wookiebender's 100 books in 2011

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wookiebender's 100 books in 2011

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Dec 16, 2010, 11:23pm

Well, I may still be in denial about Christmas being just around the corner (ack! so much to do! ack!), so there's no time like the present to start planning my reading for 2011. :)

No particular books in mind: I do have a few chunksters I want to get through, and would like to do better than the mere 10 (or so) "1001" books I read in 2010. I may not make it to 100 with those goals, but that's fine by me.

Dec 17, 2010, 11:20am

I'm here as well as being in the 75 books group- I double post!

Edited: Dec 17, 2010, 8:52pm

#2> Best of both worlds! :)

Dec 27, 2010, 10:16pm

I follow Wookie anywhere!!

Dec 27, 2010, 10:58pm

Thanks Mark! I'm looking forward to sharing book recommendations with you in 2011!

Dec 31, 2010, 12:23am

Good to see you here again wookie!

Dec 31, 2010, 12:34am

Thanks judylou! I'm also looking forward to your reads, it's nice having another Australian here!

Dec 31, 2010, 7:44pm

I'm reading a very Australian book at the moment The Body in the Clouds - three views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from three different times in history. Its very good - and watching the fireworks on the bridge last night was a nice contrast to the book too!

Dec 31, 2010, 10:11pm

Ah, I've got a "Harbour Bridge" book in the pile, The Great Arch by Vicki Hastrich. Don't know when I'm going to get time to read it!

Well, it's 2011 here now, Happy New Year to you all! I've got a couple of last minute books to review over on the 2010 thread, and then it'll all move over here.

Jan 1, 2011, 1:19am

Happy New Year Wookie!! Can't wait to see what you read in 2011. ; )

Jan 1, 2011, 1:25am

Found you, wookie! You've been starred!

Jan 1, 2011, 8:38am

Happy new year, and now it's being followed and bookmarked :D

Jan 1, 2011, 3:47pm

Happy New Year!

Jan 2, 2011, 6:12pm

Happy New Year, Wookie!

Jan 2, 2011, 6:50pm

Wookie, I read The Great Arch last year. It was good. I enjoyed the way the main character (based on real life) was also a character in The Body in the Clouds as was the First Fleeter William Dawes from Grenville's The Lieutenant.

Jan 3, 2011, 12:33am

Happy New Year Wookie, found you and pinned a little star to your thread :)

Jan 3, 2011, 1:07am

Hi everyone, and a Happy New Year! Still yet to finish a book this year, but it's early days as yet. :) I am very much enjoying my current read - Missus by Ruth Park - but won't be finishing for a few days.

#15> Judy, I'll have to check out The Body in the Clouds, I'm always rather fond of real life characters appearing in fiction, and it'll be very interesting having the same person in two books! (And I must read Grenville. I'm bad.)

Jan 3, 2011, 8:48pm

1. Missus, Ruth Park

Was unexpectedly given some reading time one morning over the Christmas break (Miss Boo opted for a cafe outing after a nice rummage around the local junk shop looking for stuff for arts & crafts). And I hadn't put my current read in my bag! And there were no newspapers at the newsagency!! The HORROR!!!

Luckily the cafe has a free books shelf, and they're happy for books to go wandering so long as they get replaced (and they know I'm good for replacing books), so I got stuck into Missus by Ruth Park, a well loved Australian author who died late in 2010. Most of us read her Muddle Headed Wombat books as children, graduated to Playing Beattie Bow as teenagers, and then moved on to The Harp in the South as adults.

Most of us. I failed on that final step, meaning that The Harp in the South (and its sequel, Poor Man's Orange and prequel Missus) has been on my "really must read" for the longest time. So I was very happy to have the first book of the trilogy land in my lap. And it turned out to be an excellent read.

It's a story of Irish families in Australia in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some of them fled the famine (I assume it's the potato famine), some of them fled unliveable situations and family, some of them just came out looking for a better life. This is a character book, and is less about having a complex multilayered plot, than having believable characters muddle along through their lives like we all do.

It's hard to pick a favourite character out of them all, but the interaction between Josie and her sister Margaret was my favourite. Josie is a clever young woman, forever being mean to her silly romantic older sister, and most of her life is spent trying to best Margaret somehow. Josie's development over the book as she faces her own disappointments is a very interesting read.

For a book without a whole lot of plot (and I'm a sucker for multilayered complex plots), I really enjoyed it and I will be tracking down the full trilogy.


Jan 4, 2011, 8:40am

Haha! I have a book of King's short stories that stays in my car all the time for JUST THIS SITUATION. In fact, I bought it at a drugstore when I found myself in a similar situation and three years later I haven't finished it - it is /strictly/ for emergencies.

Glad the cafe managed to save you! Even better that it was actually a good book - when I'm desperate, I'll read just about anything!

Jan 5, 2011, 3:15am

I have a bit of "magical thinking" about these sorts of situations, too. If I don't have a book, then of course I'll end up in a situation where I'll *need* a book! And since I don't want to be waiting by a broken down car in the evenings when I need to pick up the kids, or be waiting at the hospital while they get suspected fractures x-rayed, etc, I always carry a book. And the car is yet to break down, and the kids haven't needed an x-ray yet. So obviously carrying a book has prevented those two scenarios from happening.

Is there anything books can't do? ;)

Jan 5, 2011, 3:23am


They can't read themselves . . . .

Jan 10, 2011, 12:12am

#20 LOL Must remember to leave a back-up book in the car...

Edited: Jan 10, 2011, 12:59am

2. Dog Boy, Eva Hornung.

Review and rating to come - we're still discussing this in my bookgroup and I haven't quite made up my mind yet.

Jan 12, 2011, 6:30am

3. The Invention of Curried Sausage, Uwe Timm

Funnily enough, The Invention of Curried Sausage is about the invention of curried sausage, much to the amusement of my friends who saw the title of the book I was reading. A man, Uwe Timm, searches for the history of the invention of curried sausage, a popular German fast food (basically, sliced sausages fried up with ketchup and curry spices), by revisiting an old acquaintance, Mrs Brücker. Mrs Brücker used to cook curried sausages for him at a street stall in Hamburg, and as part of discovering the history of this dish, Timm also finds about her life towards the end of World War 2.

It was a charmingly quirky read, although at times slightly bittersweet, which is only understandable given when and where it was set. There were some nice nods to the artificiality of books: when Timm keeps on trying to second guess when Mrs Brücker did actually invent curried sausage, she replies "things are only that simple in novels". Mrs Brücker proves to be a great storyteller, and like many of my favourite storytellers, is rather creative with the truth, from the very start of the book.

My favourite bit of this book is an extended description of a barter process, whereby the post-war economy of Hamburg putters along quite nicely, with unwanted goods being swapped for wanted goods and skills, and cigarettes are the basis of it all.


Jan 12, 2011, 7:10am

I think that book wins the prize on original premise and great title! My BF loves curried sausage, so maybe he should read it ;).

Jan 12, 2011, 7:46am

Hi Wookie- I've had Dog Boy in the stacks for awhile now! I've heard good things.
Has the flooding down there, affected your area?

Jan 12, 2011, 8:34am

I want to read #3 now. And I want to eat currywurst now. Sounds so gross, tastes so yum.

Jan 12, 2011, 8:46am

I want to eat currywurst too, well a non meaty Quorn version. Ahem. Great review too, adding to tbr.

Jan 12, 2011, 5:51pm

#25> Yes, he should. It was a good (and quite short!) read.

#26> Hi Mark, I think I liked Dog Boy. I shall write my review soonish (we're still discussing it; although the floods have derailed a number of members from being able to get online or even having time/inclination for such a trivial pursuit). I'm well away from the floods, although my MIL was preparing for evacuation (but the levies held in her town). I have friends in Brisbane, all have been checked with, and all are perfectly fine. Thanks for asking, we're all a quite worried/obsessed about it right now.

#27 & #28> It does sound gross, but if I'm ever in Germany, I shall have to track some down! I'd never even heard of such a dish before (which probably explains all my local friends going "curried sausage????" when I was reading it).

Jan 13, 2011, 4:47am

4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling

Just finished reading this one to Mr Bear (we started back in Nov 2010!) and it was an excellent read, as always. We're going to start Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire next time I get to read to him.


Jan 13, 2011, 9:38am

I have a reread of the whole Harry Potter series planned for this year. I read the first four in one week back in.... 2000 or so, and reread them when the fifth came out. Then I just read the others when they came out, but I'd like a back to back read... But just reading for myself...

Jan 13, 2011, 6:28pm

I've been meaning to re-read Harry Potter for the longest time: I used to re-read it about once a year or so. But all the new books clogging my house ever since I because a LT addict means that I haven't been able to justify a re-read, since I have to keep on reading the new, highly recommended stuff (oh the pain, the pain ;).

Reading them to Mr Bear is a great way around this: I'm loving introducing him to the books (he knows the Lego Playstation game, which is what started this whole craze, has most of the Lego sets, and has seen the first three movies, so he's quite familiar with the earlier stories and setting), and I get to re-read them myself! (Very, very slowly, it must be admitted.)

Jan 13, 2011, 8:13pm

wookie, I really liked Dog Boy when I read it last year. It was horrific yet somehow sweet at the same time.

I looked for The Invention of Curried Sausages a while back, but was unable to find a copy through the library. I might just have to try again.

Jan 13, 2011, 10:48pm

judylou, I think I switched off emotionally for Dog Boy at the start, and that of course lessened the impact of the story. (Dagnabbit.) And I think it had a slow beginning. But by the end I was hooked on the story (although still withholding any emotional commitment), and it was fascinating. I'll write my review soon, discussion has pretty much stopped as a number of members are dealing with the floods.

I got my copy of Curried Sausage through bookcrossing, it's obviously an American edition. Bookmooch, maybe? (Although it does "cost" more if they're posting from OS, but sometimes I'm lucky with books that aren't available in Australia.)

Jan 14, 2011, 2:32am

I started reading the Harry Potter series for the first time towards the end of last year and plan to finish it over the next month or two. I'm about 2/3rds through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbakan at the moment and enjoying it thoroughly.

Jan 14, 2011, 5:51am

Same here with not being able to justify most rereads because of a combined LT and book buying addiction, but this year we need to watch our finances a lot better, so no more book buying trips to England until my BF finds a job. So it's the TBR pile and rereads for me this year. I am looking forward to it. :-)

Jan 14, 2011, 7:03am

#35> I can't believe it's your first time! It's such good fun, I got addicted to Harry (and Ron and Hermoine) very early.

#36> Oh, it's great spending time whittling down the TBR pile! I did a bit of that last year, and it was wonderful finally getting to some very old books on my shelves. Have fun!

Jan 14, 2011, 7:04am

5. The Long Song, Andrea Levy

The Long Song is a novel about slavery in Jamaica, on the sugar plantations. While there is pain in some of the stories related (as one would expect of a novel involving slavery), it's actually much more amusing than one would expect. This is thanks, in no small part, to the voice of the narrator, Miss July, who was born a slave on a plantation and who becomes a free woman after slavery is abolished. Miss July is cheeky and intelligent, talks directly to the reader, gives us several versions of stories before settling on the "true" one (talk about an unreliable narrator!), and refuses at times to dwell overly long on misery and despair.

But the story is at times heartbreakingly sad, and Miss July is avoiding some of her tale not just to spare our sensibilities, but to avoid having to relieve it herself.

It's not a perfect book. I swear some sentences made no sense, even on third and fourth readings, and it's not due to Miss July's voice, but to some overly long and complex sentences where I'd forgotten where we were at the start by the time I got to the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story, and liked Miss July as a character very much, she really brought it all to life.


Jan 14, 2011, 5:45pm

Wookie- Good review! I loved Small Island and grabbed a copy of this one too! I hope to get to it, in the next couple of months.

Jan 14, 2011, 8:47pm

Thanks Mark! It's not as good as Small Island (a very hard act to follow), but the story is great, and Miss July is a wonderful narrator.

Jan 14, 2011, 10:53pm

wookie, I also read The Long Song and agree it is not quite as good as Small Island. But it is still a beautiful story and like you, I thought Miss July was a wonderful character.

Jan 19, 2011, 3:46am

6. Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly

I was chuffed to find Revolution in a local bookshop, after hearing it get some rave reviews on LibraryThing (so often, wonderful books are recommended there, but are unavailable in Australia).

