Wookiebender's 100 books in 2011 - Chapter 2

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Wookiebender's 100 books in 2011 - Chapter 2

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1wookiebender
Edited: Oct 30, 2011, 6:45pm

Old thread was getting a bit unwieldy, time for a new one.

The old thread: http://www.librarything.com/topic/104918

Books read (so far):

1. Missus, Ruth Park
2. Dog Boy, Eva Hornung
3. The Invention of Curried Sausage, Uwe Timm
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
5. The Long Song, Andrea Levy

6. Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly
7. What Would Jane Austen Do?, Laurie Brown
8. The Lost Dog, Michelle de Kretser
9. The Third Man and The Fallen Idol, Graham Greene
10. The Idea of Perfection, Kate Grenville

11. The Help, Kathryn Stockett
12. The Middleman: The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse, Javier Grillo-Marxuach
13. Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman
14. An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears
15. The Small Hand, Susan Hill

16. The Hours, Michael Cunningham
17. The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, Peter Ackroyd
18. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
19. Started Early, Took My Dog, Kate Atkinson
20. Sandman: The Doll's House, Neil Gaiman

21. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
22. Rocks in the Belly, Jon Bauer
23. Farewell, My Lovely, Raymond Chandler
24. One of Our Thursdays is Missing, Jasper Fforde
25. Persuasion, Jane Austen

26. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
27. Summertime, J.M. Coetzee
28. The 10 PM Question, Kate de Goldi
29. The Girl Who Swallowed Bees, Paul McDermott
30. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

31. Never the Bride, Paul Magrs
32. Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, adapted by Mike Carey
33. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie
34. Parrot and Olivier in America, Peter Carey
35. The Woman in Black, Susan Hill

36. Solo, Rana Dasgupta
37. The Killing of the Tinkers, Ken Bruen
38. The Seven Dials Mystery, Agatha Christie
39. Travels with my Aunt, Graham Greene
40. Heat Wave, Richard Castle

41. Cover Her Face, P.D. James
42. The Various Haunts of Men, Susan Hill
43. The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog, Elizabeth Peters
44. A Very Private Gentleman, Martin Booth
45. Homer and Langley, E.L. Doctorow

46. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Mary Roach
47. The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason
48. Bound by the Heart, Marsha Canham
49. Grace Williams Says It Loud, Emma Henderson
50. Britten and Brulightly, Hannah Berry

51. Odd and the Frost Giants, Neil Gaiman
52. A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
53. The Magdalen Martyrs, Ken Bruen
54. A Proper Companion, Candice Hern
55. Desperate Measures (short story), Candice Hern

56. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, David Mitchell
57. As the Earth Turns Silver, Alison Wong
58. The Thirty Nine Steps, John Buchan
59. Catching Caroline, Sylvia Day
60. The Mercenary's Price, C.J. Archer

61. The Swarm, Frank Schatzing
62. The Unwritten, Volume 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity, Mike Carey
63. Tainted Blood, Arnaldur Indridason
64. The Unwritten, Volume 2: Inside Man, Mike Carey
65. The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling

66. The Tiger's Wife, Tea Obreht
67. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
68. The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt
69. A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift
70. Summer, Edith Wharton

71. Jamrach's Menagerie, Carol Birch
72. Charity Girl, Georgette Heyer
73. Kim, Rudyard Kipling
74. Cargo, Jessica Au
75. Locke & Key Volume 1, Joe Hill

76. Bossypants, Tina Fey
77. Small Wars, Sadie Jones
78. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in Space, Mary Roach
79. The Book of Emmett, Deborah Forster (unfinished)
80. A Mysterious Affair of Style, Gilbert Adair

81. Blindsighted, Karin Slaughter (unfinished)
82. Locke & Key: Head Games, Joe Hill
83. A Dry White Season, Andre Brink
84. Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows, Joe Hill
85. Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

86. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders: Connected Stories, Daniyal Mueenuddin
87. Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon
88. Divergent, Veronica Roth
89. Blood Rites, Jim Butcher
90. Zoo City, Lauren Beukes

91. Bereft, Chris Womersley
92. The Lottery and Other Stories, Shirley Jackson
93. The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan
94. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
95. The Observations, Jane Harris

96. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Roald Dahl
97. Feed, Mira Grant
98. The Comfort of Strangers, Ian McEwan

2wookiebender
May 30, 2011, 7:08am

41. Cover Her Face, P.D. James



This is the first in the long-running Adam Dalgliesh series by the reigning queen of British crime, P.D. James. Dalgliesh is already well established in Scotland Yard when the book opens with the murder of the young and pretty housemaid (and single mother), Sally Jupp. It has many hallmarks of classic British crime (the locked room, the manor house, the vicar popping over for tea, the small village, etc), but is less arch, and less silly, than the other queen of British crime, Agatha Christie.

Adam Dalgleish is a character worth getting to know better, I shall be returning to this series.

****

3msf59
May 30, 2011, 7:57am

I'm 1st! I'm 1st! Congrats on the New Thread! I have not read James in eons.

4Amsa1959
May 30, 2011, 8:14am

I love P D James! Enjoy!

5Storeetllr
May 30, 2011, 12:42pm

Hi, wookie! Nice new thread you've got here.

I've read all of James novels and invariably have enjoyed them immensely, though so far I haven't gone back to reread any. I remember Cover Her Face and Sally Jupp (the name!) well, and how excited I was to "discover" a great new mystery series.

Graham Greene. I've been meaning to read something by him for years but just never got around to it. I'll have to add him to my list of must read authors. Any suggestions about best one with which to start?

6divinenanny
May 30, 2011, 2:36pm

Obligatory linking post :D Don't wanna lose you :D

7wookiebender
May 30, 2011, 10:26pm

Hi everyone, and welcome to the new thread, thanks for popping by. :)

#5> I absolutely loved The End of the Affair, which has a lot of his Catholicism in it but was also just a fascinating portrait of, well, the end of an affair. :) I'd also have to mention The Quiet American in the same breath, it was just so prescient of what was to come in Vietnam. And do read The Third Man, but beware of spoilers! Everyone assumed I knew the main plot points from the movie or just general pop culture references, so the ending failed to surprise. (Harrumph.) I've thought the others of his I've read were also excellent, but not as gut-wrenchingly perfect as the first two I've mentioned.

8Storeetllr
May 31, 2011, 12:58am

Thanks, wookie! I've heard of End of the Affair, though I haven't read it and don't know the story or anything. Wasn't it adapted to film? If so, I didn't see it either. Don't tell me, I'm going to order it from the library.

9wookiebender
May 31, 2011, 6:55am

42. The Various Haunts of Men, Susan Hill



This is the first Simon Serrailler mystery, and was an excellent read. Superficially it's like Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series, with multiple entangling threads, but the protagonists are quite different people. And, of course, with crime novels, it's really all about the protagonist, so they are in essence quite different books.

Young policewoman Freya Graffham moves from London (and a failed, stifling marriage) to the small cathedral town of Lafferton, where she sets about rebuilding her personal life and her career. The town's centre is The Hill, a picturesque spot for joggers and dog walkers and picnickers, but people are beginning to disappear, and it seems to be centred on The Hill.

The main narrative is interrupted by transcribed tapes from who we can only assume is the killer. Or at any rate, a complete scary nut job.

There's plenty of clues given, and I did pick whodunnit fairly early on; but the book is not about the big reveal of the killer, but about the chase and knowing who the culprit is just adds to the sense of urgency.

I wish I hadn't known that this was part of a series, knowing that it's going to be ongoing did mean that I was over thinking the plot and the characters a bit too much, which meant that the ending wasn't as much of a shock as it should have been. Still made me cry, however, it was all beautifully handled.

This is my favourite sort of crime novel, with many threads and very human police at the centre of it all. I regretted time spent away from it (how dare work get in the way of reading), and will be looking for the rest in the series as soon as possible.

****1/2

10katiekrug
May 31, 2011, 10:03am

I read The Various Haunts of Men a couple months ago and loved it, too. I have the second one out from the library, waiting patiently for some attention...

11wookiebender
Edited: Jun 1, 2011, 7:13am

43. The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog, Elizabeth Peters



This is the seventh (yep, seventh) Amelia Peabody mystery, and I still want to be Amelia Peabody when I grow up. She rocks.

****

12clif_hiker
Edited: Jun 1, 2011, 8:17am

I love that series of covers...

here in the US we get stuck with these



I suppose that the one major downside to owning a Kindle is that there are no covers (I don't really count the black and white first pages)

fortunately though, LT provides cover art for us... not quite as good but better than nothing

13Storeetllr
Jun 1, 2011, 5:15pm

9. Oh, God, another series for the "must read" list!

14wookiebender
Jun 1, 2011, 8:18pm

#12> Yeah, I've seen the American covers here; and I'm much happier with the English covers too! They look so cheerful lined up together. (I'm just hoping, as I slowly work my way through the series, that the last few will still be available with these covers when I finally get around to buying them! I've had other series where I've had to change cover style halfway through, and I always find it slightly annoying.)

#13> Yes, but you won't regret it. :) This was my third Susan Hill novel for the year, and I think I'm rapidly becoming a fan.

