky Park in the heart of Moscow are quite different. Renko is a wonderful literary creation, weary and cynical, yet determined and driven.
I spent most of my time away from this book fretting over having to return to it to find out whodunnit (and whydunnit), and what is going to happen to Renko, who seems to spend most of the book getting on the wrong side of the KGB. He doesn't have a very well developed survival instinct, to say the least.
I'm also very annoyed with my brain because halfway through the book it suddenly decided to remember the final scene from the movie, which I'd seen (and forgotten) many years ago. Hate that. But the rest was all new, and all good.
>128: I saw it years ago too, and it was sooo creepy that I haven't forgotten it, either.
I am so glad you enjoyed Foundling. Cornish's illustrations are great, so thanks for the link. Can't wait for the third (the library to get it, that is). And the Niffenegger comic sounds very interesting. It would be so much easier if there were a bus and a librarian following you around whenever you needed it, rather than lugging your whole reading history around by yourself.
So was Strangers on Train a good movie? I think I've got enough books for now but could use a good movie right now.
Another enthusiastic agreement about Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train"! I'm sure he must have made a stinker or two in his lifetime, but I haven't seen them yet.
Strangers on a Train is awesome! All of Hitchcock is awesome!( And you get to play the "spot the Hitchcock cameo" game.) So if you're looking for a good movie, and SoaT isn't enough, watching or re-watching Rear Window is never a waste of time.
Rear Window - my first Hitchcock and one of my favourite :) With those recs, I'll have to hunt down SoaT, I haven't seen that one yet.
74. The Earth Hums in B Flat, Mari Strachan
Twelve year old Gwenni lives in a small Welsh village during the middle of last century, and believes she can fly in her dreams - and that once she could fly while awake, and she's continuously trying to recapture that skill. She narrates the story with a naive charm and a great imagination, and the plot was compelling with many levels of action.
A great tale, I liked the levels of understanding in it (the adults know everything, Gwenni knows stuff but does not understand it, we know what she knows and we understand it). It got a bit melodramatic at times, but overall I thought it was a very good read, one that I was more than happy to return to as the different stories are peeled away to the essential truths beneath.
75. The Sign of Four, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This is the second Sherlock Holmes mystery. I'm quite enjoying myself, visiting the roots of this classic detective, and you can see why they've been so popular in all their formats over the years (kudos to the current BBC modernisation, and I'm still slightly in shock at Holmes and Watson fighting Nazis during WW2 during some British propaganda movies). Interesting plots, nice twists and turns, and a pair of wonderful characters in charge of it all.
In this, Holmes and Watson help the beautiful young Miss Mary Morston, who has a strange story to tell. She has been receiving a single large pearl every year for the past six years, and now has had a note to say that she's a wronged woman. She and our intrepid pair set out on this great adventure, and of course Holmes solves it all well before we do. But that is his charm, getting to the answer first, and then letting us in on the whole story with great relish.
And move over, Miss Morston. I think I'm slightly in love with Dr Watson. (And that Holmes fellow is rather clever.)
76. Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life, J.M. Coetzee
This was my first Coetzee book, and is the first book in his autobiographical trilogy. I was rather worried going into it, only really knowing him as the author of Disgrace, which does seem rather a challenging book from all accounts. But this ended up being a remarkably easy read, and I happily burled along through it.
Coetzee captured the emotions of childhood very well (and slightly painfully accurately at times, I winced occasionally with that "me too" grimace). It was fascinating revisiting (and remembering) this phase of life from the "other" side, now that I'm a parent. His life completely revolved around his parents, I'd forgotten how huge they are in your life at that age.
Not quite sure why I was so scared of Coetzee before (probably because he's a Nobel laureate), this was an immensely readable book and terribly *true*.
The only drag was his school lessons on South African history. All those names I know nothing about! It would have been nice (but not essential, it's hardly required for the plot) to have some background on who they all were. (Must at least Google the Boer War now.)
Looks like you've had some good reads lately. I've wishlisted The Earth Hums in B Flat (it sounds really good!) and I've already got The Sign of Four on the TBR pile. I'm going through a kind of Sherlock Holmes mania right now and reading everything I can get my hands on, including lots of pastiche.
Hmm, I've been hesitant to read Coetzee too, but your review of his Boyhood makes me think I should give him a try.
Mark, good to see I'm not adding to the wishlist, if you already have them all. :)
Lorie, I'm very interested in Laurie King's Mary Russell series (they sound the most fun out of the Holmes pastiches), but they're not easily available here! I might have to break my vows to support local bookshops and hit thebookdepository.co.uk...
Storee, I think this one is quite different to his fiction. It's not a fluffy read, but I've heard so much about Disgrace that implies that it is a very heavy/depressing/unpleasant read. And Boyhood definitely wasn't that. I'm heading to the library today (between carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating, Happy Halloween everyone!) and am hoping to get the next in the series, Youth.
77. Room, Emma Donoghue
Young Jack has always lived with his mother, in Room. The book opens on his fifth birthday, and we are slowly told the situation through Jack's narration. It's a fairly bleak situation, but the naive narration keeps the book from sinking into a morass of misery. It's hard to not warm to Jack.
While the first half of the book was incredibly gripping, compelling, and readable, I was unfortunately disappointed with the second half, which was more a philosophical and psychological examination of Jack and his mother's situation, and I failed to be convinced by Jack's narrative voice here.
It did get shortchanged by me by coming to it straight after Boyhood by Coetzee which was a magnificent study of childhood and emotions and seemed much more "true" than Jack in Room. (Which is possibly quite beside the point, given that Boyhood is mostly autobiographical, while Room is clearly more a study of a highly unusual situation. But, you know. It just didn't quite gel or convince me.)
And it also didn't help coming soon after The Earth Hums in B Flat which I thought was a much better use of a child-who-doesn't-understand narrative.