It's about Andi, who lives a privileged life in New York (wealthy and very talented parents, the best schools, etc), but whose life is falling apart. Her father takes her with him to Paris so she can focus on her studies before she's thrown out of school. (Yeah, I would have slacked off at school if it meant I got taken to Paris too!) The set up of her story took about 100 pages with a slow unfolding of her life and her back story, which would be quite ridiculous only I was fascinated. The slow reveal of her issues had me hooked.

The characters in this book were excellent, well rounded and interesting. From her father failing at parenting (but winning a Nobel prize), her best friend Vijay going all out to get into Harvard, and Alex's tale from the French Revolution, I was engrossed in all their tales. So much so that I ended up staying up very late, unable to put this book down, desperate to know how it all ended.

What I disliked about it was an over-reliance on romance, never a favourite genre of mine. I should have been warned by the back cover which says (in part) "an evocative portrait of lives torn apart by grief and mended by love". Mended by love. There should have been warning bells going off in my head. But, luckily for spoiler-phobic me, I did not read the back cover. It's also filled with spoilers, and positively gushes. I wouldn't have even picked up this book if I'd seen the back cover first!

Overall, Revolution was an excellent and thrilling YA read. And not fantasy. I was rather shocked when I started reading it to realise I wasn't reading a fantasy novel! I guess young adults occasionally like to read something with a bit more of a basis in reality. :)


Jan 19, 2011, 6:42am

Wookie- Good review! I'm so glad you are now a fan. Now, you can convert some folks down under! I'm getting pumped about Fantasy February!!

Jan 19, 2011, 8:27am

Gosh, what a pretty cover, too!

Jan 19, 2011, 4:58pm

#43> Thanks for the initial recommendation, Mark! It was a great fun read, I like a good page turner!

#44> Call me shallow, but I prefer my books to have nice covers. Last year I bought myself a complete set of Jane Austen books because I liked the covers. (And, hey, I needed a set...) Mostly, I prefer my books in series to have *consistent* covers. I'm slightly peeved that the Maisy Dobbs I bought last year has a cover which doesn't match any of the sequels! Dagnabbit.

Jan 19, 2011, 7:37pm

Oooh, me too! Inconsistent covers drive me BONKERS. I bought the first 4 Harry Potters on sale in Scotland while studying abroad there-- and then was forced to order every subsequent book from Amazon.ca! I think I had a friend studying in France buy me one copy and ship it to me, even.

Jan 19, 2011, 11:25pm

I've gritted my teeth and borne the horror of mismatched covers. I bought the original Thursday Next series with nice cheerful covers, and then they changed to different format. Now I have to buy the later books in the new format, but I don't want to give up my original copies!

My copy of The Eyre Affair:

Now there's a good looking dodo! (Speaking of which, there's a cafe opening up near me called Pickwick's and it's got a dodo for a logo! I squealed when I first saw it, call me a sad fangirl.)

And Maisie Dobbs, I've just accepted they're going to be wonky looking on my shelves. Hopefully I'll buy all of the Amelia Peabody books before they change covers on me!!

Jan 20, 2011, 7:21am

oo count me in. I hate it when they change the covers half way through a series, it drives me mad. It looks so wrong on the shelf.

Jan 20, 2011, 8:09am

>47 wookiebender:: wookiebender, we have our very own dodo sitting on our side verandah, and of course his name is Pickwick! :-)

I'll see if I can post a photo later sometime - right now it's dark outside . . .

Jan 20, 2011, 5:55pm

I'm waiting with bated breath for a dodo photo!!

Jan 20, 2011, 6:23pm

I bought the same book 3 times all with diffirent covers.

Jan 20, 2011, 6:43pm

I bought the same book 3 times all with diffirent covers.

Oh my! I haven't gone that far, although I have been known to spend inordinate amounts of time trawling second hand bookshops looking for the exact edition of a book to fit the set. (One of my childhood Narnia books went missing. They all have the same lovely covers, except Prince Caspian. Which has a lovely cover too, but it's *wrong*. Still haven't found the correct cover...)

Jan 20, 2011, 8:08pm

Hi Wookie! Some great reads here, including the ROL with Mr. Bear ( I love Potter!). The talk about mismatched book covers made me laugh. That is totally a pet peeve of mine! We'll see how many I have when I get to take my books out of boxes and finally put them in shelves. They are ordered and should be ready in a few weeks!! Hurray!

Jan 21, 2011, 12:46am

The syncronicity (is that a word?) of the universe astounds me: I just finished my first read of Jane Eyre, thinking all the time about Thursday and the code word to get out of the book, and here you all are, talking about Jasper Fforde and Pickwick.

Jan 21, 2011, 1:00am

And I think you're also going to see a cluster of "Wooster and Jeeves" comments too. There's at least two people reading them in this group this year, and next time I'm at my parents' place, I'm going to have to borrow some of Dad's copies of the books...

Jan 21, 2011, 6:08am

>55 wookiebender: hehe I've noticed several of us are 'parallel' reading... Harry Potter, Jeeves, Fire and Ice... it's a good thing, yes?

Jan 21, 2011, 2:10pm

I've got 5 Wodehouses ready to go on the trusty Kindle as soon as the proper mood strikes. And I'm sure we all affect each other's reading choices- I decided on a Jeeves/Wooster re-read after reading several reviews on here.

Jan 21, 2011, 10:09pm

7. What Would Jane Austen Do?, Laurie Brown

At the library the other day my eye was caught by the title What Would Jane Austen Do?. The ripped manly torso on the cover confirmed that this would not be high art. And it's not, mostly just a bog standard Mills & Boon romance, with time travel and ghosts thrown in for confusion.

Eleanor is an American in England for a Jane Austen convention, hoping to kickstart her costume design business. Her first night in an old manor converted into a hotel, the ghosts of two sisters appear and persuade her to travel back in time to stop the dastardly Lord Shermont from seducing one of them and killing their beloved brother in a duel. In return, they will introduce her to Miss Jane Austen. But when Eleanor appears back in Regency England, she finds herself falling for the dashing and handsome Lord Shermont.

And vice versa, so it's all very transparent and obvious where it's going to go. (But I think most readers of Mills & Boon style romances don't particularly want to be surprised.) Ms Brown throws in some plot about espionage (selling England's secrets to Napolean; and because Eleanor is American, she comes in for some suspicion as America is also at war with Britain at this time), but it's all fairly haphazard and lackadaisical, and gets in the way of what most readers of romance want: lots of hot sex. And, because of the title of this book: Jane Austen, who barely gets a look-in.

I've dipped my toes in the waters of Regency romances a few times, and have often been pleasantly surprised by their charm (and the amount of sex some authors manage to squeeze into a period most people know through Jane Austen novels, where sex is hardly obvious). This one, however, wasn't the best of the crop, with its confusing and strange plot, and obvious romance.

But the title! The cover! Still giving me the giggles.


Jan 22, 2011, 12:18am

>50 wookiebender:: It's coming, it's coming. :-)

Had a trip to the big smoke yesterday so off very early and back late. The portrait has been taken - now I just have to work out how to get it to show up here.

Watch this space . . .

Edited: Jan 22, 2011, 1:30am

Here he is...

The beak isn't quite right, but the body is pretty good.

Jan 22, 2011, 1:47am

Oh, he is a cutie! (Or is he like Pickwick, and really a she?) Looking at dodo pictures, the beak does need to be a bit curved, but apart from that, looking good!

I do want a dodo. I think the cats might be unimpressed, however.

Jan 22, 2011, 2:07am

That Dodo is really awesome. Love it, makes my pink Flamingos look lame.

Jan 22, 2011, 3:13am

Thanks. He was made by a guy who lives in the next village and makes the most amazing creatures from 'junk' metal.

And he is definitely a he... but I still just had to call him Pickwick. :-)

Jan 22, 2011, 6:26am

Love it!

Jan 22, 2011, 8:18am

Loved your review of What Would Jane Austen Do?. That cover is indeed striking :) And the dodo ... marvelous!

Jan 22, 2011, 9:20am

Love the dodo!

Jan 23, 2011, 4:47am

#65> Thanks! The cover also got a great reaction from my husband, when I waved it under his nose. :) It's not my usual book, maybe I should have been more forgiving. (But. I think one should be able to expect decent plotting from a "mere" romance.)

Jan 23, 2011, 8:05am

Wookie- I'm not sure if you watch a lot of films but I watched one last night, I can recommend. It's called "Animal Kingdom". An Aussie family crime drama, with Guy Pierce. Very good stuff!

Jan 23, 2011, 3:23pm

What Would Jane Austen Do? looks and sounds hysterical. I think I'll pass on reading it, though. Not my cuppa.

Love the Pickwicks. Now I want one of my own. (I wonder what Nickel the African Grey parrot would say about having a dodo in the flock, though.)

Jan 23, 2011, 6:25pm

#68> Hi Mark! I have seen "Animal Kingdom", it was *marvellous*. Although terrifying at the same time. Definitely one of the best Aussie movies to come out in recent memory, I'm glad I saw it on the big screen. (I do *try* to support the local industry with what free movie time I have...)

Oh, and last year you were talking about "True Grit", which is opening here this week. Looking forward to it!

#69> I'm sure Nickel would remain boss of the flock. Can't see those Pickwicks having much of a chance at fighting back!

We got two kittens this month - Pippi and Sweet Pea - and our old cat had her nose out of joint. For about a day, and now she's romping and chasing and being silly with them. She's fine sharing her food and water too! Such a good cat.

Jan 23, 2011, 6:40pm

>70 wookiebender:: aww, that's good news about the old cat and the new cats!

Jan 23, 2011, 7:47pm

Well, Porchie *was* used to sharing with younger sillier cats - she was what we refer to as a "troubled teen", and had a litter when she was still pretty young; we kept two of those kittens, but unfortunately lost them both to cars over the last year. (*sniff* We loved our ginger boys, Little Jim and Jimbo.)

These kittens are rescue kittens from the local vet. They're sweet little tabbies, both girls, and Porchie treats them better than she did her own kittens! Possibly because they are far less demanding of her.

We had a friend over yesterday with her daughter who's Miss Boo's age (heading rapidly towards six). I had to rescue Pippi who is *very* good with the kids and because of that, she managed to be dressed in one of Miss Boo's skirts and a necklace. Poor cat! Sweet Pea was sensible and refused to come out from under the TV cabinet until they'd all left.

Jan 24, 2011, 6:31am

8. The Lost Dog, Michelle de Kretser

Tom Loxley has gotten away from the city, staying at a friend's house in the bush, in order to finish writing his book on Henry James. On his last morning there, while untying his dog, a wallaby bounds past, and the dog follows.

Tom swooped for the rope, and clawed at air. On the hillside above the track, the dog was swallowed by leaves.

In that one moment, a whole train of events is uncovered. Tom is trying to search for his dog, deal with his ageing and needy mother Iris, and her fraught relationship with her sister in law Audrey. At the same time, we also are learning the story of Nelly Zhang, Tom's friend who owns the house in the bush, and who is a talented artist.

It was quite a lyrical, poetical read. I often had to re-read sentences - not sure if this was because I just wasn't getting them (I'm a straightforward sort of person, poetry can confuse me), or if she was deliberately writing with a certain ambiguity, forcing me to re-read sentences and wonder just which way they should parse...

The language is like her characters, who are multifaceted, complex beings, hard to pin down to a particular reading at times. Nelly in particular plays with the idea of being Chinese, emphasising her asian heritage almost to the point sometimes of parody, disconcerting Tom. Tom himself is Eurasian - his mother is Indian - but has westernised himself to the point of being a academic studying Henry James.

Also grotesquely fascinating to me (because I have met many of these in my life) is Audrey, Tom's aunt. Tom's father Arthur dies soon after they move to Australia, and Tom and Iris end up living in the annex of Audrey (Arthur's younger sister) for many years.

Audrey was always quick to extend what she called a helping hand; and, finding it grasped, to detect exploitation. Muggins here; a soft touch: so she described herself. Debit and credit were computed with decimal precision, each benign gesture incurring a debt of gratitude that could never be paid in full.

de Kretser has captured the beauty and the terror of the Australian bush, but has also captured the (almost unnamed) city of Melbourne as well. And there's one scathing but bitchily brilliant scene with Tom sitting around with other academics to choose a shortlist of people to interview for an upcoming position. Tom doesn't come out glowing either, on his personal shortlist is the as-yet-unpublished student of a highly regarded Jamesian scholar, and he's hoping for a quote from this scholar to adorn his new book.