15wookiebender
Jun 15, 2011, 7:53am

44. A Very Private Gentleman, Martin Booth



A Very Private Gentleman is narrated by, well, a very private gentleman. He tells his story, both current day (some indefinable year during the 1980s, as best I can tell) and some past stories. The picture that slowly builds (the first forty pages at least is scene building) is of a complete sociopath.

Of no fixed address, or any particular nationality, Mr Butterfly (or Signor Farfalla) is currently undertaking one final job in a small village in Italy. He is hoping to retire after this job, but knowing the work he's in, he's not sure if that will be possible. He's resisting putting down roots in this village, but is tempted by its great beauty, and the friendships he's struck up with the local priest, Father Benedetto, and two young women working as prostitutes, Clara and Dindina. This all slowly and lusciously builds to the climax, with pages filled with descriptive scenes and also filled with tension as Mr Butterfly's shady world is revealed.

"I am death's telegram boy, death's kissogram. And that is the beauty of it. In my line of business, everything I do flows uncompromisingly towards one tiny moment, a final destination of perfection. How many artists can claim as much?"

A fascinating and great read.

****1/2

16clfisha
Jun 15, 2011, 8:00am

What a lovely quote!

17wookiebender
Jun 15, 2011, 8:00am

45. Homer and Langley, E.L. Doctorow



This is the fascinating story of two brothers (Homer & Langley Collyer) who are born into a wealthy family in a New York, three story brownstone on upper Fifth Avenue (opposite Central Park). But their lives are not easy: Homer (who narrates the story) goes blind as a teenager; Langley goes off to WW1 and comes back scarred (emotionally and physically and mentally) from mustard gas; and both their parents die of the Spanish flu. (I think it would suffice to say that 1918 was their annus horribilis.) The brothers slowly retreat from the outside world into their crumbling and overcrowded house, although are also still in touch with all major events of the 20th century through Langley's obsession over newspapers and their occasional foray out into the world.

This was an immensely sad book on reflection: I generally think that lives are very rarely wasted, if you've given happiness to someone else. But these men had such great potential, and absolutely nothing comes of it, due to their reclusive natures.

It was also a great microcosm of America in the 20th Century, from WW1 all the way to the Vietnam war and beyond. It's amazing how much the world changed in that handful of decades.

****

18wookiebender
Jun 15, 2011, 8:01am

#16> Oh, I had such difficulty choosing a quote! I was trying to find a scene where he's with Father Benedetto in his garden, eating ham and fruit and drinking cognac... It was also a book to make you hungry!

19msf59
Jun 15, 2011, 8:33pm

Wookie- Good review of A Very Private Gentleman. I'll have to add that one to the List! BTW- Just watched the 9th episode of "Game", only one more left. Tania- it's been sooooooo good!

20wookiebender
Jun 15, 2011, 8:42pm

Hi Mark, thanks for stopping by! I think you would like A Very Private Gentleman, do keep an eye out for it. It was set in the 1980s (I think, there's a mention of Thatcher and no mobile phones), but was written/published much more recently.

So behind on "Game of Thrones"! It's a disgrace. (Also behind on Downton Abbey and Doctor Who. TV viewing just seems to fall off the schedule so often! I was going to catch up on DA last night, but got caught up with "Dr Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog" and clips of the Tony Awards on YouTube, made some book notes, wrote a couple of reviews and then all of a sudden it was nearly 11pm...)

21msf59
Jun 15, 2011, 8:51pm

Both "Game" and "The Killing" will be over this Sunday, so maybe I'll finally get a chance to get to "Downton Abbey".
BTW- Thousand Autumns has been both dense and wonderful. Is Mitchell amazing or what?

22wookiebender
Jun 15, 2011, 8:55pm

Ah, I've also been told to track down the Danish version of "The Killing" (I don't think either the Danish or the American versions have been shown here).

I'm afraid I may have to pike on the group read of Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, I'm overwhelmed with library books. I'll finish the two that are due back the soonest (Grace Williams Says It Loud and A Visit From the Goon Squad) and then tackle the Mitchell, but it may be a while. And next time, I'll try to be less greedy on my library visit...

23vancouverdeb
Jun 20, 2011, 6:00am

Hi Wookie! I love crime fiction too - you mentioned that you enjoyed Case Histories by Kate Atkinson for an Orange Read . I think I will have to get my hand on that one! I love crime fiction too -and I understand that Kate Atkinson is an excellent writer. Thanks for the tip.

24wookiebender
Jun 20, 2011, 7:23pm

Hi Deb! Yes, I'm a big fan of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series. They're about the people, not the crime; they've got insanely tangled plots; they can make me laugh and make me cry, often in the same paragraph; and they've got Jackson Brodie, who is the sort of tough manly man with a disaster of a personal life that I love in books, but wouldn't go near with a 10 foot barge pole in real life.

I do have her non-crime novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum that seems to not be as popular with the Jackson Brodie fans (and, conversely, people who like Behind the Scenes aren't fond of Jackson Brodie), but have not gotten around to reading that. One day! Soon! Ish!

Currently about halfway through A Visit from the Goon Squad and it's a great read. And halfway through writing a review for Bonk, but Mr Bear accidentally downloaded some phishing software yesterday (totally not his fault, he stepped away from the computer very promptly once he'd read out "virus" to me which had me running) so I spent most of last night Googling the stupid thing and making sure it was all gone.

25msf59
Jun 20, 2011, 7:44pm

Wookie- Glad you are enjoying Goon Squad. I love that book. I need to get to more of her work.
Besides the Group Read, I started an excellent western called the Sisters Brothers. You would love it! BTW- The finale of "Games" was terrific! Now, the wait begins. Sad face.

26lauralkeet
Jun 21, 2011, 6:38am

>24 wookiebender:: I have enjoyed all of Atkinson's books, with or without Brodie. To me, Behind the Scenes... Shows her range. But I do like Jackson even though, like you, he's not my type in real life!

27wookiebender
Jun 21, 2011, 8:08pm

Mark, A Visit from the Goon Squad was excellent! Although I do hope that novels in the future *aren't* written in PowerPoint. :) I was worried she was going to leave endings dangling, but in the last few pages she pulled it together into a very satisfying book.

I've now moved on to the third Jack Taylor mystery, The Magdalen Martyrs. Thanks for the Ken Bruen recommendation! Very readable stuff.

Laura, I hope that I'm going to be one of the people who like both Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books AND her non-JB books. :)

28clif_hiker
Jun 22, 2011, 11:06pm

re: Kate Atkinson, I'm about a third of the way through One Good Turn... it's the only Atkinson my library has on the shelf, and I thought I'd give her a go (since all the reviews here have been so positive). So far so good; as you say the plot does seem convoluted, but I'm confident it will all come together and sort itself out in the end.

29wookiebender
Jun 24, 2011, 8:18am

#28> I'm slightly sorry you're not starting with the first, I found it quite breathtaking. (And hard to read, given I read it when Miss Boo was about 3 and it was to do with the disappearance (and presumed murder) of a three year old girl.) But the second will give you a good sense of Jackson Brodie, at any rate. :) I do hope you like them as much as I do!

30lauralkeet
Jun 24, 2011, 1:12pm

>29 wookiebender:: agree with your thoughts on the first, Case Histories. Very powerful and better than One Good Turn. I read them in reverse order too, and that was OK.

31Amsa1959
Jun 24, 2011, 3:13pm

I remember I tried an Ted Bruen novel once but I never got in to it - don´t know why really. You meade me curious again...

32wookiebender
Jun 25, 2011, 1:33am

Amsa1959, Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor isn't for everyone. It's very violent, he's very morally ambivalent due to his addictions, and it's an unpleasantly bleak bit of Ireland he's in, both emotionally and geographically.

BUT the stories are fascinating and well done, I don't mind some moral ambiguity in my crime, and the fact that Jack Taylor reads so much does make him much more sympathetic to another reading addict like me.

33wookiebender
Jun 25, 2011, 1:33am

46. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Mary Roach



I think the subtitle says it all. And the fact that Mary Roach's previous books were Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. She does write about the funniest things, and in the funniest manner.

I read it mostly on the bus, which means I was quite hunched over, hoping no one was attempting to read over my shoulder. Usually when you read a sex scene on the bus and are worried that people might be watching over your shoulder, it's no biggie, you'll be turning the page in just a short while. Harder to do when the book is *all* about sex.

It did suffer a bit from the same issue as Spook in that the science wasn't as clear cut as it was in Stiff. I guess it's all still a bit too unknown! Which is rather amazing, considering how important sex is, both biologically and psychologically/sociologically. But the funny bits were very, very funny, and I do love how she gets in there and asks the embarrassing questions. (And is a guinea pig herself...) The historical information was most interesting to me, because that's when the really strange stuff is mentioned, like Da Vinci's incredibly incorrect anatomical drawings of people having sex, or doctors masturbating female patients as a cure for hysteria (and this is why vibrators were invented, to make it easier for the doctors).

Overall there were some very funny moments and tales, but I think the discomfort value made it less entertaining for me than Stiff. But it was fascinating how much more there still is to learn about the physiological (and psychological, etc) aspects of sex.

****

34Storeetllr
Edited: Jun 25, 2011, 1:01pm

I loved loved loved Stiff and enjoyed Spook, but I had a hard time getting into Bonk. Maybe the time was just not right. I'll have to give it another try because I find the way Roach writes about the strangest subjects in the most ridiculously humorous way incredibly enjoyable.