Overall it was a very interesting book, but I didn't enjoy it as much as other readers have.
OK, I'm going to admit that I'm sort of glad that Room is getting some not-so-great reviews, because I was feeling terribly jealous of everyone who was getting to read it before I could. I'll have to try Boyhood next year.
I am still really up in the air about Room and if I want to buy/read it. I think if I see it on sale somewhere I might pick it up, but due to all the reviews on LT it did move down a lot on the wishlist.
I've been eying Room thoughtfully - I got it for our library's popular reading collection on the thought that I might pick it up.
Wookie- Yes, Room worked better for me but I'm still glad you liked it! BTW- Liked the review!
#144> :) Do try Boyhood, I have Youth on Mt TBR tempting me now! (And Summertime, the third in the trilogy.)
#145 & #146> It is a very interesting read, but it's like two separate books. And I preferred the first book. :) The ending is good though, a nice solid satisfying ending, which is something that not everyone manages to write!
#147> Thanks Mark! I'm glad you liked it, I think I recommended it to you while I was flush in the excitement of the first half!
78. Lovesong, Alex Miller
Almost-retired author Ken (do storytellers ever really retire?) becomes friends with a local family, and slowly teases out their story. Sabiha and John met, and fell in love, in Paris. But their lives did not go according to what they planned: Sabiha misses the child she feels she is destined to have; while John pines for his missing life in Australia. It was a rather nice meditation on how life can sometimes pass you by. And a rather scary demonstration on how to stop that from happening.
I'm not a big fan of Alex Miller's books (he's a contemplative writer, and I prefer more plot), but this was a very good read. I especially enjoyed being inside the mind of an author, planning and jealously guarding his story.
After finishing it, I did pick it apart a bit - same quibbles as with his previous book I'd read (Landscape of Farewell): the motivations of his characters didn't always convince me, they do tend towards the dramatic act, which makes for good reading, but it doesn't always ring true. Does that make it good literature? Or is that a failing? It's not like I'm always convinced of the motivations of the people around me, either, so maybe he's just capturing reality.
79. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
This has to be one of the more difficult reads I've tackled this year. The violence, the language, the lack of (?) moral code. I'm glad I've read it, I gave it a generous number of stars, but I may be feeling rather disturbed for a while now. I think I was meant to be disturbed by it. And I think I'm glad I've read it. (Like I *think* I'm glad I've seen the movie adaptation, if only because I have a very good excuse to not sit through it again.)
A fascinating read, overall, I really loved the use of the new language, and I think Burgess must have been bloody depressed with the world when he wrote it. I kept on wanting to talk to him, and tell him that life can't be that bad.
But then again, maybe it was that bad.
80. Lucifer: Devil in the Gateway, Mike Carey
81. Lucifer: Children and Monsters, Mike Carey
82. Lucifer: A Dalliance with the Damned, Mike Carey
83. Lucifer: The Divine Comedy, Mike Carey
84. Lucifer: Inferno, Mike Carey
No individual reviews for these, I read them all back to back and now I've gotten all the details muddled up in my head!
These stories follow Lucifer after he quits Hell to open a piano bar in L.A. in Neil Gaiman's brilliant Sandman series.
Because, of course, that is what Lucifer would do, were he to quit Hell.
But make no mistake, he's not a nice guy just because he's quit running Hell. People are only of interest to him if they're of use to him. He's a fascinating character, being quite unpredictable because he is, of course, not human at all.
They were all excellent reads, highly recommended to anyone who's read the Sandman series.
Wookie- Good reviews! I read and loved A Clockwork Orange many years ago. The film version is outstanding. Hope you are doing well!
Haha! I just did a 12 volume run of Fables and I'm having the same problem when I'm considering reviews! I'll probably do the same thing.
Gosh, I didn't know Lucifer existed - I'll have to look those up!
I've been pondering A Clockwork Orange. I'm not sure if you just made the case for or against it. ;)
A Clockwork Orange remains one of the most disturbing movies I've ever seen--the most disturbing if you factor in quality.
#152> Hi Mark! I think A Clockwork Orange might require a re-read. I don't think it's the sort of book I can absorb in one read.
#153> Aerrin, Fables are great, aren't they? Haven't read much in the series, but I like what I've read. There's about 12 or so in the Lucifer series, I'm on inter-library loans for the rest of the series (I got #7 the other week, but no sign of #6! I might have to read out of order!). And, yes, go and check out Lucifer!
#155> Thanks Bonnie!
Hi Wookie! Clockwork is one of those pieces that sticks with you long after the read is over. A definite must-read. Lucifer looks interesting...nice fluffy reads. :)
@151 Oh I do like the Lucifer books, Mike Carey is a great writer in any medium.
I know exactly what you mean about indivually reviewing comics in a series, it's far to complicated.
#157> Hi Berly! Lucifer wasn't all that fluffy, but compared to A Clockwork Orange and Truth (my latest finished book), it was a delightful romp. :)
#158> I hadn't even realised Mike Carey had written other stuff until another friend mentioned it! And now I'll be keeping my eyes open for it.
Seven more reviews to write. I was going to knock off another couple last night, but Mr Bear was having problems getting to sleep (he's been watching a New Zealand kids show that has elements of supernatural - he likes the scary thrill, and then spends ages awake in bed, being nervous of being eaten by islands and scary men with blue faces doing the haka). The series is based on a book, Kaitangata Twitch by NZ author Margaret Mahy. I may be keeping my eyes open for it, I liked the bits of the story I saw.
#149 - nice review. I'll have to keep that in mind next time I read a Miller. It hadn't occured to me, but I can see what you mean.