The plot of The Lost Dog could be quite hard to pin down at times, since it jumps around in time and locale. It's part of the multilayered and slow reveal of all the plot elements, but at times I just felt plain lost myself, much like the eponymous and unnamed dog.

I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of this dense, but marvellous, book.


Jan 24, 2011, 7:22am

@73 From the quote looks like a interesting style, I think I would need to be quite awake before I tried reading somethign like that. It's nice to have to work at a book occasionally though.. keeps the brain cells busy :)

Jan 24, 2011, 6:24pm

Yes, it would have been a better book if I'd been that bit more awake, and if the weather hadn't been quite so hot! It's set during winter, and it would have been a good winter read, experiencing the gloom both in the book and outside in the world!

Especially if one was in Melbourne, which during winter can be quite cold and gloomy (for an Australian city!). (And don't get me wrong, I love Melbourne, I think it's a great vibrant city, I love its twinkly shop windows on cold winter days. I'd move there, only I love Sydney more. :)

Jan 25, 2011, 6:19am

9. The Third Man and The Fallen Idol, Graham Greene

Apparently everyone knows the plot of The Third Man. Because the first sentence of the introduction of this book gave away the very ending, without any warning that those who did not know the ending may wish to skip the introduction.

Why, oh why, do I read introductions? Have I not realised the folly yet?

Anyhow, being obviously the one person on this earth who has neither read The Third Man nor seen the movie (a shocking dereliction of my movie-going duty, I admit), I could have done without the major spoiler. Trying to ignore knowing how the story was going to end was trying to ignore the elephant in the room.

It's a very dark little tale, and even though written as a film treatment, comes across as quite literary. It's well worth a read, and Greene's preface highlights the differences between the movie and the novella.

The second novella in this volume is The Fallen Idol, which was originally published as The Basement Room, but adapted as the movie "The Fallen Idol" and this is the name that has now stuck to the story.

It's another dark tale, this time about a young boy who is left alone in his big family house with only the butler and his wife to care for him (he is conveniently between nurses). In a very short space of time, Phillip is dragged into events beyond his knowledge and years.

Again, well worth a read. I don't often read short stories (I like the investment in time that a larger novel allows), but a well crafted short story that can convey so much in so little time like The Fallen Idol makes me think I should read more short stories.


Edited: Jan 28, 2011, 6:52pm

#24 - The Invention of Curried Sausage - This is a 1001 book, isn't it? It's one of those books that intrigues me just from the title. I've never seen a copy in any of my wanderings though. Is it worth hunting down a copy, or should I wait until one falls in my lap?

edited to say that I've never heard of curried sausage other than in this title. I sometimes like sausage (if it's not too fatty or oozy), and I almost always like curry, but I can't picture them together. I guess I need me some gourmet educatin'

Jan 28, 2011, 6:55pm

I was chuffed to find Revolution in a local bookshop, after hearing it get some rave reviews on LibraryThing (so often, wonderful books are recommended there, but are unavailable in Australia).

Ah, yes, but there's always Bookdepository.com, and their prices are usually so good too. I just put in yet another order today.

Jan 28, 2011, 7:01pm

Add me to the group that is super picky about covers! For years I've been looking for a certain edition of Passage to India to match my set, and also a certain edition of Virginia Woolf's Night and Day that matches one of my VW sets (I own multiples of multiples of hers).

And I'm holding off on ordering Lost Dog because I like the cover you have so much better than the one available at book depository or Amazon.ca. Grrr.

Jan 30, 2011, 11:11pm

Hi Joyce! Yes, The Invention of Curried Sausage is a "1001" title (otherwise I may never have heard of it/found it!). I did enjoy it and would recommend it. (Although you're probably like me, and already have 100 or so unread "1001" titles in the house, and don't really need to go out searching for the more obscure titles. :)

And I avoid "The Book Depository". I have more than enough books to go on with, and I like supporting my local independent bookshop(s), with their emphasis on Australian authors and informative staff. And I'm into instantaneous gratification - I want to hold my new book! NOW! (But, yes, I have a long wishlist there of books I cannot get easily here. One day, I shall break down and go shopping...)

Speaking of covers, check out these gorgeous new Kafka covers (thanks to the Literary Snobs for the link): http://jacketmechanical.blogspot.com/2011/01/kafka.html

Yum, I want.

Feb 2, 2011, 4:25am

10. The Idea of Perfection, Kate Grenville

"An arch is two weaknesses which together make a strength." -- Leonardo da Vinci

This book about lost souls starts with that marvellous quote from da Vinci, which sums up the book remarkably well, really. We have Douglas Cheeseman, an engineer and self-confessed "bridge bore" (the structural sort of bridge, not the game sort of bridge), who just doesn't seem to fit in life. He's shy and socially awkward, and lacks self confidence. And then there's Harley Savage, who, much like Douglas, is socially awkward, unable to be comfortable around other people. She's in the small town of Karakarook to help set up a heritage museum; he's in town to pull down the old wooden Bent Bridge and build a new concrete one.

And then there's Karakarook, and all the small town people who live there. Grenville's done a wonderful job of capturing the smallness of Karakarook, where everyone knows everything. But it's not an oppressive small town for most of the characters, it's actually a welcoming and comfortable place, even if our two city characters find it all a bit confusing, having strange people genuinely asking after your health and expecting conversations.

And then there's Felicity Porcelline. Wife of the bank manager, mother to William, and complete control freak. She doesn't allow herself to smile, as that might cause wrinkles, and is terrifyingly organised. Felicity was a fascinating character: while I could relate to both Harley and Douglas (I'm happy to be bored about bridges any day), Felicity had me gobsmacked, but reading on avidly for her next chapter.

Kate Grenville does a great job with the plot, her characters, and her setting. This is a great book, well worth a read.


Feb 2, 2011, 6:45am

That's one of my all-time favorites. I'm really glad you enjoyed it!

Feb 2, 2011, 9:06am

I really enjoyed that book as well!

Feb 2, 2011, 10:32am

Wow. Not my usual fare, but that quote paired with your review really convinced me. It sounds lovely.

Feb 2, 2011, 5:47pm

#82 & #83> It did come with a lot of recommendations!

#84> I hope you like it! Be warned, Felicity Porcelline is one scary character. I thought I had issues, she beats me hands down, and makes me feel perfectly normal. But I was also quite sympathetic to her, she's not a witch, she's just in the wrong place. (Although where her right place would be has me stumped.)

Feb 3, 2011, 3:28am

Maybe in Melbourne ;0) ??

Feb 3, 2011, 5:58pm

#86> I am laughing, Judy, but I do have to say that my friends from Melbourne managed to escape turning into that scary persona. (Although one or two of their mothers...)

Unfortunately, we probably have just as many Felicity Porcellines in Sydney. There are some scary women over there in the eastern suburbs.

Feb 4, 2011, 6:50pm

11. The Help, Kathryn Stockett

This story of racial segregation in Mississippi in the early 1960s, with a backdrop of the civil rights movement, is told by three different women: Aibileen and Minny, two black maids; and Skeeter, a young white woman. We slowly find out the stories behind the maids, and many other maids in town, as at the same time we get to see how Skeeter's life develops. And behind it all the oppression and fear that led to the civil rights movement.

My main worry going into this is that it was written by a white woman, but would have passages written from the point of view of the two black characters. But she did win me over, because her characters were human, and I got caught up in their fight for their own rights and stories. (And, funnily enough, the one passage that did not ring true to me was the one written in third person, at the highly anticipated Jackson Junior League Annual Ball and Benefit.) Many of the maids' stories are sad, but some of the stories are positive, with the maids having a close relationship with their families.

Minny has difficulties keeping a job, given her inability to talk nicely to her white employers, but she usually manages something because she's one of the best cooks around. Aibileen has raised countless children for other people, but moves on once the children reach a certain age.

It was an eye-opener for me, who has never had someone so much as come through and clean my house for me. These southern families insist on having a maid to do the work (given the descriptions of the heat in Mississippi, I don't really blame them however), and the maids are so much in their homes and lives that they know everything, but are always "the help", rarely a real member of the family.

At the end of the book there is a short essay, "Too Little, Too Late" by Kathryn Stockett, talking about her own relationship with her own maid, Demetrie. I wish this had been at the front of the book, it would have given me more of a context of the story and the author. She quotes Howell Raines:

There is no trickier subject for a writer from the South than that of affection between a black person and a white one in the unequal world of segregation. For the dishonesty upon which a society is founded makes every emotion suspect, makes it impossible to know whether what flowed between two people was honest feeling or pity or pragmatism.

That summed up my worries going in, and dispelled any niggling doubts at the end. Stockett knew what she was doing, and that it is a nigh-on impossible task to understand the true feelings of everyone in this situation. So I wish that this had been at the front, and soothed my worries right from the beginning.


One thing I particularly liked was that so often in fiction the oppressed characters are liberated by someone from outside, and this could have easily gone that way with Skeeter showing the maids how they are oppressed and how they should fight back. But the author is too clever for that: the maids know they are oppressed, and it's more about how they help Skeeter escape, while managing their own fight.



Feb 4, 2011, 6:59pm

12. The Middleman: The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse, Javier Grillo-Marxuach

A fun graphic novel, following on from the sadly short-lived TV series ("The Middleman"), which was itself based on "The Middleman" graphic novel by Javier Grillo-Marxuach. So this is different to the original comic series, characters have been tweaked to fit the TV show, and the plot continues on from the end of the TV series.

It was a great ending to the TV series, although I would, of course, have preferred another season of the show. I miss Wendy Watson.


Feb 4, 2011, 7:16pm

Wookie- Loved your review of The Help. I'm a big fan of it too. I listened to it on audio and they did a fantastic job, using different narrators for the main characters.

Feb 4, 2011, 8:13pm

Mark, I think that would definitely be the way to do it, with different narrators! They were such distinct voices in the book, having different actors would do it the most justice. It was a very good read, I can also see it working well on audio. (Or as a movie. I bet it's been picked up for adaptation already! Well, whaddya know: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1454029/ Can't say I'm altogether happy with Minny & Aibileen being that far down in the cast list, looks as if they've changed focus. I can understand some trimming of the plot for it to work as a movie, but I'm not sure they've trimmed the right bits. Still, Allison Janey as Skeeter's mother! Love her.)

Feb 5, 2011, 2:25am

I've had that one on my wishlist for so long . . . . I really must chase it up soon.

Feb 5, 2011, 4:36am

The Help was a book that I would never have picked up, but so many people recommended it to me, I did. And I am so glad I did. You wrote a very good review, putting into words what I was also thinking.

Feb 5, 2011, 6:33am

88> that's a great quote from Howell Raines! And I'll definitely look this book up. As a teacher in a school with a significant minority population, I'm constantly on guard with my language, attitude and action. I generally have very good relationships with my minority kids... but I DO sometimes wonder.

Feb 5, 2011, 7:00pm

#92> JudyLou, I think you'd really like the book!

#93> Nanny, thanks for your comments. I probably wouldn't have looked twice at it either, had it not been for all the favourable comments here (and in my bookgroup).

#94> I did love the quote too. It really summed up quite succinctly what I couldn't even work out what made me slightly uncomfortable about the idea of a white woman writing black women's stories. And, of course, Kathryn Stockett herself acknowledges that too.

Feb 7, 2011, 5:17am

13. Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman

This is the first volume of the very well regarded "Sandman" series by Neil Gaiman. I first came across Gaiman many years ago when I read Good Omens, which of course I picked up because it was co-authored by Terry Pratchett. And then instantly went hunting for more Gaiman stories, because I thought Good Omens was possibly the best Pratchett I'd ever read, and I had a sneaking suspicion that this Gaiman fellow might be the reason why... Anyway, it was a fruitless search, because this was before the internet had really taken off (before Google!) and I never even thought to look at comics!

A friend took pity on me, and lent me a number of his "Sandman" novels, and lo and behold, I became a graphic novel reader. And it's a rare graphic novel that has beaten the "Sandman" series.

Preludes and Nocturnes is a slightly awkward start to the series, where Gaiman and the other artists are still finding their feet with the story and art, but it's a good solid introduction to the characters and is worth reading first for that alone. I didn't feel it started to shine until the final story (a little epilogue between Dream & Death), but it was fascinating seeing it start to come together. Since I know I like the rest of the series (having read most of them many years ago), I'll be continuing very happily on this long overdue re-read of the series.