35wookiebender
Jun 26, 2011, 12:28am

Yes, she's still to better Stiff for me, but I don't know how one could possibly do that! I'm yet to find a copy of Packing for Mars, her latest. There's no sign of it in the library catalogue...

36clfisha
Jun 27, 2011, 5:16am

@35 Its not due in paperback for a while so maybe it will be easier to find afterwards. :(

37wookiebender
Jun 27, 2011, 7:12am

47. The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason



The introduction for this book is very serious about how there were echoes of The Odyssey in older stories, before all the imagery crystallised into Homer's epic tale. And these particular 44 stories came from "a pre-Ptolemaic papyrus excavated from the desiccated rubbish mounds of Oxyrhynchus". Rubbish mounds. I'd laugh, only Wikipedia tells me that it's true that many lost ancient works were found in the desiccated rubbish mounds of Oxyrhynchus. (You learn something new every day.)

These were great re-imaginings of various tales from The Odyssey. The tales contradict each other (in one, Odysseus returns to Ithaca to find Penelope remarried; in others she has died, or remained constant for him), but overall they're forming a fabulous patchwork of what could have been. We also got some tales from the point of view of other characters, some of whom were rather minor. My personal favourite was one where Odysseus isn't a very good fighter (no inclination or natural talent) so spends most of the Trojan war learning tactics so he knows the safest place to be at any time. (There's a lot more to this tale than that, but I don't want to give spoilers.) It's probably not the best of the collection, being rather facile, but it did make me laugh. The retelling of the Sirens is also well worth a read. Oh, and "Sanitorium" about "Mr O" recovering after a long, bitter war, could have been any long, bitter war. In particular, I had echoes of WW1. And...

They're also all very short - some are just vignettes, really - so it was very easy to stay up late, thinking "just one more...". I lost a lot of sleep while reading this book.

And now, I really MUST read The Odyssey.

*****

38wookiebender
Jun 27, 2011, 7:20am

48. Bound by the Heart, Marsha Canham



Read this one as my first book on my brand new (and oh-so shiny) iPad to test out the eReaders. I do have to say that using an eReader was a lot easier than I thought it would be - so much so, that I find myself reaching up to the top right corner to try and turn the page as one would with a dead tree edition. Prices of eBooks are still not cheap enough (c'mon, I can buy a second hand book for that price, AND pass it onto a friend afterwards), but I'm definitely not afraid of the technology any more.

But this was not a good read. Dodgy sexual politics (our "hero" treats our heroine very very badly, and she just lines up for more), cliche city, bodice ripping. (I know, I know, look at the title, I wasn't expecting high art either.) There was a plot line I wasn't expecting, but while it did make me surprised (our heroine marries her cad fiance instead of ditching him for the swashbuckling pirate), it doesn't actually help the plot along much.

The action scenes were rather fun though, that's where most of its stars come from.

**

39wookiebender
Jun 27, 2011, 7:23am

From the sublime to the ridiculous there, really.

#36> The other Mary Roach books they have are in hardback; I think I'll just have to fill out a "please buy this book" form next time I have some spare time. (I've only done it once before and it was bought, hopefully that's standard practice. :)

40wookiebender
Jun 28, 2011, 6:55am

49. Grace Williams Says It Loud, Emma Henderson



This is a love story unlike many others. Grace Williams suffers from physical and developmental disabilities, and is sent at age 11 to The Briar, an institution. (I was also shocked by a throwaway statement at one stage that there were 2000 inmates at the Briar. How huge - or, rather, overcrowded - was this place?) There she meets, and promptly falls in love with, Daniel. They both grow up together, through the 1950s and 1960s, into adulthood. The book is told from Grace's point of view, and it's quite marvellous how Henderson gets inside of Grace's head so well.

We repeated the words - Rose Day, Rose Day. They fluttered around the wards. People intoned and burped them. They were parroted, lisped, stuttered and muttered. It didn't really matter. We didn't really matter. We nattered - we nutters - and nattering away to the tune of Rose Day changed our grey, difficult, painful world into a joyful splosh of colour. That mattered. Preparing for Rose Day mattered.

Some of the story is quite shocking, as Grace just tells it like it is: sex, abuse, family abandonment. But it's also quite beautiful, with the wonderful relationship between Daniel and Grace growing all the time, yet also having its own ordinary moments.

This was a very compelling read, even though at times I dreaded having to find out what was going to happen.

****

41wookiebender
Jun 28, 2011, 7:09am

50. Britten and Brülightly, Hannah Berry



Nowadays I don't get out of bed for less than a murder. I don't get out of bed much.

Britten is a private investigator, whose inquiries into relationships, prompted by people's jealousy or revenge, has left him in a dark place. His rather unusual partner, Brülightly, suggests that they be more discriminating about their cases, hence the above quote. Britten does get an intriguing case, and follows it up with his customary care. I didn't see the resolution coming, and it's brilliantly handled in very Chandleresque noir style, with lashings of sadness. And a touch of insanity.

The art in this graphic novel was lovely and evocative, although I would have liked it if the lettering was clearer.

****1/2

42wookiebender
Jun 28, 2011, 7:13am

51. Odd and the Frost Giants, Neil Gaiman



This is a rather slim book about a young boy named Odd (meaning "the tip of the blade", a lucky name) who leaves his mother and her new husband to go and live in the woods one endless winter. There, he meets a bear, an eagle and a fox, and with them, goes to battle the Frost Giants.

It's a very simple tale, but would be good for reading to children, which I am hoping to do at some stage!

***1/2

43jfetting
Jun 28, 2011, 7:19am

Oooh the Odyssey book sounds good - I really like all these re-tellings of myths.

44clfisha
Jun 28, 2011, 7:21am

oh I loved Britten and Brülightly, I didn't see the end coming either.. but it fitted perfectly. I wish she would do another comic

45wookiebender
Jun 28, 2011, 7:30pm

#43> I love retellings of myths too, I blame Leon Garfield's The God Beneath the Sea for that. Found it in the school library when I was a kid, and loved it to bits. Was so happy to find a beautiful hardcopy second hand some years ago!

#44> It was an excellent story, beyond being a good graphic novel. I'd love her to do something else!

46msf59
Jun 28, 2011, 7:49pm

Wookie- Grace Williams Says It Loud sounds terrific! Good review. I'll have to add that one to the list.
So glad you liked Britten and Brülightly. It's a definite gem!

47wookiebender
Jun 28, 2011, 8:06pm

Mark, I think you'll like Grace Williams Says It Loud, definitely check it out.

And thanks again for your recommendation of Britten and Brulightly! I hadn't heard of it before you started spruiking it.

48seekingflight
Jul 16, 2011, 3:56pm

Hey wookiebender - just dropped on a quest to catch up on some threads and loved the sound of the Odyssey book too (among others).

49wookiebender
Jul 16, 2011, 8:06pm

Ah, mine's been a nice easy thread to catch up on lately, as we went away on holidays to warmer climes. :) Back now, it's cold and grey and wet in Sydney, and I have to return to work tomorrow. *sigh*

50wookiebender
Jul 16, 2011, 8:07pm

52. A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan



This is a series of interlinking stories, jumping about in time and with different characters, but each story references another in the collection, usually through a common character. I really enjoyed both the format of the book, as well as the stories themselves.

Towards the end I was a bit worried she wouldn't be able to pull it all together, but she did. The chapter written in Powerpoint gave me the metatextual giggles, but I do hope that this isn't a sign of the future. I can't say I completely approve of Powerpoint in the first place, or its importance in the school curriculum. The idea that people might use it for more than meetings slightly horrifies me.

The final chapter, set in the not-so-distant future, was fascinating and clever. I'd like to revisit it in a few years, and see just how close she was in her predictions. I was very startled to come across an ad on TV the other day with a baby as a "pointer", so she was spot on in that respect, at any rate. And I fell off the sofa in shock. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdKDM_1zVek)

I was expecting a challenging and difficult book, but it was actually remarkably easy to read and was a book that I never wanted to put down. A worthy Pulitzer winner.

****1/2

51wookiebender
Jul 17, 2011, 12:30am

53. The Magdalen Martyrs, Ken Bruen



This is the third in the Jack Taylor series, a great Irish noir crime series, very readable, although it should probably come with a warning about violence. In this one, Jack is asked to track down a woman who used to work at the Magdalen laundry, a place where young "fallen" women were kept in punitive circumstances. Jack lurches from incident to incident, but is as stubborn as a mule, so does finally get the information he requires. And then keeps on digging.

This was, as usual, a gripping page turner, although I might have to have a break from Jack Taylor, his alcoholism/addictions and subsequent stupidity is just making me angry. I want to reach into the book and shake him until his teeth have all fallen out.

****

52wookiebender
Jul 17, 2011, 12:47am

54. A Proper Companion, Candice Hern



Being the proud new owner of a very shiny new iPad (so very, very shiny). I had to try it out as an eReader. (And it works very well, half the time I forgot I wasn't reading an actual book, and would try to physically turn the pages on the iPad.) This was one of the first books I downloaded, as it was free, and I'm a bit of a sucker for a Regency romance.

While it had a slightly awkward beginning, it was worth persevering, as we are introduced to Emily Townsend, a paid companion to the Dowager Countess Bradleigh. Emily is bright and smart, and instantly comes to the attention of Countess Bradleigh's grandson, the incorrigible rake Robert, Earl of Bradleigh. Unfortunately, Robert has just entered into an engagement of convenience with the latest beautiful young thing, which does rather put a spanner in the works for Robert and Emily's burgeoning romance.