Thanks captainsflat! I find Miller a bit of a tricky one to review, but I do have to say I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would. There are some things I wanted to talk about more with the ending, but that would just be spoiler-central if I did. :) I also liked how I didn't pick it apart until after I'd finished it - if you're picking apart a book during the reading, something has gone terribly wrong somewhere.
I know, some people are sensitive about spoilers, but unless it's totally vital to the enjoyment of the book (from what I know of Miller, hardly applies), I don't see the problem. Very restrained and thoughtful of you. Also, well, picking apart a book while reading it, although something has gone terribly wrong for the author, is sometimes the only enjoyment I get out of some books.
I'm one of the spoiler-sensitive people, which is why I'm careful about them in my reviews. :)
I don't read the back of books, and I'll put my fingers in my ears and go "lalalala" when they discuss books I haven't read yet (and think I might want to) on "First Tuesday Bookclub". I just like having it all unfold without any notion of where it's going to go, I like picking up the author's hints and clues without knowing from a review that's given away the initial setup, and I like being utterly shocked by the death of a dear familiar character (can't believe I didn't even hear that there was going to be a death in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince! Where was I that year??).
Harry Potter - that's funny!
I am not spoiler sensitive at all, but you haven't pulled me up on anything yet, so hopefully I haven't spilled too much. I think I am more interested in how something is said, or the totality of how and what, rather than simply what, to worry about it.
Haha, I'm much the same way. I have gotten near violent with friends before who've taunted me with spoilers - books, movies, whatever!
I'm teaching myself to let up a little because being /too/ spoiler-sensitive takes away a lot of my finding-good-stuff tools, but I too live for that moment of gasping, jaw-hanging surprise!
I don't mind reading back jackets and having a small sense of where a book is going, but I definitely want my endings to be a surprise!! So thanks for not giving away the endings! I am up late (3 am here) awaiting the return of my oldest daughter who went to see the midnight opening of Harry Potter....
Speaking of spoilers, I was tossing up reading the introduction to my current book (Trollope's The Warden), and my Penguin edition had in nice large bold type across the top of the intro: WARNING! CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Or words to that effect. :) Thank you, Penguin! I'll read the intro after.
Berly, I hope she enjoys Harry Potter! I'm looking forward to it (and I really MUST re-read the books sometime rsn). It was Mr Bear's 8th birthday yesterday (where does the time go??) and we gave him the Lego Hogwarts Castle. He's mad for Harry Potter Lego, even though we won't let him watch past the first two movies (yet). He had some friends over for a sleepover last night (or a wakeover: up until 11pm, up again at 5am, I'm counting down the hours until they get picked up) and while I was dozing on the sofa earlier this morning while they played with Lego, I kept on hearing various wizarding spells from one of the guests ("wingardium leviosa!"). Such a phenomenon! (And it started with *books*! Hurrah!)
85. Remake, Connie Willis
This is a tale of the near-future, where Hollywood no longer makes new creative movies, but just recycles what it already has. Did I say "near" future? Sounds like the present to me.
Overall, a very enjoyable read, especially for a fan of the golden era of Hollywood, like me. It had Connie Willis's usual obsessive and sleep-deprived hero, somehow missing the clue, falling for the girl, and all with a thick layer of Hollywood movie references. Perfect!
I liked when he was trying to remove all instances of AS ("addictive substances") from movies like "The Thin Man", and "The Philadelphia Story". How to explain the hangovers and drunkenness?? And Rick's Cafe Americaine without bottles of alcohol?? Tell me it isn't so!
Reminds me of when Spielberg recently redid "E.T." and made all the guns into walkie talkies instead. And that meant it had to be reclassified here in Australia because of the content changes, and we bumped it up a grade (from G - General - to PG - parental guidance) because since it first came out in the 1980s the christian right wing decided that stuff with "supernatural" themes (think: Harry Potter) needed a tougher classification.
Funnily enough though, this was written well before all the current fad for re-imaging movies. I think Connie Willis was being highly predictive! And it's a great satire on Hollywood as well, with the casting couch, the drugs, the lack of creativity in the modern money-making behemoth.
86. Not Untrue and Not Unkind, Ed O'Loughlin
Cynical and world-weary journalists covering conflicts in Africa, and juggling love and sex and addiction to the adrenalin? thrill? pressure? Ed O'Loughlin is writing about what he knows, and the verisimilitude shines through. Although not all of us know that much about Africa, so I was quite lost at times.
I usually don't mind being thrown in the deep end with my fiction, but this one did need a few signposts (it's not until 2/3s of the way through that I found out which decade it was set in). And the jumping about in time just confused me (hang on, isn't he dead? Oh, not yet?). Nothing wrong with some chapter titles with some *information* in them.
I liked the cynicism of the characters, at the same time as not liking the cynicism of the characters. They were amusing with their bitchy comments about foreign aid and the U.N., but at the same time I was appalled - tell me it isn't so!
It was actually a rather good book, but the frustrations just wore me down by the end.
87. The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Rebecca Miller
Pippa Lee is in her fifties when she moves into an old folks' community because her much older husband is worried about growing old. Pippa has always been the perfect wife, so she doesn't complain, and does a beautiful job of selling up and starting afresh. However, not all is calm under the surface, and Pippa starts to examine her life to see what brought her to this place, and also her role as a mother to her two grown-up children.
I thought it was simply fascinating, and was so good to read a book with a fully detailed, contradictory, complex woman at the heart of it. I was particularly impressed with how I liked her at the beginning, even when she was being a Stepford Wife.
Hi Wookie- Liked your reviews! I'm not familiar with any of these books or authors. Remake sounds very interesting.
I really enjoyed Remake as well, but then I have decided I just like Willis' snarky sense of humor!
Hi, Wookie! I haven't been doing much on LT lately, so had a lot of catching up to do.