Feb 7, 2011, 10:59am

Death is easily my favorite Endless!

Feb 7, 2011, 6:12pm

"Peachy keen!" Death is delightful (what a funny phrase), Dream is a great character, all the other Endless are just a tad terrifying, from memory.

(I also loved Pratchett's Death. "I COULD MURDER A CURRY." Cracks me up every time.)

Feb 9, 2011, 4:12am

>96 wookiebender: This has been on my list since last year, I've only read Coraline and Death: The High Cost of Living, both of which I enjoyed. I have to get a scurry on and start reading this series.

Feb 13, 2011, 4:51am

14. An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears

This dense Roshomon-style book takes place during 17th century England, a country recently torn apart by religious squabbles and revolution. The King (Charles II) is back on throne, Restoration has occurred, but many people's lives are still in uproar and the religious squabbles will continue for some time.

In the middle of all this drama, a young Venetian gentleman, Marco da Cola, appears in Oxford, chasing up some business interests of his father's. He also has a personal interest in medicine (or physic, as they call it), and falls in with the intelligentsia of the day in Oxford. These intelligentsia are all real personages, although I recognised only one name, John Locke. (My edition had a nice little "Dramatis Personae" at the end of the book which helped explain who's who, but it isn't essential knowledge for the book.)

da Cola writes a brief memoir of his time in Oxford, and some of the other characters involved question his take on what happened, and write their own description of the time. These vary widely, both in what they reported happening (they all have different interests and were in different places), and how they interpret what happened. At one stage, I was quite confused with all the different stories, but by the end it all came together into a masterful, coherent and highly satisfactory story.

Very few of the characters are particularly likeable, which added to the difficulty level of the book (I just wanted to reach in and *slap* them), not to mention the archaic scientific theory and its intertwining with theology. But it was well worth the effort in the end.


Edited: Feb 13, 2011, 5:28am

15. The Small Hand, Susan Hill

One day, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow is lost on his way home to London after visiting a client. He finds an old derelict forgotten house, The White House, and while he is there, he feels a small child's hand hold his. Thus starts this atmospheric ghost story.

I read most of this book during the day because I didn't want to get too spooked reading it at night. While I regret the lack of atmosphere a dark and chilly night would have brought to the tale, I'm also glad I read it this way, because I've got a better chance of getting to sleep tonight. (I'm a sucker for a ghost story.)

And it's also whet my appetite for more "classic" style ghost stories, after the slightly disappointing The Little Stranger (not spooky enough), and I might have to track down a copy of The Turn of the Screw soon...


Feb 13, 2011, 9:50am

I started reading An Instance of the Fingerpost and put it down for some reason. I have to pick it up again and read it.

Feb 13, 2011, 10:03am

I too have a copy of An Instance of the Fingerpost that I picked up somewhere... I'll insert it into my TBR pile ;-)

Feb 13, 2011, 4:29pm

Definitely wishlisted The Small Hand - sounds right up my alley!

Feb 13, 2011, 5:21pm

An Instance of the Fingerpost sounds fantastic - you had me at "Rashomon-style". Sold!

Feb 13, 2011, 7:44pm

Yes, you should all read An Instance of the Fingerpost!

Aerrin, Susan Hill has got a few other ghost-y type stories, I'm going to have to track them down at some stage.

Feb 14, 2011, 7:17am

I keep meaning to try Susan Hill.. is that one a good place to start?

Feb 14, 2011, 4:21pm

Well, it's the first Susan Hill that I've read (although I've got The Various Haunts of Men on Mt TBR, and I've been eyeing off Howards End is on the Landing at the bookshop for the longest time). She seems to have quite a range of books, and you couldn't do any harm starting with this one, if you like ghost stories.

Feb 18, 2011, 4:22am

16. The Hours, Michael Cunningham

Where to start with this marvellous book? It's the tale of three women: Virginia Woolf, trying to write her masterpiece Mrs Dalloway in the 1920s; Laura Brown, who is trying to read Mrs Dalloway in the 1950s; and Clarissa, who is a modern day Mrs Dalloway.

Makes me think I should read Mrs Dalloway. Or actually anything by Virginia Woolf, it's been a very long time since I picked up one of her books, and Michael Cunningham's writing is so evocative of my memory of her beautiful writing that I'd love to dive back into one of her books.

I knew the basic plot of the book from seeing the movie a few years ago. But having it revealed slowly and so beautifully in the book meant that it was a revelation all over again.


Feb 18, 2011, 6:57am

Wookie- How are you stranger? I read The Hours a few years ago and enjoyed it. Have you been reading any "Fantasy"? I finally started The Name of the Wind. I think this one holds a lot of promise.

Edited: Feb 18, 2011, 7:18am

Hi Mark. I've been lurking over on your thread - life's just a bit flat out at the moment (although I'm still making time for reading!). I'm almost finished The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein which *almost* counts as fantasy :) but I'm probably moving onto Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell next. At nearly 1000 pages, I may not finish in February, but at least I'll start. :)

ETA: And, yes, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel is definitely fantasy!! Finally, I'm catching up! (But my crime pile for May Mayhem is ridiculous already...)

Feb 18, 2011, 11:28pm

17. The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, Peter Ackroyd

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is a retelling of the Frankenstein story (originally written by a very young Mary Shelley) where Victor Frankenstein makes his way to England and meets Percy Bysshe Shelley while studying at Oxford. Frankenstein (in this version, he never graduates and remains a "Mr" throughout) continues the friendship while pursuing his studies on the "electrical fluid" that he believes is essential for all life. His studies lead him, as we all know, to reanimate the dead, creating his Monster, which he then rejects.

For most of the book, I was rather restless, it stuck too closely to the original book, and I just couldn't quite see the point of the whole enterprise (why not just read the original?). I did rather like Frankenstein hanging around London with Shelley, especially from Peter Ackroyd, who seems to know everything there is to know about historical London. You get a great sense of the city and its people, especially through young Fred Shoeberry, Frankenstein's servant. But a lot of the historical details of Shelley & Mary's lives have been tweaked for this story, so it's hardly factual in that respect. (And it's also about reanimating the dead. Which is so not factual, either.)

While Ackroyd did work in some interesting characters and history, and entwined Frankenstein's life into the actual creation of the Frankenstein story by Mary Shelley, it was all a little too late. Overall, a bit of a disappointment, I've liked Peter Ackroyd much more before.


Feb 19, 2011, 9:08am

Oooh- The Hours is one of my very, very favorite books. Absolutely gorgeous, isn't it?

Feb 19, 2011, 11:28am

The Casebook sounds interesting - although I'm a little bit worried about these re-tellings of stories from other points of view, especially re-tellings of books I like. I liked Finn quite a bit, and I have Mr. Timothy hanging out on my shelves, but I'm not convinced. Do you like this sort of thing, in general? Am I missing out?

Feb 19, 2011, 5:22pm

#113> It was marvellous, a really really great read. Best of the year so far!

#114> Mr Timothy? Looking at the tags, I'm assuming that's about Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol? Could be good.

I'm not sure how many re-tellings I've read, it's definitely not a genre I actively avoid, and I really like the idea. I think I just read Casebook a bit too close to the original, and it takes took long to really differentiate itself. If it's been a while since you read Frankenstein, it's probably worth checking out. It's well written, and it does have a great feel for London (which I think is Ackroyd's expertise).

Thinking about retellings now... endless Arthurian legends when I was young :) (I do love me a good legend); The Hours is a retelling of sorts, and I just loved that one; I like modern retellings of fairy tales; but I did find Wicked annoying beyond belief. (And when I subsequently read the original, decided I liked the movie best anyhow. Call me a philistine.)

Feb 19, 2011, 6:10pm

Hi Wookie! Found you again. I loved The Hours, but then again, I also loved Wicked. In fact, I have the the third in the series, A Lion Among Men, waiting for me. I did not enjoy the second in the series as much, so who knows about the third. I am seeing the musical version of Wicked next week during my trip to NY. My kids are coming too and they are so excited!

Feb 19, 2011, 6:13pm

I also found Wicked the book annoying beyond belief, but I love the almost-totally-different Wicked the musical (so have fun, Berly! The songs are great!).

I like the Arthurian re-tellings, too. I mean like The Mists of Avalon and the Crystal Cave books and that sort of thing.

Feb 19, 2011, 6:43pm

Hi Berly! I just couldn't cope with the endless musings on evil. Bored me witless.

I haven't seen the musical (it was on in Sydney last year or so). Ticket prices were gobsmacking, and I thought I'd rather spend the money on books. (I'm stingy about everything but food and books. :)

My sister did see it (twice) and loved it, and we did get the soundtrack from the library so every now and then my iPod surprises me with one of the songs.

jfetting, I didn't much like The Mists of Avalon, but loved The Crystal Cave. And The Once and Future King. And Steinbeck's The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, which is a straightforward retelling of Malory - which I have not read - until the last part. And many other trashier retellings that have since been purged from my shelves, so I can't remember their titles. :)

Feb 19, 2011, 6:53pm

Okay, I am excited for the Wicked musical! (We are part of a tour group so the tix price wasn't so bad -- my daughter's choir is singing at Carnegie Hall.) I loved The Crystal Cave and The Once and Future King.

Feb 19, 2011, 7:35pm

Looks like I'm amongst friends here . . I also found the book Wicked wickedly dull; but the musical was wickedly wonderful!

Edited: Feb 19, 2011, 7:37pm

Berly, I'd be excited about the musical too! I hope you enjoy it, and your daughter singing at Carnegie Hall, too. That sounds like quite a buzz for her!

Feb 19, 2011, 8:06pm

Count me in the "hated the Wicked book, loved the show" camp. Have fun, Berly!

Interesting that you didn't like Mists of Avalon, wookie. Granted, I was post-partum hormonal when I read it, but it sharpened my awareness of male bias in literature and history, so I count it as one of the more influential books I've read.

Feb 19, 2011, 8:08pm

I thought I was going to love Mists of Avalon, but it just failed to hit the mark for me. So long ago, that I can't remember exactly why, but it failed enough that I have no wish to try reading it again.

Feb 19, 2011, 9:14pm

Since you're all talking about Wicked, I thought I'd jump in. I bought the book when it was first published and I knew no one who'd heard of it. I struggled through, didn't think much of it overall, but there were a few cool elements. I remember thinking there was a lot more to her society than I had ever imagined. But I won't read another one of his books. I found out a few years ago that Wicked is one of the most common books to show up in used bookstores and any said store will have more than ample copies available.

Hubby just got tickets to the play in June. Apparently he got cheap seats, or as we like to call them, "chip seats." That means you can much potato chips when you sit in those seats.

Feb 19, 2011, 10:03pm

#118> "endless musings on evil" Then don't read the Son of or Lion Among -- much more of same without what was to me at least an interesting twists in the actual story and character. I literally had to force myself to finish Lion.
I did, however, enjoy Confessions of an ugly stepsister when I read it right after Wicked (wonder if I'd feel the same now). Lost and Mirror, mirror are in one of my TBR piles.
Re: Wicked the musical, I somehow lost my desire to see it when I discovered it only covers a small portion of the story. But then, I'm just a book person at heart, versus movies/plays/etc. from books. :(

Feb 20, 2011, 12:17am

124> Joyce, my Dad is notoriously careful with his money. His greatest joy (now that he's retired) is looking through the $1 book baskets outside the front of second hand bookshops. He gets an awful lot of John Grisham. :) He's never really read crime before, but we're having fun swapping books now.

125> Thanks for the warning!

I'm okay with adaptations that aren't a literal adaptation. (Although it does always depend on a raft of factors, and I never said I was consistent.) This was probably hammered home when I saw the James Dean version of East of Eden as a star-struck teenager, and then read the book. The movie is about the last 50 pages or so of a rather long, dense (to a teenage mind) book. I though the movie was great, I found the book a struggle. After that, I decided that books don't have to be literal adaptations any more, and if a film-maker finds inspirations in only a fraction of a book, that's fine by me.

Thinking of getting back into Steinbeck this year, but thought I'd start with a short one: Of Mice and Men. Sometime soon.

Feb 20, 2011, 3:49pm

#124 Nickelini: I wasn't too impressed with Wicked either. I bought it last summer when a friend of mine insisted we go see the play. She managed to get a group of 23 of us together, so we got a good deal on tickets. The play was fun, but the book was something to get through. The version I bought also contained Son of a Witch, which was even more difficult to slug through. Altogether, it's too nihilistic for me, and I didn't care for the cherry-picking of references (much aesthetic from 1939 movie, geography from the actual books). I'd have gone in a completely different direction if I were to write a back story.