There are a few typos scattered throughout this edition; it seemed to be from maybe having the electronic version created from scanning a printed copy. They weren't overly distracting, but it is a shame they weren't picked up by a spellchecker first.

While it's not quite in the same league as Georgette Heyer (no one was made into a cake), it was good fun, and I've already downloaded the next in the series. (Which I did have to pay for, of course. I got thoroughly - and happily - suckered in by that original freebie.)

***1/2

53wookiebender
Jul 17, 2011, 3:06am

55. Desperate Measures, Candice Hern



Whee! Another free Regency romance! A very silly little short story, but good fun.

***1/2

54seekingflight
Jul 17, 2011, 5:24am

Hope you enjoyed the holiday somewhere warmer, and returning to work isn't too stressful.

#52 > If I was more technically savvy, I'd give you a comment in powerpoint slides here, on how intriguing the idea of a chapter in powerpoint in the Egan books sounds! Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) I'm not entirely sure how to put that idea into practice ...

55msf59
Jul 17, 2011, 8:24am

Hi Wookie- How are you stranger? Glad to see you are reading some excellent titles. I'm happy you loved Goon Squad. I felt the same way, although LTers have been mixed on that one.
And you enjoyed another Jack Taylor. I need to start tracking down Priest, book 5.
Hope all is well!

56wookiebender
Jul 17, 2011, 9:34pm

#54> Well, returning to work is suddenly a lot less stressful, compared to staying home with a small boy with chickenpox, which is what Don is currently doing. (Mr Bear came down in spots yesterday.) I know where I'd rather be. Deleting 900+ emails is a breeze compared to looking after sick kids.

Hi Mark! I had my iPad with me while on holidays, but didn't do much LTing, so I notice that I'm thoroughly behind on your thread. :) And here, too! I'll try and catch up at some stage.

I've read some of the mixed comments on Goon Squad, and I'm sorry not everyone liked it. I thought it was quite marvellous.

57wookiebender
Jul 25, 2011, 7:46am

56. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell



At the beginning of the 19th century, clerk Jacob de Zoet sails into Dejima, a tiny man made island in the bay of Nagasaki, and Japan's only link to the western world. Japanese people are not allowed outside of Japan, and very few Europeans are allowed onto Japanese soil. And those Europeans are all Dutch, whose Dutch East Indies Company has sole trading rights with Japan. But the company is slowly falling apart at home, and is rife with corruption at Dejima.

I have to say this book had a very slow, almost interminable beginning. Apart from the opening chapter, which details a birth going horribly wrong (complete with an anatomical diagramme). That opening chapter alone took two attempts (several months apart) to get through, and once that was over it was just a matter of plodding through about 200 pages of financial corruption. Once we finally get to the end of that section, however, there are some breathtaking twists and turns, and the plot and the characters kick into high gear and it became the great read it should have been from the very start.

It's a mishmash of plots by then, but I'm rather fond of mishmashes. And one rather startling coincidence on which hangs the novel's conclusion that did leave me feeling slightly shortchanged. Whether it's enough of a nice messy complex plot with human characters to forgive the first plodding third and the slightly unbelievable climax, well, not everyone may feel that it was worth it.

***1/2

58msf59
Jul 25, 2011, 7:57am

Wookie- Good, honest review of Thousand Autumns. You should post your review on the G.R. thread. I liked the book more than you did and I had different problems with it, than you did. It actually grabbed me right away.

59wookiebender
Jul 25, 2011, 6:58pm

Hi Mark! I actually got grumpy with the book while writing my review last night (I finished it a couple of weeks ago), even to the point of docking it another 1/2 star. Funny how that happens.

I'll go and dig up the group read threads, I haven't actually visited them yet!! My bad. :}

60julyso
Aug 1, 2011, 12:55am

Loved The Help...are you going to go see the movie? Have you started The Gargoyle???

61wookiebender
Aug 1, 2011, 1:17am

I'm in two minds about the movie: it does seem that the black characters are sidelined in preference to Skeeter's story, and that's annoying me. But then again, Skeeter's story was great, and I'd like to see it on the big screen... I might have to wait until the movie reviews are in before deciding!

Haven't even sourced The Gargoyle. :)

62Storeetllr
Aug 1, 2011, 3:25pm

Hey, wookie! Just dropping in for one of my bi-monthly visits and see that you have gotten through a whole bunch of books, some of which I've actually read. Well, one of which, anyway, though I didn't find Britten and Brulightly as enjoyable as you did (I think I gave it 3-1/2 stars). I did like the concept, though. And I need to thank you for bringing Candice Hern and her eRegencies to my attention. If they aren't priced too steep (yes, I so agree that $6.95 is just too much to pay for an eBook, though I've done it once or twice when I needed a quick series fix), I'll try one. I enjoy every now and again going through the free and low-priced eBooks to see what I can find that I might not read otherwise. It's opened my eyes to some really great stuff (Georgette Heyer, for one, if you can believe I hadn't been reading her stuff all along).

63wookiebender
Aug 1, 2011, 6:49pm

Hi Mary!

Glad to push Candice Hern onto others, she's good fun. :) And Georgette Heyer in eBook (Kindle) is about the same price as a second hand copy here. Sorry Amazon, I'm supporting my local second hand bookshop for my Heyer fixes.

And would your "quick series fix" be Kitty and the Midnight Hour, perhaps? :) I've added that one to my wishlist after your comments on your thread. Sounds like fun, but I'm resisting buying it until I've cleared a few more books off Mt TBR. So I may be some time...

64clfisha
Aug 3, 2011, 6:18am

Great review, I admit I liked it in spite of all the faults you mention (because it is a bit of a chaotic mess) but I a bit of a Mitchell fan boy :)

65msf59
Aug 3, 2011, 7:18am

Hi Wookie! Book-reading update, please? Inquiring minds and all that...

66wookiebender
Aug 4, 2011, 1:15am

#64> clfisha, I loved Cloud Atlas. And this was the only other David Mitchell I've read. Although apparently I own all of them. *blush* Must be careful with the book buying!

The good bits were very, very good. But I wanted more good bits!

#65> Hi Mark! Lessee, I'm currently gobbling up Tainted Blood (aka Jar City) by Arnaldur Indriðason. It's unputdownable, I'm really hooked. I hope the library has the next book in the series! (Yay! It does!) And I'm going slower on The Tiger's Wife which won this year's Orange Prize, but is failing to captivate me. I'm hoping it's just lack of sleep that's the failure point here.

67Storeetllr
Aug 5, 2011, 12:46am

>63 wookiebender: Haha, wookie ~ Nailed it in one! The quick fix was indeed a Kitty Norville book. It may have even been two of them. :)

68wookiebender
Aug 6, 2011, 7:46pm

57. As the Earth Turns Silver, Alison Wong



As the Earth Turns Silver won the New Zealand Post Book Award in 2010, and tells the intertwining stories of the unhappy McKechnie family and a pair of brothers from China, Yung and Shun, in the early 20th century in Wellington, New Zealand.

Overall it was a good read, but not as good as I'd been hoping. I like my plots more complex, and thought the ending was a bit of a cop out. Not a bad book by any means (the characters were good and believable, the background of New Zealand in the early 20th century was interesting, it was well written, and there was a veracity to the tale of Chinese immigrants to NZ). I think it's just a case of it being oversold to me.

***1/2

69msf59
Aug 6, 2011, 7:59pm

Wookie- I'm so glad you enjoyed Jar City. I thought the 2nd one, Silence of the Grave was even better. IMHO, of course. I finished a futuristic YA thriller called Divergent, that was a lot of fun.

70wookiebender
Aug 6, 2011, 8:22pm

58. The Thirty Nine Steps, John Buchan

It's always strange (and slightly nerve wracking) to return to an old favourite read. Sometimes it's like returning to an old school friend, and as if you've never been apart, the friendship just kicks in where you left it. At other times, it's rather embarrassing and you struggle to remember what basis your friendship used to have.

Unfortunately, The Thirty Nine Steps falls somewhat (but not totally) into the second category. The adventure was still adventurous, and there is a certain guilty pleasure in reading about the upright, stiff-upper-lip English thwarting an evil foreign plot in the years between the World Wars, even if the international politics confused me somewhat. But who cares about political details, it's Richard Hannay to the rescue!

However, I was very disappointed that it had right at the very start a reference to "the Jew" who is behind everything in Europe. I don't remember that particular phrase or sentiment from my childhood reading (I just remember the adventure of it all). And it was just a bit too horrible a description to be able to dismiss as "a product of its times". One should point out that it wasn't Richard Hannay who said it (although he didn't deny it or protest either), and at the very end of the book it is finally dismissed as a character's strange obsession. But, too little, too late, I'd read most of the book feeling rather uncomfortable.

I'm not a fan of censorship, but I'd make an exception for this book so I can read the fun adventure without discomfort, and so I can feel less guilty about myself as a younger reader.