On Clockwork, you are right that it is meant to be disturbing. I read the novel & saw the movie decades ago, and it still gives me the creeps when I think of it today. And I DO think of it still, occasionally.
Thanks for the heads-up on the Lucifer series. I'll be on the lookout for it and hope I can get it here in the States.
#171> Hi Mark! You've never read Connie Willis? She's a favourite of mine, and I tend to push her Doomsday Book on everyone. One of the few books I make time to re-read, it's a great read. (So consider it pushed on you. ;)
The other books are first novels for the authors, but Rebecca Miller is the daughter of Arthur Miller (at least, I think this is her first novel). So it's no wonder you haven't heard of them!
#172> Hi Berly! I liked Pippa, but I have heard negative comments, so take my rave with a grain of salt. Obviously one of those books that not *everyone* likes.
#173> She does have a snarky sense of humour, doesn't she? I like her characters, they're good fun to hang out with (even though I always wish she'd let them take a break and *sleep*!).
#174> Hi there! Good to see you here, I understand that some days it can be difficult to make time for the extra things. So long as you're taking time to read!
88. Travels with Herodotus, Ryszard Kapuscinski
Ryszard Kapuscinski was thrown into the deep end of foreign correspondence, being sent out from Communist Poland to India, not knowing anything about India, or any useful language such as English, but having expressed a vague desire to travel. This is followed by expeditions to China, and Africa, where he made his name as a foreign correspondent. Throughout these initial befuddled journeys, he takes with him a recently translated (into Polish) edition of Herodotus's Histories.
This book had an excellent start, all about experiencing the wider world when one has grown up in a very limited environment, but towards the end it pretty much just trailed off into a retelling of Herodotus' Histories, which was on my radar to buy anyhow after the first few chapters. Still worth it though, the first half was great.
89. The Poet, Michael Connelly
Jack McEvoy is a journalist specialising in the murder beat, and one day he finds himself looking into police suicides, after his twin brother is found dead, presumably suicide. However, Jack finds enough information to make him doubt the original suicide verdict, and here the thriller begins.
Unfortunately, I'm just not a fan of Jack McEvoy, he's too tough and manly and boring. Give me a hero(ine) with a human heart (Joe Pitt, Lisbeth Salander both spring to mind), and I will read all sorts of violence to see them solve the mystery and get the baddie. Jack? Meh. I just don't care.
And the chapters with the paedophile creeped me out. Even more so when I realised that they were going to have to be intertwined with Jack's case at some stage, in order to resolve the whole plot.
Overall, I can't say I enjoyed myself muchly. Too violent and nasty, and I didn't like the main character (or any character, to be honest) enough to really care about it all. I plugged away to the end because it came recommended by friends, and while the twist wasn't quite what I expected (some nice red herrings from the author, that I fell for hook line and sinker), I still failed to care. Or even get the slightest bit excited.
90. Quicksand, Nella Larsen
Quicksand was a fascinating depiction of a woman who can't fit in. Much like Nella Larsen herself, Helga Crane is a black woman, brought up unhappily in a white family (her mother is white, her black father is no longer around, and her mother has remarried a white man). Some of the references to her childhood were heartbreaking, knowing that Larsen was writing from her life. Helga Crane is not a very likeable character - far too prickly and difficult - but a fascinating character.
Helga finds it difficult to fit in with white people (with her obviously black ancestry), but also finds it difficult to fit into the black community. She has a fascinating friendship with a black woman, Anne, who is very concerned with the "race issue" (which I think is one of those very multi-faceted issues, because I couldn't pin it down to one particular aspect!). This lack of being able to identify with other people, for Helga, leads to her tragic ending.
I know a lot of people loved The Poet, but I agree with you about Jack McEvoy. I just adore Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller, but Jack? Not so much.
91. Truth, Peter Temple
Truth roughly follows on from the well regarded The Broken Shore, with some characters common to both books, and a similar bleak view of Australia. And it won the Miles Franklin Literary Award for 2010. It's a complex, meaty plot, with several threads going on at the same time: two murders, and the head of Homicide, Stephen Villani, is trying to keep his family from falling apart at the same time.
It's a very hardboiled read, and I'm a fan of the tough male hardboiled character, even though I most certainly would not want to hang out with them in real life. A couple of years ago I read the classic hardboiled Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest and that's what this book really reminded me of: all the conversations are oblique and people say things, and other characters get the underlying unsaid meanings (and I don't) and there always seem to be a level of understanding that the characters are in on, and I'm there feeling slightly lost.
BUT. I do really enjoy these tales, I do enjoy a book where I'm puzzled, and I do love a good hardboiled noir male lead. Something about their moral code appeals, even though I don't think I could live by such high standards, let alone put up with someone who did have such standards. And it's a *weird* moral code, the good guys often behave about as bad as the bad guys (our lead being involved in the murder of that young thug many years ago; the Continental Op practically ends up killing an entire town while weeding out corruption), but they're doing it for the right reasons. Our lead burrows and burrows and doesn't give up until he's got both cases solved; the Continental Op is intent on destroying the corruption that has taken over the town.
I think I also appreciate the concerted attack on corruption from both these noir leads. I can't help but like someone who goes head-to-head with corruption, and who doesn't stop regardless of threats. And the fascination with these deeply flawed characters - our lead character is a dreadful husband, a not very good father, has done serious wrong in the past. Are they trying to redeem themselves with their determined focus on their job?
And, much like its predecessor The Broken Shore, it paints a rather painful picture of Australia. The first was all ingrained racism, this one is all unpleasant murders. (Hm, is there such a thing as a pleasant murder? Maybe an Agatha Christie one, rather than this array of petty drug lords and psychos torturing and killing their way through the lower echelons of Australian society.) And while the cops aren't the nicest bunch either, at least they're on the right side of the law. Mostly. *sigh*
Overall, I thought it was an excellent, if not an easy, read, well deserving of its Miles Franklin win. It transcends its genre, ending up as a great crime novel, but also a discussion of family, life, corruption, and lots of big meaty issues.