Feb 20, 2011, 5:49pm

Gosh, you know, I thought I was in the minority with Wicked! It came *so* highly recommended by a friend, that I think I did some irreparable damage to the friendship when I had to say I didn't love (or even enjoy) it.

I'm feeling somewhat better about my opinion now. :)

Feb 20, 2011, 10:18pm

I read Wicked after seeing the play with my family over Christmas break a few years back. Enjoyed the play... more so I think for the joy that my daughter took in it than anything else.

Read the book, liked it well enough, although I may not have had I not seen the play first. At any rate I've been in no hurry to pick up the sequels...

Feb 23, 2011, 5:23am

18. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling

I've been reading this one to Mr Bear for the last 6 weeks or so, and he's requested we move straight on to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix! CAPSLOCK HARRY, here we come...

I'm still enjoying the series, but having to read it to a clever Mr Bear, I am being made very aware of the flaws in the plot/world that Rowling has built. ("Why don't they just..." is a common phrase, to which there is only one answer: "Because".)

Feb 27, 2011, 7:58pm

19. Started Early, Took My Dog, Kate Atkinson

The fourth Jackson Brodie book (it's not quite a mystery series to me, it's more literary than that) has Jackson trying to mop up the mess that is his personal life, while trying to help find the biological parents of Hope McMaster, who lives in New Zealand and communicates with Jackson through email and SMS, with far too many exclamation marks. (I rather liked Hope, I tend towards too many exclamation marks myself.)

This task, of course, is far more complex than one would think it should be, and therein lies the joy of a Jackson Brodie novel: the plot strands that only the omniscient narrator can keep track of, and that somehow all tie up in the end. Well, mostly.

This time around, the ending of Started Early, Took My Dog was slightly disappointing - there was a large question mark hanging over one character/incident. (Unless I missed something.) All the other multitudinous threads were neatly tied off, however, and she did her usual trick of making me cry at the beginning of a paragraph, but be laughing by the end.


Feb 27, 2011, 8:02pm

20. Sandman: The Doll's House, Neil Gaiman

The second of the wonderful "Sandman" graphic novel series, this is much more what I was expecting in this re-read than the slightly dissatisfying first book, Preludes and Nocturnes. Morpheus is still mopping up after his enforced captivity in the first book, finding some of his dreams (and nightmares) that have left Dream and are causing havoc in the real world.


Feb 27, 2011, 10:04pm

Wookie- The 4th Jackson Brodie sounds very good. Glad you enjoyed it. I have a copy of "Doll's house" from the library. Looking forward to it.

Mar 4, 2011, 5:25am

21. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke

It is the early 1800s: King George is mad, the Prince Regent is in charge, Napoleon is taking over in Europe, and English magic is not what it once was. Truth be told, there hasn't been a practicing English magician for several centuries, they're all "theoretical" magicians now, endlessly studying and analysing what books of magic they can find. Until one day, Mr Segundus at the York society of magicians asks, why not practice magic?, and unexpectedly kickstarts the re-emergence of the practicing English magician, in the form of Mr Norrell and Mr Strange.

Clarke has built a lovely world, Regency England with magic and fairies straight from the old fairy tales. She's written innumerable scholarly footnotes, which help create her world, and they're enough to almost make you think that magic can really exist. The characters are delightful: dusty and jealous old Mr Norrell, and ambitious and arrogant Mr Strange, along with all the minor (and not so minor) characters.

For a 1000 page book, you'd possibly expect something *bigger* (in terms of plot, themes, body counts, etc), but it's pretty much just a good fun Regency-with-magic romp. Excessively charming, easy reading, but nothing earth-shattering.

It never quite became brilliant, but it was delightful and entertaining throughout.


Mar 4, 2011, 6:39am

Wookie- I'm glad you finally finished it! It does sound good! I finally knocked out My Dead Body. The last Joe Pitt. It was pretty good but the series ran out of steam in the last 2 books. Hope you are feeling better now.

Mar 4, 2011, 6:56am

Mark, don't tell me the series ran out of steam in the last 2 books! That's one of my favourite recent(ish) series! *wail*

Still not quite sure I want to finish it off and say goodbye to Joe Pitt. *sniff*

Yes, I'm feeling much better, thanks for asking! A mixture of all sorts of stresses, and my tonsils swelled up and made me all miserable for a few days. It happens, and I remember to chill out again for a while. (But I'm on a project with vague deadlines and floating goalposts - neither of which I'm happy working with, I like structure - so I reserve the right to have another attack before the end of the project.)

How funny, I was just commenting on your thread, and here you were, commenting on mine. :)

Mar 4, 2011, 7:04am

Wookie- I think that's great that you loved the last 2 Joe Pitt books. You know I'm a huge fan of Huston. I just found them to be relentlessly bleak and talky. The 1st 3 books were amazing.

Mar 4, 2011, 7:10am

I'll agree that the first three books were brilliant! I've also got his The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death which I must get to sooner rather than later...

Mar 4, 2011, 12:33pm

I feel very similarly about Strange and Norrell. I loved the world she created and was completely enthralled by the footnotes and detail, but at the end of the day nothing much happened, and it felt like it was building toward something at the end that never quite materialized.

Still, well worth the read, I think. I've been thinking about it recently because I have just finished Tam Lin, which may be the only book since then that I have read where I have felt so completely immersed in the world itself, in the sense that when I put it down and try to focus on something else, I feel almost fuzzy-brained for awhile.

Mar 4, 2011, 7:14pm

Wookie- Yes, you NEED to get to The Mystic Arts. It's fantastic. I think you will love it.

Mar 4, 2011, 8:34pm

#139> I was less worried about the ending. I think it was understated, like most of the book. But I'm just wondering if "understated" and "1000 pages" really go together. :)

#140> Consider it bumped up the stack! I'm hoping to get through a few for Mystery March over on the 75 book group...

Mar 7, 2011, 5:13am

21 Great review. I really did enjoy the Strange and Norrell's characters, they carried the book for me. If you haven't her short story collection: The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories, thtas worth a go too.

Mar 7, 2011, 5:15am

22. Rocks in the Belly, Jon Bauer

I'll write a review later, once it's been discussed with my bookgroup (yeah, I said that at book #2 way up there as well, didn't I?). In summary for the moment: not a favourite read of mine, I should have realised that going in, it's all angsty and all The Mother's Fault and I just didn't care for the characters and I almost put it aside (aka: threw it across the room) when the protagonist was mean to his cat.

On the plus side, it was well written, I didn't have to drag myself through torturous language.


Mar 7, 2011, 5:16am

#142> Hi clfisha! I think I shall be tracking down The Ladies of Grace Adieu, I'd like to read more set in this world.

Mar 8, 2011, 1:57am

Note to self: do not just star threads, say something - I have just found you and have 100 posts to catch up on!! Back soon.

Edited: Mar 8, 2011, 9:23pm

#145> Cushla, I have you beat! I'm 163 posts behind in your thread. Oh dear. :}

Mar 8, 2011, 11:30pm

Wookie, we usually agree on our books, but I loved Rocks in the Belly.

Mar 9, 2011, 1:01am

I know, when I was gathering my comments for my review (still to be written), I stumbled across your 5-star comment in your thread! Oh well, we can't all like the same things.

I just loathed the main character so much that I just couldn't enjoy the book. I failed to care about him, his mother, anyone except Alfie the cat.

Mar 18, 2011, 1:23am

Popping in to say Hi!

Mar 18, 2011, 2:26am

Hi Berly!

Oh dear, I'm about three books behind here, I'd better get my act into gear this weekend...

Mar 18, 2011, 9:12am

Wookie- Big wave! Waiting for book reviews to appear! Hello?

Mar 18, 2011, 11:37am

Patience, Mark, patience!

Mar 18, 2011, 11:03pm

Sorry, been off doing Saturday morning shopping (plus some extras - it's Harmony Day on Monday so kids wear orange to school, so Miss Boo got an orange hair band, an orange butterfly hair clip, orange ribbons for her plaits and an orange bandana for her neck). Reviews coming soon, if the kids continue to be distracted by Lego. :)

Mar 18, 2011, 11:20pm

23. Farewell, My Lovely, Raymond Chandler

This is the second Philip Marlowe mystery, and starts with Marlowe getting tangled up in a murder: Moose Malloy is back in town after a stint in jail, and is trying to find his sweetheart, Velma. In the course of which, Moose kills a black man, with Marlowe a reluctant witness. The police and the press aren't very interested in the murder at all (just another dead black man), and Marlowe ends up trying to untangle the very tangled plot, all while getting knocked unconscious with frightening regularity, as well as peeving enough bad guys off to also be perpetually threatened with guns and even doped up at one stage. There's a lot of plot in this book.

And a lot of hysterical comments from Marlowe himself. There was so much I wanted to quote, that I'm glad this book has since been returned to the library, or I'd just be quoting it verbatim. Apart from the instances of the "N' word. I know, I know, it was written in a different time, but it still makes me uncomfortable.

As usual with hardboiled detective stories, I was quite lost with the plot. Marlowe seems to be able to tease all sorts of nuances from monosyllabic bad guys, even while being knocked unconscious on a regular basis. (Ow.) How does he manage it?? But it all came together nicely in the end, Marlowe explained it all to me, and I did have fun reading it, regardless of my plot confusion.


Mar 19, 2011, 6:29am

24. One of Our Thursdays is Missing, Jasper Fforde

This is the sixth Thursday Next book. These books range from completely nutty to totally anarchic, and this one was firmly at the anarchic end. Still, it was a great entry to the series, especially after the somewhat disappointing First Among Sequels.

For those who have never read Thursday Next, I have no idea how to explain this series. It's set in an alternate history, in England in the 1980s, where people care about books like people in our world care about sports. (I could live quite happily in Thursday Next's universe.) And it just gets more insane from there.

I happily chortled all my way through One of Our Thursdays is Missing. It's not one to be reading without reading the others first (in case anyone was tempted to dive in at the end of the series), there's so much assumed backstory from the previous books. But it was a worthy entry in the series, and as silly as one would expect from Fforde.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I really must go and see if I can find that pink gorilla in A Tale of Two Cities...


Mar 19, 2011, 8:42am

Wookie- Nice to see you posting a couple reviews. I have read several Chandler books, including that one. I would like to re-visit them at some point. that's the plan anyway. I read the 1st 2 Thursday Next books and I liked them just not sure if I'll continue the series.

Mar 19, 2011, 10:04am

Whohoo! I have One of Our Thursdays is Missing sitting right next to me on the coffee table. It is my reward to myself when I finish outlining my paper. I can't wait - I love the insanity of Bookworld.

Mar 19, 2011, 12:19pm

Interesting reviews. My daughter absconded with the first Fforde and this reminds me I must liberate it from captivity.

What's Harmony Day?

Mar 19, 2011, 7:04pm

Finished One of Our Thursdays is Missing last night--lots of fun!

Better the pink gorilla than the Unread!

Mar 19, 2011, 7:06pm

#156> Hi Mark! I've read some other Chandler books, many years ago, and now I'm not sure which ones. It's fun revisiting Marlowe, and I'll probably slowly work my way through the series. I seem to reading them out of order, though.

If you're not a mad Thursday fan after reading the first two, you may not want to continue with the series. It just gets madder.

#157> I hope you like it! I like Bookworld as well, it's such a great idea.

#158> Harmony Day is basically a multicultural day - turn up in your traditional dress, or orange if you have no traditional dress (yup, we're Skippies, aka Australians-of-anglo-saxon descent), and the school's having a picnic.

The government calls it their "Diversity and Social Cohesion Program". Hm. Have to say, I prefer "Harmony Day". :)

Mar 19, 2011, 11:24pm

Oh, I love Thursday and will have to get my hands on this one! THanks. Forget it was out already.

Mar 20, 2011, 3:53am

#159 & #161> It is a lot of fun! But I am a sad Thursday Next fan. Speaking of which, there is a cafe up the road from me that's getting good reviews, but I always knew I'd be going (one day), because here is the logo:

I almost dislocated something snapping my head around the first time I saw that logo out of the corner of my eye. :)

(For those that haven't the books, Pickwick is Thursday Next's cloned pet dodo.)