***

71wookiebender
Aug 6, 2011, 8:25pm

Hi Mark! I just found Jar City very hard to put down. Dad was over for dinner last night, and he left with the title and the author written down in his little notebook (now he's retired, he's reading fiction again, and most of it has been crime). The library has the second one in the catalog, but someone else has it on loan until the end of the month. Curses! Still, I'm sure I've got plenty to go on with in the meantime. :)

Have you read the graphic novel(s) Unwritten by Mike Carey? That's going to be my next rave (once I've caught up on some pretty ordinary reads, sadly July wasn't a great reading month for me, so I've fallen behind on reviews).

72wookiebender
Aug 6, 2011, 10:45pm

59. Catching Caroline, Sylvia Day



Okay, a very, very trashy read on the iPad (my excuse: still experimenting with eReaders). This one involves vampire romance. To be honest, I did know what I was letting myself in for, when it was classified as "erotic vampire regency historical". And it ticks all those boxes. But it wasn't as excellent as it could have been, with cardboard cutouts for characters, stupid action that only served as links for the sex scenes, and what read like anatomically impossible sex.

Yeah, I was expecting too much, wasn't I?

This could have been a hysterical romp, mocking both vampire and regency romance, but it failed by taking itself too seriously, and I failed as a reader by expecting too much.

**

73wookiebender
Aug 6, 2011, 10:52pm

60. The Mercenary's Price, C.J. Archer



Another eReader experiment, and yeah, the last of the trashy romances. My excuse: I was on holidays, and it's a lot easier to pack an iPad than a stack of paperbacks.

This one is set in Elizabethan times. Lady Eliza Harcourt is the Queen's seer, and is under threat of kidnap. Sent to protect her is Thomas Blackstone, who was rejected as a suitor by Lady Eliza ten years earlier. Awkward, much?

It's a short, entertaining book, nothing brilliant, but rather good fun.

***1/2

74msf59
Aug 7, 2011, 8:04am

Wookie- Yes, I did read the 1st Unwritten. I remembered it being quite good but need to get to the next volume.
Wow, quite a cover on Catching Caroline! LOL!

75wookiebender
Aug 7, 2011, 8:50pm

I enjoyed the first The Unwritten, but found the second quite unputdownable. The third volume is on my wish list!

Yes, the cover should have warned me as much as the genre on that book. :)

76clfisha
Aug 8, 2011, 6:44am

The 3rd Unwritten is good too, some of the main plot starts to get tied down :)

77wookiebender
Aug 8, 2011, 8:43pm

Excellent! Although I am enjoying all the hints as to what's happening, it would be nice if the hints turned into something more substantial at some stage. :) I see there will be future volumes as well, the local comic shop has the individual issues (but I prefer to get the bound volume later; I just hope I can hold out!).

78clfisha
Aug 9, 2011, 4:41am

I am not fan of individual episodes either mainly because I like to read in one large glut but also they are a pain to keep buying & store.

79wookiebender
Aug 10, 2011, 12:27am

Oh, storing individual issues is a pain! I've got piles of them in the house, and there's no good way to store them. I may just donate them to the charity shop, or sell them to the second hand bookshop. Gain some shelf space that way, too. :)

80wookiebender
Aug 10, 2011, 7:17am

61. The Swarm, Frank Schätzing



Having heard this one mentioned a few times (in mostly good terms), I requested it from the library. And, only when I picked it up from the local branch did I realise it clocked in at nearly 900 pages. (It's a hand-to-hand fightin' book, and one to make my fellow commuters quake with fear.) I have since learnt to check the page count on the online library catalogue.

At the beginning of the book, I was rather chuffed because only a few days previously I'd been watching whales and dolphins frolic off the east coast of Australia, and it seemed rather wonderful to carry on in that vein. Even if the whales in The Swarm were more interested in wreaking destruction on humankind. Yep, you read that right. No Flipper here.

The plot starts off all over the globe, with strange things happening at sea. After a while, it does concentrate on various characters, probably because the death rate is quite startling so all extraneous characters have been removed through being eaten by an orca or some such. It does continue to throw new characters at the reader at an astounding rate, but it's okay, you don't need to remember them all, they probably won't survive the chapter in which they were introduced. Most of the (surviving) characters are well drawn and complex, and easily distinguishable from each other (although I got some of the Northern European names muddled), and it was wonderful to have so many brainy scientists (as opposed to kick boxing scientists, I guess) saving the world by working together.

It was quite gripping, although had a number of the annoying bits that European thrillers (well, The Girl With... series) seem to have: lots (and lots) of exposition clunkily handled at the start, before the real plot kicks in. This may be endemic to thrillers as a whole, I only ever seem to read ones translated from European languages. (There's my literary snob streak.)

And towards the end of the book I was beginning to feel it had overstayed its welcome. My arms were tired from lugging it around, and there was far too much genetics in the final chapters. While I happily enjoyed the vast majority of the very well explained and researched science (apart from the over loading of information about drilling for oil in the North Sea from the beginning chapters), I did find my eyes glazing over with the explanations of genetic code towards the end there. I think I just wanted a few more explosions, followed by a happy ending after two weeks of solid reading. But instead I got some very trippy scenes (that were a bit much to read late at night), and then what (finally) surprisingly turned out to be an excellent final chapter: nicely ambiguous, but with room for hope.

What I mostly liked though is that it seems to have changed how I view the world, which is a great achievement. For me, it really rammed home the interconnectedness of nature, and our precarious position on the planet. I was always aware of green themes, but it put it into perspective, I guess. Now let's see if it's a permanent state of affairs...

****

81msf59
Aug 10, 2011, 7:32am

Wookie- Excellent review of The Swarm and funny too- "It's a hand-to-hand fightin' book". I'm not sure this is one I would read but you never know. Great job!

82wookiebender
Aug 10, 2011, 7:32am

62. The Unwritten, Volume 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity, Mike Carey



Tom Taylor is the son of Wilson Taylor, the author of a stupendously popular series of books about a young wizard, called Tommy Taylor. Wilson has long since disappeared, and Tom ekes out a living appearing at conventions, signing his father's books as Tommy Taylor. Then one day his identity is questioned by a young graduate student at a convention: is he really Wilson's son, or the son of a poor immigrant couple?

Tom is suitably shocked as his identity is pulled out from under him, but what is more shocking is the outpouring of rage from the fans of Tommy Taylor. They practically want to lynch Tom. While Tom is searching for his real identity (and dodging angry fans), the puzzle gets deeper and deeper.

The charms of this graphic novel - apart from the great story, great art, and fascination with where it's all going to go - is the meta-textuality of it all. There are pages that are made up to be a computer screen with various bits of information (a news website with an article about the scandal of Tom's identity; Google searches; chat sessions) all of which add to the background of the story; and (best of all for me), the whole fun of Tommy being such a complete rip-off of Harry Potter.

****

83divinenanny
Aug 10, 2011, 11:19am

Maybe I should have warned you about the size of The Swarm. The science was a bit too much, but I liked the plot. I recently picked up his The Limit. It seems even bigger... I am gathering up courage to start it...

84wookiebender
Aug 10, 2011, 9:47pm

Oh, it was definitely worth it. I think he explained the science very clearly, although sometimes it was obviously an info-dump (but a necessary info-dump). "You don't know about xyz? Well, let me explain it to you..." was an oft-occurring start to dialogue between characters.

Note, that while I studied science way back when at Uni, I never did any of the sorts of science covered in The Swarm, and I haven't really kept up to date at all with what I did study, either. (My bad. I really should read some science books on occasion, I do like science.) So I'm very much assuming that what his characters were info-dumping was pretty much real (maybe some simplification for plot necessity). It felt correct, but I'm not sure I'm quite fit to judge any more.

Good luck with "The Limit", I hope it's a good read too!

85vancouverdeb
Aug 11, 2011, 6:35am

Thought I'd stop by and say Hi, Wookie! I read on Mark's thread that you were reading the Sisters Brothers I just loved it too!! Raved about it on my thread. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I read The Thousand Autumns for the Great Read and it was not my favourite, shall I say.... Your covers are so interesting! I'm in Canada, and even our book covers can differ from those in the USA - but yours quite different to ours. Just a point of interest! Grace Williams Says it Loud -great review! I enjoyed that very much too!

Nice to see you!

86clfisha
Aug 11, 2011, 3:27pm

Great review of The Unwritten, volume 1, thumbs up from me!

87wookiebender
Aug 11, 2011, 9:36pm

#85> Oh, I'm loving The Sisters Brothers too! And remarkably easy to read, I'll be finished it within 2 days.

Can I confess that I often buy books just based on the cover? The original edition of Thousand Autumns in Australia was pretty, but it wasn't until it came out in smaller format (and, you can't quite tell from the image above, but it's got glittery gold on the kimono) that I instantly bought my copy, thinking "this I want to keep on my shelves!" :)

#86> Aw, shucks.

88wookiebender
Edited: Aug 22, 2011, 7:06am

63. Tainted Blood (aka Jar City), Arnaldur Indridason



In Jar City we are introduced to Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson. Yep, another Scandinavian murder mystery, although this time set in Reykjavik, Iceland, which is an unusual setting, to say the least. (Why do the Scandinavians write so much crime? And do it so well?) Apparently most murders in Iceland are boring to solve: they're drunken crimes of passion, badly covered up (if at all). But this one, starting with an old man murdered in his basement flat with a cryptic clue scrawled on some paper, is different. Erlendur keeps on doggedly at it, refusing to accept an easy explanation, untangling the threads slowly and meticulously, until the whole story, spanning decades, comes to light.