And it made me cry. Damn you, Peter Temple.
92. Lamplighter, D.M. Cornish
This is the second book in the fabulously titled "Monster Blood Tattoo" trilogy by Australian writer and author David Cornish. It follows on straight from the first book, with Rossamünd as an apprentice lamplighter. He continues his knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong (right?) time, and continues to attract difficult but fascinating women, in this case Threnody, a young woman who chooses to leave her privileged life to be independent from her overbearing mother. We find out more about Rossamünd's background, and some of our suspicions from the first book are firmed up.
This time the constant new names and words grated more than the first book (eg, an adam's apple is a gourmand's cork, which is cute, but wearying after the 20th or so definition), and it did have the usual problem of a middle book: the hero sits around, waiting for the excitement of the third (and final) instalment of his tale. Still, the good bits were good, and I did like the illustrations as usual, so a solid 7/10. And I'm bothering the library for the third book, which they've just added to the catalogue. :)
93. Cold Earth, Sarah Moss
Nina is on an archaeological dig in Greenland, helping her friend Yianni, and just there for the adventure. But she starts hearing voices and seeing ghosts, and then the fun begins, as winter starts to creep in and the initial spooky atmosphere of daylight almost 24 hours a day slowly changes into much shorter, colder, and darker days. To add tension to the whole mix, they are cut off from society, and the last news they had was about a new virus beginning to infect the world. Can they not contact the outside world because of mere technological hiccups, or is there a darker meaning to their isolation?
This tension is kept up throughout the book, and was almost unbearable by the end, meaning I was staying up late finishing the last few pages, and snarling at anyone who got between me and my book. Unfortunately the ending, while satisfying in a number of ways, was a bit of a whimper rather than a bang. I think she wrote herself into a corner! But apart from that, it was an excellent read. Interesting characters, great set-up, fabulous atmosphere.
Had to remind myself lying in bed after finishing the last pages, still wide awake, that the likelihood of being haunted by Viking ghosts in Sydney is vanishingly small.
94. Lucifer: Exodus, Mike Carey
This is the seventh in the series (people paying attention may have noted I've read the first five; the inter-library loan for the sixth book didn't eventuate, so I had to read them out of order).
It's more of the same of the others: recommended for Sandman fans. This had all sorts of spoilers for #6, so I do recommend reading them in order.
I really loved The Broken Shore, the way he captured the way people speak - or a speech which I don't often see in print. And the lead is so flawed and such a failure in many ways, I just loved it. Will have to get Truth for the holidays.
And I'm glad you still enjoyed Lamplighter, although not as much as me! And a question which will seem much more related than I mean it to be - do you read the descriptions in the Ring Trilogy, or do you skip them over?
Yes! You should all go out and buy (and read) The Broken Shore and Truth! With the caveats up above: if you like noir, and if you don't mind bleak.
#186> captainsflat, it is a good book, I was just tired and got all a little "oh no, not *another* damned definition", I wanted a read where I didn't have to keep a finger in the glossary. :) Loved Threnody - Cornish does some excellent prickly female characters! And I will definitely be reading the third, a friend should be bringing it by for me to borrow tomorrow night (her family's devoured it already).
The Ring Trilogy? Lord of the Rings? Or another trilogy...?
ETA: But I do generally read every single word of a book, right down to the acknowledgements (exceptions made for introductions that look like they're going to give away plot points).
No, no, I meant Lord of the Rings. It's just some people don't like the descriptions, and granted, there is a lot of description. But they are my favorite part. I guess I am just calibrating.
About reading everything - I find myself reading author and illustrator and publisher to my kids when I read them picture books! I just want them to know it's important. I always read acknowledgements. I sometimes even look the people up.
#188> Aw, shucks. *blush*
#189> From my last re-read of Lord of the Rings, there was an awful lot of description. :) But that was back before the movies, when I first heard Peter Jackson was making them, and I thought I'd better refresh my memory. I may have to re-refresh my memory sometime rsn.
Acknowledgements are lovely. I like seeing how a book, while 99% the work of one person, often needs a whole support network to get it done. Have you seen the kids' book Parsley Rabbit Book About Books? It's a great one for kids, Parsley Rabbit gives all sorts of info on how a book is put together, and it's quite a lovely book in its own right.
#190> I have also read Passing, it was another excellent short book. I liked the passion of Quicksand, she was obviously writing from the heart there, while Passing was a more considered work. Both well worth a read, though. (And to think I would never have read them if it hadn't been for 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die! It's great being introduced to books outside my ken/comfort zone through that list.)
95. The Warden, Anthony Trollope
I felt the need for some genteel Victorian literature, after the excitement and adventure of my last few reads, so decided to go with one of the most genteel gentlemen of Victorian literature, the charming and self-effacing Septimus Harding.
It's a charming story, and I also enjoyed the insight into Victorian politics, especially around religion (some excellent notes in my Penguin edition). And also Trollope's depiction of Charles Dickens as "Mr Popular Sentiment", which makes me think not much love was lost between the two great authors. But since I've never gotten very far with Dickens, I'm okay with this.
The ending is rather bittersweet and hence slightly unexpected, which did add to its charm. I am looking forward to returning to Barsetshire soon.
96. Faro's Daughter, Georgette Heyer
A fun romp set in Regency London. It is fun having all these somewhat-wicked characters in the midst of Jane Austen territory.
97. Crime Classics: A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novel), Arthur Conan Doyle
Not bad. I wasn't all that fond of the art, but it took the words straight from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and that can only be a Good Thing.