Mar 20, 2011, 6:38am

>160 wookiebender:: thanks for the explanation, and for translating "Skippies" !

Mar 20, 2011, 7:16am

wookiebender, I've never heard the term "Skippies", despite apparently being one! ;-) Is it an east coast thing, do you think?

Mar 20, 2011, 6:39pm

crimson-tide, maybe it is an east coast thing! The way I've seen it, there's always been the (somewhat derogatory) term "wog" for Australians from Europe, and they fought back with the (somewhat derogatory) term "skip" (or "skippy").

But much like they've reclaimed their word (like black americans have reclaimed the n-word, or the gay community have reclaimed "queer"), most people I know have reclaimed "skip". Or (like me) were never really offended by it in the first place. :) Matter of fact, I've only heard it in the past 5-10 years or so, so it was never a schoolyard taunt for me. Either it's new-ish, or I moved in different circles. (And Google's not helping, so maybe it's even more localised than just the east coast of Australia!)

Edited: Mar 21, 2011, 7:27am

154 I love Raymond Chandler and he is emmentable quotable :-)

"Tall, aren't you?" she said.
I didn't mean to be.
Her eyes rounded. She was puzzled. She was thinking. I could see, even on that short acquaintance, that thinking was always going to be a bother to her." "

Mar 21, 2011, 7:27pm

#166> Brilliant, isn't he? I think I'm going to have to track down a few more of his books sooner rather than later - I thought I had The Big Sleep on my shelves (I know I've read that one, thanks to Bogart & Bacall and my teenage interest in noir), or a compilation of his books, but nothing's being found. *sigh* Gosh darn, a trip to the bookshop, how will I cope...

Mar 23, 2011, 6:53am

25. Persuasion, Jane Austen

Persuasion is my favourite Austen. No wait, Pride and Prejudice. No, wait, Sense and Sensibility. No, wait... It is hard to pick one, but Persuasion does stand out, because of the difference of the plot. In this one, Anne Elliot is practically an old maid unhappy in love, instead of Austen's usual young heroines. Eight years before the novel starts, Anne is persuaded to reject the suit of her One True Love, for all very practical reasons. (He wasn't wealthy... um, that does seem to be about it, really.) Since then, she has remained with her very self-centred family, her father Sir Walter Elliot (of Kellynch Hall) and her unmarried beautiful - but haughty - sister, Elizabeth. Then one day, Regency England obviously being a very small place, her unhappy suitor returns, having made a minor fortune as a naval officer in the Napoleonic Wars. Captain Wentworth is handsome, dashing, charming, and rich, but the question for Anne, and for the readers, is: does he still love Anne, or is he capable of falling in love with her again?

Of course, there are misunderstandings and confusions and jealousy before it all sorts itself out. And, while you may think that Anne sounds like a bit of a doormat, she's actually really quite strong and stubborn when it counts at this stage in her life. **MINOR SPOILER** On this re-read, I was a little worried: Captain Wentworth does not treat Anne very well, since he's still nursing his broken heart and I was fretful that I may not be able to forgive him at the end of the book. However, it seems that I forgave him well before Anne did. **END SPOILER**

There are the usual cast of minor villains (cads! bounders!) and silly women to keep the plot bubbling along nicely, and the usual Jane Austen wit to keep readers chortling.


Mar 23, 2011, 6:54am

Whoo-hoo! Quarter of the way through!

Edited: Mar 23, 2011, 7:04am

26. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

This is a collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories, all told by Dr John Watson. Given how well known Holmes is as a literary detective and how many of the plot twists are common tropes now, I was happily surprised by the freshness of these stories, and I happily read my way through them all quite quickly.

The basic schema of each story is: a client comes and tells Holmes (& usually Watson, unless he's actually remembered he has a wife and is at home) their strange tale, Holmes works it out almost instantly, does a bit of sleuthing to fill in the details he doesn't know, then tells us poor mortals (& Watson, and the client) what the solution is.

You'd think it'd get a bit repetitive, but it doesn't actually. There's enough freshness in the stories, and Watson is an excellent chronicler, and remains one of my literary heroes.

And Irene Adler is one hell of a woman. She's now firmly in my canon of literary heroines.


Mar 23, 2011, 8:07am

>168 wookiebender:: I know what you mean about your favorite ... it's so hard to choose! Every time I read one, I have a new favorite! Well, except for Mansfield Park :)

Mar 23, 2011, 9:43am

I'm with lindsacl - they're all my favorite except for MP. But Persuasion is definitely up there. The letter at the end... *sigh*

Mar 23, 2011, 11:07am

"You pierce my soul." *double sigh*

Sadly, I have not yet read Persuasion and only know the film with Ciaran Hinds, but I am reading all of Austen's novels this year and really looking forward to getting to this one!

Mar 23, 2011, 5:39pm

"I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever."

Oh my God! Who could say no to that? I think I'll be re-reading Persuasion soon, too, now.

Mar 26, 2011, 6:02pm

#171> I haven't read Mansfield Park at all. It doesn't seem to be anyone's favourite, so I just keep reaching for the others instead. :) One day...

#171 - 174> Looks like I'm not the only one half in love with Captain Wentworth. :)

Sorry for the late replies, been busy at my end!

Mar 26, 2011, 6:03pm

27. Summertime, J.M. Coetzee

This is the third in Coetzee's autobiographical trilogy, which started with Boyhood and continued with Youth. The first two books were less factual autobiographies, rather than word paintings of moods and emotions. They were very good. In these books, Coetzee distanced himself from the story by never using "I", it was always about "him". But I felt there was a great truth to what he was relating.

Summertime was less successful for me. For some reason, it's a series of interviews of people important in Coetzee's life, and they're being interviewed by Coetzee's biographer after his (Coetzee's) death. It was a bit *too* distant, and given the obvious factual inaccuracy of Coetzee's death (he's still alive and well), one could only take the whole book with a HUGE grain of salt. Was his history all still too close to him (emotionally, or in time) to be more direct about it? Is he protecting other people in his life by not referring to anything in a concrete and direct manner?

And he came across as a very (VERY) awkward man. While I didn't expect him to big-note himself, I was surprised that there was no self-deprecating humour to it. (Which might be a cultural thing, Australians don't tend to be so serious with emotions. Emotions are bad, ngkay.)

Overall, I don't think it particularly worked well. The first two books of the trilogy were quite marvellous, but this one was just a bit strange, with its distant voice and unpleasant portrait. Did he really dislike himself that much, that he'd write a book where he's so needy and wrong?? Puzzling.


Mar 26, 2011, 6:46pm

Hi Wookie! Good review! I've had "Boyhood" sitting on my WL, since you first mentioned it, way back when. Need to get to it. Hope you are having a nice weekend.

Mar 26, 2011, 8:54pm

Hi Mark! It's been an excellent weekend, thanks for asking. I had Thursday & Friday off for my birthday, and it's been nice and relaxing being away from work and a particularly nasty project. (Which will still be there on Monday, but hopefully I'll be back in the mood and will be able to deal with the floating goalposts better.)

And I bought far too many books on my days off. :)

And birthday drinks this afternoon at the local pub, which is very child friendly (pink lemonade!).

I think you'll like Boyhood and Youth, but I wouldn't particularly recommend #3, although it was well written.

Mar 27, 2011, 8:12am

Happy Birthday Wookie! I'm glad you are having such a good weekend. Any interesting book purchases?

Mar 27, 2011, 8:39am

oh yes Happy B'day!! Always nice to have a day off to celebrate with friends and family... and a good book purchased with coupons or gift money ;-)

Edited: Mar 27, 2011, 7:33pm

Well, on my birthday I thought I'd check out the local second hand shops, looking for two books for upcoming bookgroup reads - Parrot and Olivier in America and Solo by Rana Dasgupta. And then of course, once you're in the second hand bookshop, everything's just so tempting...

And then I had to buy Parrot and Olivier and Solo anyhow, brand new, and while I was there, I added The Tiger's Wife to my pile.

And two books turned up at the library, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. And Mum & Dad gave me Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and The Keys of Egypt, about the race to translate hieroglyphics. And friends gave me Drood and Never the Bride.


My second hand loot was:

The Ladies of Grace Adieu, Susanna Clarke
In Watermelon Sugar, Richard Brautigan
The Passion of New Eve, Angela Carter
Devil's Cub, Georgette Heyer
The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolano

I'd say I don't have to go to another bookshop for a while, but who am I kidding? I'll be back there as soon as is decently possible. :)

And thanks for the birthday wishes!!

Mar 28, 2011, 6:42am

Happy Birthday! Drood is a huge boo, i's lying on my TBR pile mocking me at the moment.. I need a good review to inspire me :)

I ahve mixed reactions to Angela Carter so I will be interested to see what you think of The Passion of New Eve, which I haven't read yet/

Mar 28, 2011, 11:55am

Happy birthday Wookie!

Mar 28, 2011, 12:19pm

that's quite a haul Wookie! Birthday loot is the best!

Mar 29, 2011, 12:33am

Thanks all for the birthday wishes!

#182> Drood is a massive book, isn't it? I'm looking forward to it, hopefully it won't get too buried in Mt TBR! And the only Angela Carter I have read so far is Nights at the Circus, which I thought was great.

Edited: Mar 29, 2011, 6:49am

Way behind on my reader-stalking, but catching up. Slowly but surely! Can't wait to read Jasper Fforde's latest- honestly, I'm not sure where my head's been at- I didn't even know there was a new one. Yay!

Just re-read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes as well- I, too, was surprised at how much I still enjoyed them. I was half-expecting to find them dry and formulaic. So glad I was mistaken.

And Persuasion has always been my favorite too. That scene on the beach where they discuss the respective constancy of women and men. I so love. And the letter. And (my personal favorite) that excruciating scene when Captain Wentworth has just come back, and they meet (on a visit? not precisely sure) while that *ahem* largish woman keeps asking Captain W. (the mysterious Captain W-) about her dead son. And Anne is sitting on the other side of her the whole time in absolute hell. I love that book- it has been much too long since I've read it.

And happy birthday!

(edited because I'm completely incoherent at this time of the morning.)

Mar 29, 2011, 7:10am

Good loot from the secondhand bookshops, and happy birthday!

Still haven't raed anything by Coetzee, but it sounds like Boyhood mnight be a good one to start with (but not till next year because it's sure to be in Wgtn library.)

I didn't love Mansfield Park. I couldn't get over the ick factor of the cousins!

Apr 1, 2011, 8:40pm

I love how the birthday wishes are still coming in. :) Thanks all!

#186> RR, I remember that scene in Persuasion well. I was mortified along with Anne, being stuck in such a awkward situation. (I also liked how the dead son was a ne'er-do-well until he died, and then was positively sanctified by the family. Austen was quite snarky about that.)

#187> Cushla, I'd recommend Boyhood, I thought it was quite excellent, and made me less scared of Coetzee as a whole. I'm still determined to read Mansfield Park but it does remain fairly low priority. :)

Apr 1, 2011, 8:41pm

28. The 10 PM Question, Kate de Goldi

This is a book about Frankie Parsons, a young boy with anxiety. Every night, at 10PM, he hops into bed with his Ma, to ask one of his questions about life, or his family, or himself. Frankie lives with his mother, his father (the oddly named "Uncle George"), his older grumpier sister Gordana; the house is also frequently visited by the Aunties (Ma's three gloriously fat and highly entertaining aunts) and Frankie's older brother, Louie. The book takes place every second Tuesday, the day the Aunties come over for dinner and cards, and over these Tuesdays we also meet Frankie's best friend and cricket fanatic, Gigs, and the new girl at school, Sydney.

It's a large cast, but none of the characters were one-dimensional. These are a fabulous bunch of people, that you would want to have as your own family and friends, and I really enjoyed spending time with them. And especially with Frankie, Gigs and Sydney, who are very clever and inventive. I particularly liked Gigs' "Second Left Army", made up of Fimo models of Second Lieutenants from armies around the world, and all called Fox. There's Second Lieutenant Fox (British), Sottotenete Fox (Italian), Fanrik Fox (Finnish), etc.

And mention must also be made of their teacher, the very amusing Mr A, who, as part of an effort to improve their vocabulary, makes them all find two new words in the dictionary every morning and write our their definitions. I'm trying to work out how to drop "panspermia" into everyday conversation right now.