At first I thought this book was nothing out of the ordinary (apart from the Icelandic setting), but I found myself quite unable to put it down. I couldn't see where the plot was going to go, and I had a great time sniffing out the clues with Erlendur. He's your standard great-cop-dreadful-ex-husband-and-father character, but he never felt like a cliche and I never got bored with him.

Interestingly, some clues (the cryptic note, most especially) are withheld from us, the readers. We know there was a cryptic clue, but we're not let in on its content for quite some time. It's an unusual tactic (usually the reader is given everything, unless the narrator is very sneaky), but I never found it frustrating. Everything came to light as we needed it.

I do have my usual quibbles about some awkward translating (or maybe European crime really does read awkwardly in the original language), but it was nothing I couldn't live with.

****1/2

89msf59
Aug 22, 2011, 7:23am

Wookie- Good review of Jar City. And keep in mind, I liked Silence of the Grave even better. I hope I can read the 3rd one sometime this fall.

90wookiebender
Aug 22, 2011, 7:26am

64. The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man, Mike Carey



The adventures of Tom Taylor get more complex. Arrested for a crime he didn't commit, Tom finds himself thrown into a French jail, where the governor seems to have an irrational hatred of him. Luckily he quickly makes friends with a fellow prisoner; and the delightful Lizzie Hexam manages to get herself thrown into the same jail to help him out. And with people trying to kill Tommy in prison, he needs all the help he can get.

The meta-textual nature continues, and we find out how Tom's incarceration is affecting his fans (some of whom are well, slightly nuts, to put it mildly) not through the story directly, but through the continuing method of interspersing the story with computer grabs of Google searches and chat sessions, etc. It's a nice method, a good way of cramming lots of incidental, but important, information in, in a show-don't-tell style.

While we learn even more about Tom's story, we also get some slowly revealed backstory for Governor Chadron that is quite heartbreaking in its conclusion.

The final chapter is not Tom's, but is very clever, about foul mouthed and angry rabbit called Mr Bun, currently inhabiting a Beatrix Potter-esque world, Willowbank Tales. His bad-tempered interactions with his fellow woodland creatures are worth the price of the book alone.

****1/2

91wookiebender
Aug 22, 2011, 7:27am

Hi Mark! You snuck in there while I was off writing another review. :)

I'm hanging out for Silence of the Grave, waiting for it to be returned to the library...

92wookiebender
Aug 22, 2011, 7:45am

65. The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling



After running into Kipling in Mike Carey's The Unwritten, I was curious to read some of his works. His earlier, tub-thumping works seem to be less well regarded now (which is a relief, I sat through the movie adaptation of "Gunga Din" with Cary Grant when I was young and Cary Grant-infatuated, and then many years later almost died laughing when Peter Sellers sent it up in "The Party"; I will love Sellers forever for that one scene with the bugle alone). But everyone seems to still love his children's books, and with my kids currently watching a new animated series of The Jungle Book, this seemed like the place to start.

Funnily enough, most of The Jungle Book is not about Mowgli: and of the three stories with him in it, only two feature Shere Khan as well. (And one story is set with seals in the cold northern seas. And another in Afghanistan. Since when does either the northern seas or Afghanistan count as "jungle"? I think the title of the book is rather misleading!)

My favourite characters were Baloo & Bagheera, their interaction was just priceless, like a long married squabbling but (underneath it all) loving couple. Shere Khan wasn't as scary as I would have expected, even though he's a man-killer (due to a gammy leg), the way Mowgli despises him makes Shere Khan come across as a nasty schoolyard bully. The scary one was Bagheera, who is actually on Mowgli's side (which is a relief).

But still, good fun, in a very British colonial sort of way. I would have gobbled these up as a child!

And Rikki Tikki Tavi just plain rocks.

***1/2

93ronincats
Aug 22, 2011, 11:41am

Kipling actually wrote 9 Mowgli stories: Mowgli's Brothers, Kaa's Hunting, How Fear Came, "Tiger! Tiger!", Letting in the Jungle, The King's Ankus, Red Dog, The Spring Running, and In the Rukh, but they are spread throughout his works. I was fortunate enough to come across an edition of All The Mowgli Stories in the early 70s, about 5 years after that edition was published, so that I can enjoy them without having to hunt through my two volume Complete Works of Kipling. I DID gobble them up as a kid, along with Kim and Puck of Pook's Hill.

Now, the next question is, have you and your kids read Gaiman's The Graveyard Book? Several of the episodes are reworks of Mowgli's adventures, e.g., Kaa's Hunting and The King's Ankus.

94wookiebender
Aug 22, 2011, 8:41pm

Oh, I have read The Graveyard Book, but I didn't get any Mowgli references, since I hadn't read Kipling at that stage. I can see "Kaa's Hunting" scene in it now that you've pointed it out. Thanks!

And I'm reading Kim right now.

95Storeetllr
Aug 23, 2011, 1:38am

Hi, wookie ~ I've just finished the second Tommy Taylor graphic novel and need to read the first one, then go back and reread the second. I agree, it is very complex ~ too much so in fact for skipping ahead. But I do agree with you about the bad bunny in last part of the book. BTW, I kept thinking of the story in the middle of Jetho Tull's Passion Play ~ about the hare who lost his spectacles. He wasn't a bad cove, but it was just as startling to find it in the middle of such complex and serious material.

96wookiebender
Aug 24, 2011, 6:50am

Oh, I think the ending of Mr Bun's tale meant that it was in good company with the Tommy Taylor story. Very dark. I must find Vol 3 now!

97wookiebender
Aug 24, 2011, 7:13am

66. The Tiger's Wife, Téa Obreht



The Tiger's Wife is narrated by Natalia, a young doctor in an unnamed Balkan country, following the wars that devastated that region. While on a mercy mission to visit an orphanage across the newly formed border with her best friend and fellow doctor, Zora, she finds out that her beloved grandfather has died. The book revolves around her dealing with her grandfather's death; the earlier relationship between them when she was a child and a teenager; and stories that her grandfather told her about his childhood in the lead-up to the Second World War. In particular, the story of an escaped zoo tiger roaming the Balkans, and the eponymous tiger's wife.

My favourite story within all these stories was the one of the Deathless Man, a man who cannot die, who Natalia's grandfather first met as a young doctor himself. The Deathless Man has a great story to tell, and is quite an charming and interesting character to spend time with. And I did like when we dipped into other characters' backstories (the interlinking of the deathless man & Luka's backstory was a high point, in particular).

It all sounds good on the surface, but I never got into the swing of the story. My main objection was that the narrator didn't ring true: she just came across as one-dimensional, and she didn't remind me in the slightest of any doctors I know. She was the weakest point of the book for me, I never believed her as a real character once (why doesn't she just tell Zora that her grandfather has died??). Zora was more believable and interesting, but didn't get enough time in the book. I know the story isn't about Natalia, it's about her telling the story of the tiger's wife as told to her by her grandfather, but if you don't believe your narrator is a real person, you're in trouble.

And while I may not always understand what's happening in a magical realism story, I do expect to *believe* what's happening. And, nope, I didn't. Especially towards the end, where characters just seemed to die randomly. And the jumping around in time didn't work for me, I couldn't keep the timeline straight in my head (although that's usually not a problem). Plus, there were some sentences that I read and re-read and they never ever made sense. And Shere Khan is neither as glossy or as threatening in The Jungle Book as he is meant to be in this book.

I think maybe with a bit more understanding of Balkan history, the background and history would have made a bit more sense and would have helped with my enjoyment of this book. But I've read other fiction books knowing nothing about the history of the region involved, and gone away having learnt something, and appreciating that learning. At the end of The Tiger's Wife, I know no more about the history of the Balkans than I did when I started.

It was a sense of frustration, rather than relief, when I got to the end, because this could have been so much more fun to read.

***

98divinenanny
Aug 24, 2011, 7:30am

Thanks for that review. I have The Tiger's Wife on my wishlist, but after your review I might have to take it off again...

99lauralkeet
Aug 24, 2011, 7:47am

>97 wookiebender:: amen! Excellent review.

100wookiebender
Aug 24, 2011, 7:48am

#98> Oh, most people liked it more than I did, and you may be one of those people. But then again, we mostly agree. :)

#99> Thanks!

101wookiebender
Aug 24, 2011, 7:48am

67. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro



One summer, in the middle of the 1950s, Mr Stephens, a butler in a grand old home in the English countryside takes a journey. The purpose of his journey is to visit an old friend, the former housekeeper Miss Kenton, and to see if she is interested in returning to her post as housekeeper for the new owner of the house, a wealthy American. Throughout his jaunting around the countryside, we get occasional glimpses of the beauty of an English summer, but mostly he's lost in his reminisces of his time at Darlington Hall with Miss Kenton, at the apex of his employment as butler, with a large staff and important international negotiations going on under its roof.

But never directly said, just in asides and readings-between-the-lines, what is most revealed to us is Mr Stephens and Miss Kenton's relationship. Matter of fact, I don't think Mr Stephens is at all aware of the depth of feeling between the two of them, preferring to see everything on a distinctly professional level only.

Ishiguro has done a wonderful job of creating this fascinating character, a man so buttoned-up and in denial that he hardly lives his own life, but spends it all in the service of someone else, who, sadly, ends up being equally misguided. At first I found Mr Stephens so pompous that he was irritating me, but after a while I got into the swing of it all and started really enjoying his pompous take on life. And the stories of the "downstairs" life were equally fascinating, a glimpse into another world and place.