>195: Hmmm .... as you know, I recently gave up on Barchester Towers). I understand this book is shorter which could be a good thing :)
I love Mr. Harding. Not as much as I love Archdeacon Grantly, but lots.
#195> Shorter, and it sets everything up! :) I've got a copy of Barchester Towers to pick up at my favourite city bookshop - will pop by and get it rsn. But I think if you didn't get through Barchester Towers, you're probably just not cut out for Trollope. (I understand, I can't get through a single Dickens! A Christmas Carol doens't count.)
I came to Barchester via the fabulous BBC series from (far too) many years ago. (And I have previously read Barchester Towers (too) many years ago, after enjoying the BBC production.)
#196> Archdeacon Grantly is a *fabulous* character (and was so well played by Nigel Hawthorne that I can't see any other face but his as I'm reading the books), but sweet gentle Septimus Harding will always be a favourite of mine.
I loved Grantly's sons, and was very grateful to the Penguin edition notes for clarifying that they were all named after (and took after) various bishops of the time.
I don't think my review above gave it much justice, I've just been too busy to sit down and concentrate! As may have also been noticed with my one-line reviews of the next two books. ;)
Someday I will watch the BBC production, because I love the actors.
Squeee! IMDB tells me it was Geraldine McEwan (currently being a rather excellent Miss Marple) who was Mrs Proudie! I must track down a copy of the DVDs again.
The BBC do excellent productions, and this one is no exception.
Ooh! That's good to know. I love Nigel Hawthorne (have you seen The Madness of King George?), and Alan Rickman. My husband and I also enjoy playing "spot the actor" when we watch BBC productions, because invariably we see a familiar face and then go off to verify that they played so-and-so in some other program we've seen. It's an especially fun game when the points of comparison are many years apart (as with Mrs. Proudie/Miss Marple).
OK, we're weird. No need to tell me :)
Geraldine McEwan is a stellar Mrs. Proudie. She is a genius. And Alan Rickman was a super genius also as Slope (I typed "Snape" first - oops!).
#200> Yes, I saw "The Madness of King George" when it first came out. An excellent movie! But he'll mostly have a special place in my heart for his stellar role as Sir Humphrey Appleby in "Yes, Minister" & "Yes, Prime Minister". The Brits can do some excellent comedy, and this would be arguably their best.
And, are you suggesting that there are people out there who *don't* instantly leap onto IMDB after watching a show - especially the BBC bonnet dramas - with cries of "what else have we seen him/her in???".
#201> Mr Slope! I got Barchester Towers from the bookshop yesterday, I'm looking forward to meeting him (and Mrs Proudie!) again.
(Edited to fix a split infinitive. Normally I wouldn't worry, but since I'm talking BBC, I thought I should be grammatically better than usual.)
>202: Oh, I loved Nigel Hawthorne in the Minister/Prime Minister series, as well !
And it's nice to be among friends who have similar quirky habits.
#191 I totally agree - I've read loads of stuff that I would never have touched because of the list.
Re the Lucifer stuff I luckily checked with my husband before I got him any - to find out (unsurprisingly I guess) that he had read them. Doh! I mentioned that I'd read about them on lib thing so he spent the next half hour reading people's comment about them on here and making tsk noises. He really is a big comic geek!
98. The Etched City, K.J. Bishop
The Etched City is a rather intriguing book, but seems to be in search of a plot. Or some sort of cohesion. A bundle of interesting characters, and an interesting setup, but we seemed to be headed nowhere really fast. I'd be annoyed by one bit, and then swept up by the next. Still, I was fascinated enough to continue.
It was a very interesting read, in the whole "well, that was a bit strange, but I'm glad I read it" way. It wasn't the fantasy adventure I thought it was going to be from the opening (with its anti-heroes and Firefly/Serenity feel). And while the theological discussions went over my head (or, more exactly, my eyes glazed over during them; my bad), I liked that the author tried to bite off more than she (or I) could chew.
99. The Women in Black, Madeleine St John
The Women in Black is Madeleine St John's first novel, written when she was 53. Quite a simple story, revolving around a young woman, Leslie (who prefers to be called Lisa) who takes a job in the Ladies' Frocks department of Goodes, an upmarket department store (obviously standing in for David Jones in Sydney) while waiting for her exam results to see if she can get a University scholarship in the 1960s. The other ladies working at Goodes are a mixed bunch, but my favourite was Magda, who works in the hallowed section that is Model Gowns, where the dresses are priced in guineas. Magda is a refugee from Eastern Europe, whose expertise in fashion makes her a minor star in Sydney society. But for me she also encapsulated a hopefulness about Australian society, a looking-forward that was brought by immigrants so had moved here for a better life, and who opened up our lives and enriched our country so much.
It was a great little book, beautifully created and written, light and charming, fluffy but caustic at the same time. One of the blurbs compared St John favourably to Jane Austen. I wouldn't quite say that, but it did have a distinct Barbara Pym snarkiness (which is fine by me).
The book was especially charming, as I was reading it over a sticky summer day or two, pretty much on the same streets & time of year as it is set.
I'm looking forward to reading St John's other books.
100. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling
Started reading this one to Mr Bear, and he baulked because he'd seen the movie recently. (But he did at least acknowledge that the movie left lots out.) But I had fun finishing it off on my own. I've read these books multiple times, and they're still just really good fun.
I've never been a grammarian, finding that part of my grade school English classes incredibly boring (I was much more interested in simply pulling out a book and reading)... so thanks for piquing my interest in 'split infinitives'.
I had no idea...
And, are you suggesting that there are people out there who *don't* instantly leap onto IMDB after watching a show - especially the BBC bonnet dramas - with cries of "what else have we seen him/her in???".
You have the patience to wait until the end? I can't stop myself from grabbing the laptop and researching immediately.
I've been wanting to read Women in Black since some Aussie friends told me about it this past summer. I must hunt down a copy!