Given the young age of the main characters, this is, of course, a young adult novel. I was slightly dubious about reading a young adult novel that was neither fantasy (a boy and his dragon) or dystopia (a boy and his wasteland), but I'm very glad I did, it was immensely entertaining, and even drew a tear or two at the end at this tale of such a talented, yet confused, boy.

And de Goldi does not talk down to her audience, the book is beautifully written. Neither does she make the mistake of having the story written in first person, with children using language beyond them. Make no mistake, Frankie (and Gigs, and Sydney) are not dumb, but they're not clever enough to write like this either.

An excellent coming-of-age novel, with a wonderful cast of characters. Worth checking out.


Edited: Apr 4, 2011, 6:58am

29. The Girl Who Swallowed Bees, Paul McDermott

No, not another Lisbeth Salander tale.

This is a short illustrated poem, a fable about a depressed young girl who attempts suicide by eating bees. The result of the bee-eating wasn't quite what she (or I) expected.

It's a very pretty book, nicely illustrated with black and white ink drawings, but unfortunately the poem just didn't really work for me, I never got into the rhythm of the rhymes. And suicidal children aren't exactly my preferred reading subject matter. But the result of the bee eating is unexpected (unless you read the back of the book) and that made it almost charming.


Apr 4, 2011, 8:11am

"No, not another Lisbeth Salander tale." LOL! Hope you have a good week!

Apr 4, 2011, 12:37pm

>191 msf59:: I laughed at that, too!

Apr 4, 2011, 7:44pm

Well, I'd just been to see the third "Girl Who..." movie at the theatres (IMO, suffered from the same problem as the book: an awful lot of setup, with only two set pieces - the court case and the nail gun - and the court case didn't come across half as well in the movie; we appreciated the nail gun incident however), so when I went to type in the name of this book, I got all confused. :)

Apr 10, 2011, 3:14am

30. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

I started Freedom with some trepidation, given other friends' comments, and that nomination for the Bad Sex in Literature Award. And, at the beginning, it was actually a great read. Sure, all the characters were despicable and horrible and nasty in their ordinariness, but it was like hanging out with an amusingly bitchy acquaintance, pointing and laughing at people. It's great while it's happening, but you feel a little grumpy with yourself afterwards for being mean, as some of these horrid characters are perfectly normal people, being written about in a very unflattering light. (And you hope that your acquaintance isn't now being witty at your expense with someone else.)

Unfortunately, that feeling did not last. About the time we got to the sex scene that garnered the book its nomination, I was feeling not so much wearied by the amusingly bitchy tone, because that had gone, but just fed up with it all, all the amusement worn off in the onslaught of such horrible characters. I found it a slog to return to, although when I was reading it, I was certainly turning the pages at a good clip. I just didn't want to be reading it.

By the end, a friend asked me what I thought and I said "I just wish they'd all hurry up and die". Given that sentiment, I was rather disappointed the book didn't have a cataclysmic ending.

It had its moments, but was just overwhelmingly nasty, and left me with a sense of impotence about all the global crises we're facing. Very "American" as well, although that's not so much a criticism (I rather like America) as a reason for finding it harder to empathise with the characters, as an Australian.

I finally finished Freedom with a sense of relief. Can't say I enjoyed my time reading this book, and I found myself nit-picking because of my grumpiness with the book. Had some good writing, but mostly I'm just glad it's over and I can return it to the library.


Apr 10, 2011, 3:29am

Wow. Your review shows me that you are a nice person! I plan to read the Corrections this year and will keep your comments about Freedom in mind. Thanks.

Apr 10, 2011, 3:34am

Joyce, I did actually like The Corrections. It's been too long to really compare the two (stupid memory forgets everything too fast), but I'd still hold up The Corrections as well worth reading.

Having said that, my Mum didn't like it, and I usually like her taste. :)

Apr 10, 2011, 3:48am

PS, Joyce, I'm not sure I count as a nice person when I wanted all the characters to just die. ;)

Apr 10, 2011, 4:31am

You've put into words so well why I've abandoned it at page 300. It just made me feel so awful!

Apr 10, 2011, 5:01am

Cushla, I was wondering if you'd actually finished it. :) (I seem to have lost your thread, it's been busy here!) I was frustrated, because I did enjoy the beginning (even if it made me feel slightly ashamed for liking it), but then it just fell over into relentless horribleness. Oh well, I know others liked it (most of the reviewers, for one!), but I can cope with being different.

I did give it a fairly high score, but that's because it was well written (although I didn't have the energy to go looking for a quote), I did find it easy to read (although I didn't want to read it), and I did like the beginning (up until about half way, I think). And it did leave me with a sense of horror as to what we're doing to the planet, so it did still reach me on an emotional level. But, yuk.

Apr 10, 2011, 6:34am

Well if you and Cushla didn't like it I think it's safe for me to pass on it too!

Apr 10, 2011, 8:02am

Yes, I'm skipping this one too, now, I think. Between my low opinion of The Corrections and your low opinion of Freedom I think I can leave all future Franzen novels alone. Thank goodness - a decrease in the TBR pile.

Apr 10, 2011, 9:07am

Well, I'm glad to be reducing others' TBR piles. Considering today at the library I came home with *SIX* books that were on my wishlist, all of which were recommendations from LTers. Mt TBR is toppling...

Apr 10, 2011, 9:56am

I think I still want to read Freedom, but now I don't feel as bad for not buying it, and the waiting list at the library... Too many other books I want to read more :D.

Apr 10, 2011, 4:21pm

Hi, wook ~ sorry it's been so long since I dropped by. I enjoyed your reviews, esp. Strange and Norrell and Gaiman's Sandman series. It's what got me into graphic novels too! I also found a few for the already staggeringly long TBR list.

I felt much the same about The Corrections, though, unlike you with Freedom, I did not finish it. I stopped at the point when one of the unpleasant characters (Chip, I think) was considering chopping off his arm at the elbow. When I thought, "Oh, just do it and get it over with, and then go chop off the rest of their heads," I decided it just wasn't for me and put it back on the bookshelves where it remains today.

Apr 11, 2011, 12:03am

#203> divinenanny, I heard the negative comments and was still interested enough to read it, which is why I got my copy from the library. If you're interested still, do give it a go. You may well agree with the positive reviewers!

#204> Drop by anytime, don't worry about the delays. We're all busy!

I was worried about your comment about Chip thinking about cutting his arm off. I thought you were talking about Freedom and couldn't believe I couldn't remember that scene, or matter of fact, that character, any more. I only finished it a few days ago!! Then I realised you were talking The Corrections, and now I feel better. It's ringing a vague bell for that book (been a long time since I read that one).

Love your reaction to Chip's dilemma. :)

Apr 11, 2011, 1:48am

205, I might :D But it is what you, and the others, have said about unpleasant characters that is making me not put it on top of the pile. I have a very low tolerance for those. I put away Under the Dome because the people were being so nasty to each other, I didn't even care anymore why the Dome was there....

Apr 11, 2011, 7:20am

Wookie- Good review of Freedom. I plan on reading it at some point. I really enjoyed The Corrections.

Apr 11, 2011, 4:56pm

>206 divinenanny: That is exactly why I took a break (of about 3 months) from Under the Dome when I was about halfway through it. King always has one or two unpleasant characters in every novel (besides the monsters, I mean), but there were just too MANY unpleasant characters in UtD! I plan to pick it up and finish it ~ sometimes. I'm in no rush.

Apr 11, 2011, 4:59pm

>205 wookiebender: *snort*

But really am sorry for the confusion. I know how worrying it can be to think you're losing your mind, as it is happening to me more and more often lately.

Apr 12, 2011, 1:50am

>208 Storeetllr: Yeah, I guess I am at the same point. I discovered that I saw it more as a chore than enjoyment when I picked up the book. I usually am very interested in what the 'clue' is in Stephen King's works, but even after skimming the ending, and reading some reviews, I can't say I am that interested in picking it back up again.

Apr 12, 2011, 4:41am

#207> Mark, I think you may be the target audience (male American), so you might enjoy it more than me. :) I look forward to your comments!

#209> Mary, I don't think I'm losing my mind, just my memory. I forget things instantly, and I'm forever looking at workmates with a blank look of "did we really discuss this before?". Gah.

But I can find pretty much any book in the house without too much trouble. Hm, my memory seems to be pretty good for things I care about...

Regarding unpleasant characters, often I can still enjoy a book with unpleasant characters. But this one was just too relentless. (And too big. Maybe if it were shorter...?)

Apr 13, 2011, 2:28pm

Tania - I don't know what I saw that made me order it, but Jasper Jones was just released in Canada on April 5, and I just had to have a copy. I just saw your glowing review, so I'm glad I did. And I'm supporting Aussie Lit too. Don't know when I'll get a chance to read it, but it looks great . . .

Apr 13, 2011, 8:04pm

Hurrah, Joyce! I think you'll like it, I had a great time reading it.

Apr 16, 2011, 11:55am

211 By "mind" I meant "memory," but I acknowledge the difference. Maybe it's an Americanism. Or jut a Storeetllrism. :) And I'm in the same boat as you ~ forgetting things almost as soon as I hear/see them, except as you said when it comes to things like where I put a book or even where I was in a book, if my placemarker goes missing. Selective memory; the mind can be an intereting thing.

Also, re unpleasant characters, they are important for a novel, otherwise the story would be bland. But, like you said, in UtD it was unrelenting.

210 divinenanny ~ Yes, that is exactly the right word to describe how it felt to pick up UtD: a chore.

I love long books, if they are really good. Long books that are hard to pick up and psychically painful to read are...usually abandoned halfway through. :)

Apr 22, 2011, 8:28pm

31. Never the Bride, Paul Magrs

This is the tale of Brenda, who runs a little B&B in Whitby. Summer is over, so she's settling into a quiet time of the year with her best friend Effie, who runs a junk shop next door. But it's not as uneventful as expected, with mysterious guests and incidents in the town. And neither Brenda nor Effie are quite who they appear to be either.

This was a fun read. Effie and Brenda are great characters, and while the book for a while felt like a series of disconnected incidents, it did all make sense as a whole by the end. The plot was not completely resolved, but left nicely open for others in the series. And since I liked Brenda & Effie, I'm happy with reading on in this series.

And if you're wondering why Whitby sounds familiar: it's where Count Dracula arrives in England. And that might give you a hint of what to expect with this series also. :)


Apr 22, 2011, 8:38pm

32. Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, adapted by Mike Carey

This is the graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, written by Mike Carey, who is known to me as the writer of the Lucifer series, which is a spin off from Gaiman's Sandman series. Incestuous, much?

I haven't actually read the original book, although I have seen the TV series a number of times. (This is okay for book purists like myself, because it was originally written for TV. :) That had one disadvantage: the character art didn't match what I had in my head from the BBC series. Door was too busty (and not nearly as cute as the original actress) and Richard was too nebbish. But, on the other hand, the Beast of London and the more supernatural of the characters were a lot more spectacular than actors in makeup.

The plot was fun, and this is a world that I'm happy to return to in any format it comes in. And Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar are always worth reading about, although one would never want to meet either of them in real life. "Croup and Vandemar, bespoke violence." Will have to read the book soon!


Apr 23, 2011, 8:24am

Hi Wookie- I might have to try the graphic of Neverwhere. I loved the book. My 1st foray into Gaiman land. BTW- I heard they are developing a series based on American Gods for HBO, with Gaiman writing. Sounds interesting.

Apr 23, 2011, 11:30am

I loved Neverwhere the book and enjoyed Neverwhere the graphic novel but have yet to see the TV series and need to before I reread the book. BTW, it was AMAZING and FABULOUS on audiobook with Neil himself reading it.

Apr 23, 2011, 10:54pm

Hi Mark! I'd love to see an HBO production of American Gods! We caught the first episode of Game of Thrones, and spent most of it discussing which character was who and what happened to them (as my memory was slowly jogged). Will have to rewatch and actually pay attention to it.

Mary, I'm very fond of the TV series (although my only copy is on video tape, so I'll have to upgrade to discs!!). The special effects are a bit cheap, but the story's great. And Door is very cute. :)

Apr 24, 2011, 1:14am

33. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie

This is Dame Agatha Christie's first novel, and the one that introduces us to Hercule Poirot. He's a refugee in a small English village during the Great War, and his good friend Mr Hastings, who has delusions of detective grandeur, calls on him for help when the local squire's wife is found dead, presumably poisoned.