There's also some very amusing reflections on this serious gentleman's gentleman trying to adapt to a new, much more informal master. I particularly liked him practicing his witticisms.

****1/2

102jfetting
Aug 24, 2011, 8:16am

That book made me cry at the end. I loved it! And so it is good to see that you liked it too.

103wookiebender
Aug 24, 2011, 7:53pm

Oh, it was a very sad book, overall. (Apart from the practicing of witticisms!) But quite beautiful as well. Probably my favourite Ishiguro so far. Of the whole three I've read. ;)

104vancouverdeb
Aug 24, 2011, 8:09pm

Just stopping by to say hi! You get through books in an amazingly short time and write up great reviews at the same time! Great going , Wookie!Hmm - Tainted Blood is the same as Jar City. Took me a minute! ;) Well, I've read all of the Dectective Erlendur series except for the last one, and I think with each book, Arnadulur indriason improves his writing and plots and depth of characterization. Best of luck with that series!

105wookiebender
Aug 24, 2011, 10:07pm

Hi Deb, nice to have you popping by! It's that commute to and from work that really pushes up my reading stats. I can't just stare out of the window for an hour!

The name Tainted Blood/Jar City took me more than a minute. I was cross that the library didn't have "Jar City", which is the name I've always known it by (ever since my local bookseller raved about it years ago, but I wasn't reading crime at that time, but his recommendation stuck in my brain) when I decided I did want to read it, and then suddenly I somehow realised it had a different name, and the library had it under that name! Hurrah! And then another 6 month search of the shelves before I stumbled across it filed under his first name, not his last name. (In true Icelandic tradition, but, um, this is Sydney.)

106iansales
Aug 25, 2011, 2:26am

If you're reading Ishiguro, avoid The Unconsoled. It's terrible.

107wookiebender
Aug 25, 2011, 3:26am

#106> Yes, I've heard nothing good about The Unconsoled. It's not going on my wishlist any time soon.

108msf59
Aug 25, 2011, 9:23pm

Wookie- I liked your review of The Tiger's Wife. This looks like one of those books, you either like or not. Opinion has been mixed. I keep moving it to a further back-burner.
I loved your review of The Remains of the Day. Perfectly stated. What a great book! Have you seen the film version? It's also fantastic. The leads are incredible.
Hey, it looks like I'm starting The Last Werewolf. Yah!

109vancouverdeb
Aug 30, 2011, 2:39am

Thumb up to both of your reviews, Wookie! The Tiger's Wife never grabbed my interest during my " Orange" read back in May / June/ July. I think that the magic realism was at least part of what pushed me away. I have trouble with magical realism unless I think it truly is part of a persons belief systems - say that of those of First Nations Culture here in Canada.

You've really piqued my interest in Remains of the Day. I've heard the title so often - and never paid much attention, but your review has caught my interest!

Thanks for visiting my thread! ;)Have a great day!

110wookiebender
Aug 30, 2011, 8:59pm

Hi Mark! Sorry I didn't notice you drop by earlier, it's been busy lately. I'm yet to see the movie adaptation of Remains of the Day, although it's a favourite of Don's. We'll have to rustle up a copy sometime rsn!

Did I tell you how I bought The Last Werewolf? It was National Bookshop Day, and our local bookshop made quite the effort, with the booksellers dressing up (Alice, Pippi, and the owner was a frighteningly tall Gandalf, I never realised how big that man was until he put on a white wig and beard), and a park out in the street, with benches to sit on and read, and guest authors reading from their books. (Sadly, I missed all the guest authors.) I spent a while deciding on my one book (yay for childfree time!) and then sat on a bench, next to a nice young man who was reading Ready Player One (and who was quite startled at my "I want that book!"), and read the first chapter.

None of which sunk in, because I had a filthy headcold, but it was fun regardless. And I'll re-read that first chapter, no biggie.

Here's a photo of the park (which does not do it justice, at all):



Thanks Deb for the thumbs! I usually like magical realism, so I had high hopes for The Tiger's Wife. Oh well. I'm still going on the Orange reads (currently on Small Wars by Sadie Jones), they're usually much better books (IMO).

Yes, do read Remains of the Day! It was terribly British, and wonderfully understated. I was still thinking of the implications of the whole thing on the bus this morning, some weeks after finishing it.

And I must get some more books reviewed! Hopefully tonight I'll get some computer time...

111msf59
Aug 30, 2011, 9:09pm

Wookie- Sorry to hear about the nasty head-cold! Hope you recover quickly. I just finished The Last Werewolf and I loved it. He's a very good writer.
I've been hearing some great buzz on Ready Player One. I need to snag a copy of this one.

112wookiebender
Aug 30, 2011, 9:31pm

Oh, I'm much better now, brain is back in working order. But Don's now at home sick! Next week, it'll be the kids, no doubt.

Ready Player One just sounds like so much fun! But it doesn't come out until October in Australia. I'm telling myself I have plenty to go on with, and I can wait until then to buy my copy. :)

113vancouverdeb
Edited: Aug 31, 2011, 3:16am

Yes, Wookie-Tania- right? Woolworths as I remember it was the equivalent of small, inexpensive department store, and most of them had a lunch counter as well. It's been gone for a long time - maybe the gone from Canada in the late 60's or early 70's? I''m not certain. It's interesting that you have a Woolworths that is a grocery store . I wonder if they are related at all? I had no idea that they had them in the US as well. Interesting memories ! Glad to hear that you are feeling better!

BTW - I agree - from my reading this year - I would say that the Oranges seem to be better books than the Booker's!

114wookiebender
Aug 31, 2011, 3:51am

Oh, the Oranges are usually much more fun than the Bookers! The Bookers can be pretty grim, really.

I used to say that the Pulitzer was always very readable, and then they went and gave it to The Road. I still need therapy for that. (And for We Need to Talk About Kevin, which did win the Orange Prize...)

115vancouverdeb
Sep 1, 2011, 5:23am

Hi Tania - if I may call you that! Thanks for visiting my thread and sharing your Woolworths memories with all of us!! Amazing what the right title can do fora book! :) You know, I have a sister named Tannis. Not the same as Tania - but apparently Tannis is quite unusual except in the Praires of Canada. People always think that her name is Janice.

Anyway, all of my gabbing aside -which I am very good at - you and SoupDragon made me feel so ashamed for not reading anything by Robertson Davies - a Canadian writer for goodness sakes, that I went to the Bookstore today and picked up The Fifth Business, so thanks for the push. Supposedly they had Outrage by Arnaldur Indrisason - a series I can see that you are reading - and so am I. Well- they looked all over for the book - only to phone and tell me they had found it after I left the store. Sigh. I guess I'll have to return. Always dangerous for the pocketbook!

Hmm... I'm going to look at the The Road -I do understand how some books cause one to need therapy!!!!!! ;)

116wookiebender
Sep 3, 2011, 7:26am

Hi Deb, of course you can call me Tania, I won't insist on being Ms Wookiebender or anything. :)

I've never heard of Tannis as a name, it obviously hasn't reached Australia from the Prairies of Canada.

I hope you like the Robertson Davies! I must re-read some of his works, I read them all ages ago now, and my memory's vague. And Indriasson is excellent, I'm going to the library tomorrow, and it looks like book #2 is available, hurrah! (Oh damn, that's going to make 12 library books on the bedside table...)

117wookiebender
Sep 3, 2011, 7:59am

68. The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt



The Sisters brothers are Eli and Charlie Sisters, two thugs earning a living as hired goons in the western states of America during the gold rush. They are sent to kill Hermann Kermit Warn who has somehow crossed their patron, the Commodore. The book is narrated by Eli, who has a romantic soul under his gunslinger persona.

This was a book that I could hardly put down. The slow reveal of the character of the terrifying yet fascinating brothers, the depiction of the wild times they lived in, and the resolution of the plot all added up to one of my best reads of 2011.

"'It is a wild time here, is it not?' I said to the man.
'It is wild. I fear it has ruined my character. It has certainly ruined the characters of others.' He nodded, as though answering himself. 'Yes, it has ruined me.'
'How are you ruined?' I asked.
'How am I not?' he wondered."


The plot does fall apart a bit towards the end, I didn't quite buy the plot climax, although I loved the final development of the two brothers. But maybe some chaos and craziness is only to be expected when you're hanging out with sociopaths.

Can I also say that it was a beautifully designed book, it's been years since I've seen a book with such a stunning, eye-catching cover.

Highly recommended to those who are not faint of heart or stomach.

****1/2

118wookiebender
Sep 3, 2011, 8:07am

69. A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift

Swift's famous satire on how to help the poor of Ireland is still wickedly biting.

***1/2

119wookiebender
Sep 3, 2011, 8:22am

70. Summer, Edith Wharton



Charity Royall as a baby was brought down from The Mountain, an area solely peopled with godless criminals, and is brought up by a relatively wealthy lawyer in the small town on North Dormer. She is now a wilful young woman, delighted with her ability to manipulate the besotted Mr Royall, contemptuous of small town life, but frightened of the larger towns nearby.