Congratulations on hitting the 100 book mark!! And a great one to do it with as well!
Congrats! I was rather disappointed with the The Etched City too. Althought slow I rather like the beginning and then it all changed and after that it just left me.. well cold as meandered about. I have been a bit wary ever since of picking up another of hers. Sad really.
Joyce (#211 & #212): Yes, get a copy of The Women in Black! You'll enjoy it. And we are laptop-free, so I tend to have to wait until the end of a movie to check IMDB, although quite often Don will wander over and give me a running commentary on Who's Who. (He reckons it's "multitasking". I reckon it's lack of focus. :)
clfisha (#214): I'm actually looking forward to her next book. (She's got short stories published, but I'm not really a big short story reader.) I think this is that awkward first novel, and she'll be more polished with her next. Or maybe she's just a perfect short story writer, and I should go and read her short stories...
Funnily enough, my review got posted on my FaceBook page, and it turns out K.J. Bishop is the cousin of a frined of mine. :) Said cousin had a similar reaction to me (and you, it sounds).
And thanks everyone for the congratulations!
Wookie- Congrats on 100! I'm planning on starting a "Fantasy February" over on the 75! I know you are big fan of the genre and we would love to have you grace us with your presence.
Mark, count me in! Maybe I'll get back into the "Malazan Books of the Dead" series, that's been sadly neglected by me in recent times... I'll keep an eye on your thread for the link. Thanks!
(Edited because I had the series name wrong! D'oh!)
And we are laptop-free, so I tend to have to wait until the end of a movie to check IMDB, although quite often Don will wander over and give me a running commentary on Who's Who. (He reckons it's "multitasking". I reckon it's lack of focus. :)
Well, there you go. The next time you say "we don't need a laptop, we get by just fine!" you'll know that you really do have a reason to get one. Just call me "Joyce who can justify anything." (Call me for any of your justification needs)
@215 be interested to see what you think of her next book :) one of the nice things about LT is you can sound out books quite easily.
huh? What is this "laptop free" of which you speak? How can one facebook chat with family members in another room (or even the same room if it's loud)? How can one instantly verify the identities of random supporting actors and actresses (along with sharing the intimate details of said supporting cuties love life)? What if one wants to look up a pair of shoes or pants or some jewelry?? Not in MY house sister!
lol good job on hitting a 100 books for the year!
#220> I know, I'm a total Luddite. You'd never think I develop e-commerce websites for a living, would you? :)
Merry Christmas everyone!
I'm stuffed, both literally with yummy food, and figuratively with exhaustion. The kids were up at 5:30 this morning (oh my), and were crashing rather badly towards the end there, but on the whole we all had a great Christmas.
And my Mum gave me a copy of High Tea at the Victorian Room, so I can see some sandwiches-with-the-crusts-cut-off and scones in my near future. Not to mention pots of tea. :)
Merry Christmas! Sounds like you had a wonderful time! Did you get any other books?
Actually, Mark that was it for books. (I did get a lot of kitchen gadgets, which is also a standard part of our family Christmas.)
BUT Mum does give me a generous cheque which is to be spent ENTIRELY on books. Means she doesn't buy me stuff I already have, and then she gets about six months or so of me telling her what I bought, and passing them on for her to read once I've finished (if I think she'll like them, we do have different tastes). It works really well, extending the Christmas joy for most of the year. :)
Kids are watching Toy Story 3, one of their Christmas presents. (Yesterday I wandered through, and they were off playing with their toys while the grownups of the house were watching and laughing at Buzz and Woody et al...)
Firefly/Serenity?!? If it's at all reminiscent of them, I'm definitely going to check out The Etched City.
Merry Christmas and congrats for hitting 100!
I agree with Storeetllr - if The Etched City is anything AT ALL like Firefly, I can't wait to read it. Only one season - it's a crime, I tell you!
Yes, indeed, a crime of ginormous magnitude! My daughter introduced Firefly to me a couple of years ago, and I just introduced my sister to it. She is loving it (smart woman!). We've been watching a couple of episodes every evening over the past week.
Oh, count me in with the worship of Captain Tight Pants and his crew. (A friend of mine has two little girls: Kaylee and Zoe. I didn't go quite that far, but I rather approved when he told me.)
BUT Etched City is quite different from Firefly/Serenity. The beginning made me think we were going to be in a similar romp (anti-heroes, who were obviously on the losing side in a war, in a bleak desert setting), but then the book changes direction. It was still a very interesting read, but not if you think it's going to be a Firefly/Serenity/Whedonesque romp.
101. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
This classic Victorian novel has everything one could want from a gothic read: orphans, moors, things that go bump in the night, wild weather, passionate love, and character judgements based on phrenology. I loved every moment of this book, even more than my previous reads. I think it only improves as I get older. (And I mustn't leave it for another 10 years before reading it again.)
The language was really rather scrumptious too. And this time around, I didn't mind all the dialogue. As a younger woman (and teenager), I found those bits hard to deal with. (Stop talking and get on with it!)
St John Rivers obviously gets made nicer for all the adaptations - I'd forgotten how bloody annoying he was! And I was worried that she might stay with him (even though I know the ending of the book). All praise to Charlotte Brontë for having me on tenterhooks, even though I already knew how it was all going to work out.
Giggled like a silly schoolgirl towards the end when Jane is sitting on Mr Rochester's knee, telling him cheekily about her handsome, intelligent, upright, noble cousin. Serves him right for all the Blanche Ingram nonsense! Although I did rather like the Blanche Ingram nonsense too, it gave us another side of Mr Rochester, one who can be charming and sociable, instead of the grouchy one we all know and love.