At first, this was a very straightforward, almost clunkily written, mystery. There's none of the delicious fun of a good Agatha Christie novel. Partially this could be her rather dull (and definitely silly) narrator, Mr Hastings. But also just a writer finding her craft, because by the end of the book the plodding narration had achieved a certain sparkle, almost in spite of Hastings.

It was, however, standard Christie fare in that I had no idea whodunnit until the final reveal from Poirot. It's an excellent twisty plot with misdirection aplenty.


Apr 24, 2011, 7:38am

Wookie- I didn't think you would be able to watch Game of Thrones. That's great! What did you think? I thought they did a terrific job and I'm looking forward to tonight, for episode 2!!

Apr 24, 2011, 9:17am

Mark, a friend downloaded a copy and Don got it from him mid-week, but it was all a bit too chaotic (school holidays) so we only got to watch it on Friday. I thought it was great (beautiful production, excellent casting, good set up of everything), and hopefully we'll get episode 2 quickly as well!

It is going to be screening on pay tv here very soon, but Australians are already in the habit of downloading overseas tv (I'm a Luddite, and get others to do it for me) because the stations are hopeless at showing anything consistently. We get things weeks after they've already screened overseas (and we've been exposed to the internet buzz), stuff always runs over schedule (if recording, it's standard to leave at least 20 minutes extra recording time at the end of a show so you know you'll get the end), and if things don't rate instantly they're shuffled off to some ungodly hour at some random day with no notice.

I could bitch about Australian TV all day... (Not the local product, mind, just the scheduling. I just watched the first episode of third season of local hard-hitting crime series "East West 101" and loved it. Definitely worth following as it screens, that one. Doubt it'll make US tv though!)

Apr 26, 2011, 5:56am

Sigh I am going to have to download Game of Thrones as well if I am going to see it. Stupid UK TV.

@32 I must check out the comic I do like Mike Carey. Is that Door on the front cover? Cos I agree nothing like I imagined even from the book.

Apr 26, 2011, 8:49am

Yeah, that's Door. All a bit too busty and short-skirt-y. Funny hair, too.

Haven't got a copy of the second "Games of Thrones" episode as yet, but it can't be far away...

Apr 29, 2011, 8:29pm

34. Parrot and Olivier in America, Peter Carey

Olivier is an upper class French twit fleeing the aftermath of the French revolution; Parrot is his unwilling English servant. They're both interesting characters, it's a beautiful written book, the setting of early American society has great potential. However, I'm afraid it just never clicked for me. I failed to be swept away. Right up to the last two pages, I was wondering if I should bother finishing it. I only finished it half in the hope that suddenly something would jump out at me, and half because of bookgroup.


Apr 29, 2011, 9:44pm

35. The Woman in Black, Susan Hill

Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer, is sent to sort out a deceased client's estate in a remote location. The wonderfully named Eel Marsh House is in the middle of an estuary, surrounded by marshes, and only approachable during low tide. In this eerie, empty location, the scene is set for all sorts of spooky happenings. And Susan Hill delivers an excellent, chilling story to suit this atmospheric setup.

Kipps is young and brash, unwilling to pay attention to the obvious unease of the local townsfolk, and certain that he can get to the bottom of the mystery. From the beginning of the book however, with Kipps as the patriarch of a large and happy family, we garner enough unease to know that this almost arrogant attitude is going to be his downfall.

The story's ending was inevitable, but that made it no less powerful for knowing what was coming.


Apr 30, 2011, 4:08am

I keep meaning to read The Women in Black, another good review just pushes it upthe tbr!

Apr 30, 2011, 6:35am

>226 wookiebender:: I keep getting this one mixed up with The Woman in White, so I'm glad to read a review that tells me more. Sounds good and I'll be on the lookout for it!

Apr 30, 2011, 8:42am

I think you'll both really like the book. And I almost went on to read The Woman in White straight after The Woman in Black, just to be silly. :)

Apr 30, 2011, 3:04pm

>229 wookiebender: wookie ~ lol!

I've been meaning to get to The Woman in Black too. Sounds good!

May 1, 2011, 6:59am

wookie, just catching up after a bit of an absence. You have, as usual, been reading as great selection of books. I am a fan of Susan hill after reading a few of her books. But I haven't read The Woman in Black yet. It goes on the wishlist, along with The 10PM Question which sounds delightful.

May 1, 2011, 8:38am

Wookie- The Woman in Black sounds terrific. I'll have to add that to the list. I read her Howards End is on the Landing a few months ago and really enjoyed it.

May 1, 2011, 9:00am

I'm new to Susan Hill, but I am eyeing off her The Various Haunts of Men which has been on Mt TBR for far too long, it'll be interesting seeing her crime after a couple of ghost stories from her. (Howards End is on the Landing remains on the wishlist...)

May 2, 2011, 1:25pm

The Various Haunts of Men was excellent.I just picked up the 2nd in the series to add to the TBR shelves....

May 9, 2011, 7:33am

36. Solo, Rana Dasgupta

Discussing this one in bookgroup at the moment, so no review as yet.

(FYI, I loved it.)

May 9, 2011, 8:15am

>235 wookiebender:: a quick peek at LT's info and I'm most intrigued ... can't wait to hear your thoughts.

May 12, 2011, 1:51pm

Gorgeous cover! I may have to read it just for that.

Edited: May 12, 2011, 10:41pm

Taps fingers impatiently...where is the review?! When does your bookgroup meet for Pete's Sake? It's been three WHOLE days!!
; ) I'll be quiet now.

Edited to get the wink on the same line as the smile.

May 13, 2011, 1:06am

I'll get a review done sometime soon, I promise. And I've got another three or so to write up too, now! Meep!

Berly, it's an online bookgroup, and discussion is continuing. (Slowly at the moment, since I'm the moderator and it fell into a stupidly busy week! MUST post another question the instant I get home.)

May 13, 2011, 3:02pm

LOL -- so it really IS on YOUR shoulders! Come up with a good question and keep that ball rolling! I'll just go read someone else's thread for a bit then, shall I?

May 16, 2011, 12:17am

I'll come back and review Solo later, but for now:

37. The Killing of the Tinkers, Ken Bruen

This is the second Jack Taylor mystery, and follows on fairly closely from the first book, The Guards. This time, Jack returns to Galway from London, bringing with him a cocaine habit. Yes, because all the drunkenness of the first book wasn't enough, this time he needed to be coked to the gills as well. The book was a brutal, violent, and drunken crime novel, and a remarkably good read. (If you like brutal, violent, drunken crime.)

Despite the drunkenness of our main character/narrator, I warmed to this book, and even more unusually, to our drunken/coked up narrator. Usually an annoyance (I'm not fond of drunks), and I just want to slap drunk characters and get them to sober up because you can see that it's all going horribly wrong around them and if they were *sober* maybe it wouldn't be...

Things do go horribly wrong, Jack's constantly drunk/high, and if he was sober it probably wouldn't have gone as wrong as it did. But somehow I liked being with him. Probably all the books he reads, his bookishness counteracted the drunkenness for me. I wouldn't like spending face-to-face time with Jack Taylor, but I did come away with a long list of other books to read, and a desire to continue with the series.


May 18, 2011, 7:51am

38. The Seven Dials Mystery, Agatha Christie

At a weekend party in a manor house, one young man is found dead in his bed in the morning. Other young people, both present at that weekend party and acquaintances from elsewhere, band together to help solve the mystery. Added to the intrigue are the Seven Dials, a secret organisation that meets mysteriously, wearing cloths with clock faces over their own faces. Awfully good fun, awfully English, very much a delightful product of its time. You wouldn't find any modern terrorist group wearing cloth clock faces over their own faces, it's beyond naff. But in a book written in 1929, it just adds to the fun adventure.

The book did have a very silly ending, but it was overall a very silly book as well so that shouldn't detract too much from it all. Good spiffing fun, what ho! Sorry, the Englishness of Christie sometimes takes over my brain...


May 18, 2011, 8:21am

Hi Wookie- I briefly stopped over here yesterday, read the Bruen review and meant to stop back and comment, but... Great review! I'm so glad you are taken with this author. Jack Taylor may not be an easy guy to take sometimes, but you love him anyway.
I'm 4 books into the series and hope to squeeze #5 in soon. I'm getting ready to start the 2nd Karin Fossum book. Have you read her yet?

May 18, 2011, 8:36am

No, I haven't read Karin Fossum! Or Jo Nesbo! Or Arn... Indri... oh, the author of Jar City et al. My Scandinavian crime has so far been limited to Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell. Can't read any further with Larsson, but hoping to get another Mankell read for May Murder & Mayhem! (And another Amelia Peabody. And it'd be good to get stuck back into Harry Dresden. And finish off Joe Pitt.)

Gah. So many books! But I will keep my eye open for Karin Fossum, you haven't steered me wrong yet. :)

May 18, 2011, 4:37pm

>242 wookiebender: Wookie! lol

May 23, 2011, 7:05am

39. Travels with my Aunt, Graham Greene

Travels With My Aunt concerns Henry Pulling, a retired English banker, with only one real interest (his dahlias) and few friends. When his elderly mother dies, he meets his Aunt Augusta at the funeral, and she drops the bombshell that his mother wasn't really his mother. From then on in, Henry starts getting absorbed into Augusta's rather wild life, which is a complete contrast to his previous staid existence. After an initial outing to Brighton (Henry's idea), they travel together through Europe to Istanbul by train (Augusta's idea), and then on to Paraguay.

It's rather a charming Bildungsroman, only with our hero having his youth rather late in life. And I think we all want to be Aunt Augusta when we grow up.


May 23, 2011, 7:13am

I probably should read about Aunt Augusta before I commit to wanting to be like her. Course I do trust your judgment. ; )

May 23, 2011, 7:18am

40. Heat Wave, Richard Castle

Richard Castle is a writer of detective fiction in the American TV series "Castle". And in one of the best TV spin-offs I've seen yet, the TV network has been publishing books by Castle. Yep, a book "written" by a fictional character. If you think about it too hard, your brain will melt and drip out your ears. But in the meantime, enjoy the author photo, the dedication ("To the extraordinary KB and all my friends at the 12th"), the cover blurb from James Patterson, the rumour that Nathan Fillion has been turning up for the book signings, etc. It truly is a great fun piece of marketing.

Heat Wave isn't the sort of book I'd normally read. It was well done, but just too slick for my liking (I prefer my crime more noir). The main pleasure was seeing the book as part of the TV series, which I do enjoy. The parallels between the cases on the show and in the book, the inspiration from the characters on the TV show, and all the unrequited sexual tension on the show, which is definitely requited in the book. It's got one rather steamy sex scene, which gives me the giggles whenever I think of how Beckett (the TV detective) reacted to it when reading the book during one episode; not to mention the whole silliness of Castle's wish fulfilment.


May 23, 2011, 7:20am

#247> Berly, she's a wild child. But she's had a brilliant life, lots of lovers, parties, adventures across several continents (well, two). She's definitely a poster girl for "it's better to regret having done something than regret having done nothing". :)

I'd rather look back on my life and think it was more Aunt Augusta than Henry Pulling any day. (In reality, it's nowhere near as adventurous as Augusta, but also nowhere near as dull as Henry!)

May 24, 2011, 7:36am

Hi Wookie- Good review of Travels with my Aunt. Another reminder, I need to get back to Greene, its been to many years. Have you read Power and the Glory? It's my favorite.

May 24, 2011, 8:06am

Hi Mark, I have read The Power and the Glory and it was excellent. But I have to say, not my favourite Greene, where I'd be torn between The Quiet American and The End of the Affair. I think not having *any* background knowledge of Mexico's early 20th century oppression of Catholics just made it all rather strange to me. (Now I know a little more, but then I was quite surprised.)

May 26, 2011, 8:20am

I have it on my shelf but haven´t got round to read it - now I think I´ll put it on my nightstand...

May 26, 2011, 8:21am

Oh! It´s one of my favorites!!

May 27, 2011, 6:36am

246 Have you read Our Man in Havana? I was thinking about trying it.. although it would be my 1st Graham Greene

May 27, 2011, 8:04pm

Apparently I do own it (according to my LT catalogue!), but I haven't read it and I'm not even sure where it is now! I think I lent it to Dad, not sure where it ended up when it came back (IF it came back...).

May 30, 2011, 7:03am

Time for a new chapter to this saga (or a new thread, at least), I'm getting tired scrolling to the bottom of this one all the time.