It did take me a while to read (nearly two weeks, when I generally knock off a couple of books a week), but instead of the whole "can't wait for a new book" feeling I get after a week or so of reading one book (I'm fickle), I really regretted reaching the end of the story and having to say goodbye to Jane and her Mr Rochester.
Great review of Jane Eyre! I first read it in 2005, I think it was. I then had to read it for a course at university in 2008. At first I thought I wouldn't reread it because I remembered it quite well, then I thought I'd skim it, but I ended up getting caught up in the story and read it in great detail. And it was so much fun to read in class--the prof was fabulous and pulled out all sorts of things in the book that I wouldn't have otherwise noticed. So I agree with you, it's a great book to reread!
This classic Victorian novel has everything one could want from a gothic read: orphans, moors, things that go bump in the night, wild weather, passionate love, and character judgements based on phrenology.
Yes! How how well said!
Great review! I've read Jane Eyre twice: as a teen and an, erm, young woman. I'm probably due for a re-read.
Thanks! I do hope I get to it again sometime in the next decade; but with so many other good books coming out all the time, it's always hard to get back to the old favourites.
102. Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness
Monsters of Men is the third instalment of the "Chaos Walking" young adult trilogy, and starts off right where The Ask and the Answer stopped. Which was disaster looming on three fronts, in case you'd forgotten. You'd have to wonder what characters could get themselves in such a mess and then realise: characters who make very human mistakes. Again, Todd and Viola struggle on against overwhelming odds, sometimes make a wrong mistake, and have to learn to live with the consequences. And we come along for the white knuckle ride, all the way.
I think all young people should read this series, and have the Mayor pointed out as the sort of complete sociopath they may run into in their adult lives. Give them some advance warning that some adults can be horrible, yet able to weasel out of anything and everything. "But I did it for your own good", "you made me do it", etc.
Yay for a character you love to hate. (Boo! Hiss!)
It's a great and satisfying ending to a great trilogy, for the YA dystopia fans out there. But bring a box of tissues.
Thanks Mark! I haven't read Jar City, but it's been on my wishlist for years! Just always seem to never have quite the right excuse to buy it... *sigh*
And I'm almost up to date on my reviews! Hoping to not be frantically writing reviews for 2010 in 2011... :)
My 2011 thread (although this one will keep on going): http://www.librarything.com/topic/104918
Thanks for the link to your 2011 thread! I was just thinking about that yesterday since there are a few threads I follow outside of the 75 group.
Not a problem, Laura! I went looking on the 2011 75 Book Challenge group and starred a number of you, there's always some good conversations happening there. But, boy, threads sprout up and move fast in that group! Have to keep on my toes to keep up!
103. Youth, J.M. Coetzee
Youth is the second of Coetzee's "Scenes from Provincial Life" autobiographical trilogy. This time, John is young and desperate to leave South Africa, to go and become a poet in London. London is not quite what he expected.
Again, Coetzee holds up a blowtorch to his young life, and shows himself warts and all without sugar coating his failings as a human being. I would say I didn't think he liked himself that much, only I saw a lot of myself in him too, so I think he was just being brutally honest. C'mon, who hasn't been an absolute fool at one time or another as a young person? At least he admits it, and makes fascinating reading out of it.
But it wasn't mean or nasty, I think he was able to mostly laugh at his youthful foibles (the biggest: waiting for the woman who through passionate sex will open him up to the poetic creativity he so desperately desires; and the worry that maybe he needs to get the poetry right before he can meet his destined woman). It was also interesting being in a dark, miserable London in the early 1960s. Not to mention the computer programming. (Really.)
It does end on a bleak note, however, with his youthful ambition apparently discarded in the need to have a job. But not totally bleak: this man did go on to win the Nobel Prize for literature. (But not for poetry...)
104. The Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler
My Secret Santa at work managed to get me a book that I 1) did not own; 2) had not read; and 3) actually wanted to read!
The Lady in the Lake was a fascinating and very good read. Unfortunately, I guessed the plot early on, but it was great seeing Marlowe wander around, piecing it all together (and he plugged the plot holes I couldn't), with a background of corrupt cops and World War II (rubber pavements being stripped and replaced with concrete, people trying to save their tyres "for the government", men going off to the army, etc).
105. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
Dorian Gray was a fascinating read. A bit heavy on the details at times (Oscar Wilde knew what was beautiful and tasteful, and described said items in great detail), but never boring. It was very good going to the source of the story: we all know the basics of what happened, but I, for one, had no idea of the details. Who knew that there was a painter (Basil Hallward) who had painted the picture? Obviously, there was, but I didn't realise he'd be such an important part of the story.
And Dorian's friend, Lord Henry Wotton, who encourages the youth towards a vain and selfish life, takes the cake for being one of the most unpleasant evil characters I've read this year. And he had all the best lines! As befits Wilde, amusing bon mots were liberally scattered throughout, which took me by surprise, I was expecting a more serious read. The story itself is serious, but at times the attitudes of the characters were not.
The notes in the edition I read had interesting comments about how the book was toned down - a lot of fairly homosexual comments, mostly relating to the painter's love for Dorian, had been removed or changed. Also interesting in my edition is excerpts from contemporary reviews, which panned the "decadence" of it all. Nasty, nasty comments. Makes me want to go and watch "Wilde" with Stephen Fry again.
107. Lucifer: The Mansions of Silence, Mike Carey
The sixth Lucifer novel. Close readers of this thread may have noticed that I read these out of order, due to some confusion with inter library loans. (Note to self: only one ILL at a time!) Still another excellent read, even though I knew how it was all going to end.
Although the hedgehogs took me by surprise.
Okay, it's now 2011, I'm all caught up on my 2010 reviews (an excellent start to the year!). Happy to discuss these books here, but all new books are going to be over on the 2011 thread (http://www.librarything.com/topic/104918).
Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all get lots of good books, good friendships, and good times in 2011.
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