This was a pretty good read, but not my favourite Edith Wharton. I read (many years ago, I must confess) her New York books: The Age of Innocence, The Custom of the Country, and The House of Mirth and enjoyed them very, very much. They're set in a much older New York than I'm familiar with, and are peopled with upper class, or aspiring-to-upper-class, characters. I even favourably compared them to Jane Austen at the time! (I wouldn't do that now, mind, and I'm not quite sure what my much younger self was thinking then.)

Now in the last year or so I've read Ethan Frome and now Summer. They are both set in quite a different milieu from New York: rural (or small village) America. The characters are poor/struggling/getting by, there's lots of "ain't", and the plots lean towards the gothic. (At one stage in Summer, I'm sure there was summat nasty in the woodshed.)

I did enjoy it, it's definitely more earthy than Jane Austen and the Brontes (the only other "classic" female authors I've read), but it's not the sort of book I'd return to, unlike her New York stories. The main characters aren't as appealing (the main character in Summer is fairly unappealing, really, with her manipulation of those around her) and the plot isn't as satisfying.

If you liked Ethan Frome, you'll probably like Summer. But if you're more of a fan of watching another era's high culture and society than grubbing around with the poorer people (guilty as charged), then maybe you should just keep away from her more Gothic works.

***1/2

120msf59
Sep 3, 2011, 8:57pm

Wookie- I'm so glad you loved The Sisters Brothers. Great review! He is an author I will be keeping an eye on.
I found a copy of Ethan Frome and hope to get to it in the next couple months.

121wookiebender
Sep 4, 2011, 7:25pm

Mark, thanks for bringing The Sisters Brothers to my attention! It really was one of my favourite reads of the year. I think the library has another of his books - Ablutions, but I'm ignoring it until I've reduced the eleven library books on my bedside table to a more manageable number.

I hope you like Ethan Frome, I think Wharton's a fabulous novelist.

122msf59
Sep 4, 2011, 7:37pm

Wookie- Funny, both Judy and Ilana are currently immersed in The sisters Brothers. Hey, a couple more fans! I finally got to my Last Werewolf review. Check it out. Hope you had a good weekend.

123jfetting
Sep 5, 2011, 6:34pm

At least the non-high-society Wharton books are short. I'm like you - I prefer the pretentious rich New Yorkers.

124vancouverdeb
Sep 8, 2011, 1:15am

Wookie, I was looking high and low for you on the 75 thread - but here you are on the 100 book thread! Thanks for the HTML re - putting a book on my thread. I'll try it a little later, as I've spent quite a while thread hopping trying to catch up! No easy feat!!! :)I'm so glad you enjoyed Sisters Brothers as much as I did! It sure has been popular on LT! I do have Fifth Business by Robertson Davies in my TBR pile, now, but I''ve got quite a few TBR in that pile! Hopefully I'll get to it soon, and then I'll be a little more in the know!;)

I'm currently reading Outrage by Indrisaon. It's his latest translated book - in the Erlendur series. I'm enjoying it!

125wookiebender
Sep 8, 2011, 1:33am

Hi Deb! Yeah, I hang around several threads in the 75 book group, but I prefer the peacefulness of the 100 book group overall. (I can't keep up with all the 75ers! How exhausting!)

I've got the second Indriason book on the bedside table. I'm currently reading a serious Australian book what I'm not much enjoying, so I think I may just accidentally drop that one and pick up the Indriason... (It's a bookgroup book that I'm attempting to read, The Book of Emmett, and I'd like to finish it, which is what's keeping me going right now...)

126vancouverdeb
Edited: Sep 9, 2011, 5:13am

Yes, the 75 book group is indeed busy!!!! I'm glad I'm not the only that reads Detective Gamache as Ganache and gets hungry!!! I had to laugh at your response to my problem with the Detective's name on Mark's thread.

I hope you are getting places with theThe Book of Emmett. Best of luck!Will you be in need of psychological therapy by the end of the book? I hope not!;)

127judylou
Sep 9, 2011, 6:34am

Hi wookie. I have been neglecting my LT friends somewhat. But I have just sat down after dinner and read through about a hundred posts. As always, I have enjoyed your reviews and your comments on books. We seem to enjoy a lot of the same books so reading about what you are reading always helps me to add to the tbr lists!

Like you I have issues with gathering too many library books . . . my issues are compounded because I work there and can't resist grabbing just one more before it goes on the shelves. But, so what? I'll never be able to read all the books I want to, but I'm going to do the best I can!!

128clif_hiker
Edited: Sep 10, 2011, 8:58am

like Judy, I am way behind on my LT friends booklists... terrific reviews Wookie! I've added several to my list. The Swarm, The Remains of the Day, The Sisters Brothers, Jar City all sound terrific (and are all available for kindle, albeit more expensive than I care for..).

129wookiebender
Sep 12, 2011, 7:10am

#126> Sadly for The Book of Emmett, I think I've gotten all I can out of it. (Let's see, living with an alcoholic abusive father isn't much fun, hm?) It is beautifully written though, and if I was in a more receptive mood I probably would have finished it and praised it. But this week, I want plot, thanks.

#127> Judy, I think being a librarian sounds like great fun. But friends of mine who are librarians reckon it's not as good as I think. Oh well. btw, I recommend Cargo by Jessica Au for you, I think you'll really like it.

#128> Keith, they're all great reads, I think you'll like them! Although I am sorry to the budgetary damage there...

Now, let's see if I can get a review (or two) written before I get suckered back into MineCraft...

130msf59
Sep 12, 2011, 7:19am

Wookie- I take it, you didn't care for blindsighted? LOL. I read it a couple years ago and thought it was okay but decided to not pursue the series.
I'll be starting Nemesis today. the 2nd Harry Hole. Hope your next book is a whole lot better.

131wookiebender
Sep 12, 2011, 7:25am

71. Jamrach's Menagerie, Carol Birch



One morning in 19th century London, a small boy from an impoverished background is almost eaten by a tiger, which had escaped from Jamrach's Menagerie and was just wandering the streets of London, scaring all the Londoners. Except young Jaffy Brown, who just wanted to pat the magnificent beast. But instead he is literally rescued from the tiger's mouth by Herr Jamrach, and offered a job looking after the animals in the menagerie, on their way between the wild and their new owners and captivity.

Jaffy grows up working at the magnificent, but slightly creepy, menagerie, along with his best and worst friend, Tim Linver. One day they are both offered a chance to go to sea to look for a mysterious dragon. Of course, the sea voyage is nothing like what they expected.

This was a bit hit and miss for me. The language at times was breathtakingly perfect, as when they first set out to sea: "All we ever knew fell away behind us like arms letting go." But at other times, I felt like I was lost in a ocean of adjectives, looking for a verb, dammit. And as a narrator, Jaffy just didn't quite strike the right note.

The plot also sagged quite badly towards the end, with one overly long section reminding me of nothing more than Sam and Frodo crossing Mordor: bleak, bleak, bleak, hungry, bleak. Which was a shame, because other sections (the early scenes in the poor areas of London, the whaling, the shipwreck, the hunting of the Komodo dragon) were excellent.

And strangely enough given the title, it's hardly about Jamrach, or the menagerie. I would have preferred more Jamrach and London, and less Mordor.

Good, but not great.

***1/2

132wookiebender
Sep 12, 2011, 7:26am

Hi Mark! No, I did NOT appreciate Blindsighted at all. What a seriously revolting crime! I shall be reviewing it, so you can see my spleen being vented then, but don't hold your breath waiting. :)

133wookiebender
Sep 12, 2011, 7:38am

72. Charity Girl, Georgette Heyer



When one has a headcold, there is no more delightful cure than to curl up with a pot of tea and a Georgette Heyer book.

In Charity Girl, young Cherry runs away from her awful aunt, who is only looking after her because she provides free labour around the house. And she runs smack bang into the charming rake Lord Desford. His chivalrous nature means that he's not keen to return her to her aunt, and so begins a rather tangled plot of running around, trying to find someone to take care of young, silly, Cherry, without ruining her - or Lord Desford's - reputation.

I always love Heyer's attention to detail with all the Georgian slang (I wonder if there's a dictionary of Georgian slang out there; I can get the meaning from the context, but I'd love to know where it all comes from) and the fashions. I've wasted many an hour Googling "Petersham Trousers" since reading this book. And always slightly-unpredictable plots, which adds to the amusement value - I never quite get it right from the opening chapters, unlike other romances. But they're not really romances, are they?

There was the occasional almost over-long dialogue in Charity Girl, but that was because she wrote a very nasty character and I wasn't happy to be spending time with him. But I had to, because he was driving the plot at one stage!

And the question that I can't help but ponder right now: why doesn't the BBC do some Heyer adaptations? It'd be a nice change from Jane Austen or Miss Marple.

***1/2

134wookiebender
Sep 12, 2011, 8:01am

73. Kim, Rudyard Kipling



Kim, full name Kimball O'Hara, is a young boy of Irish parentage who was orphaned in India in the 19th century. He's bright and clever, so survives as a street urchin for a while, before he runs into a naive Tibetan monk, Teshoo Lama, who has come down from his monastery to search for a sacred river. Kim becomes his cheli, or disciple, and navigates the monk through the maze of Indian customs and society, while the monk takes care of Kim.

Kim also finds the protection of a Muslim horse trader, Mahbub Ali; a Catholic priest, Father Victor; and an obese Hindi master of disguise, The Babu. All together, they conspire to have him educated as a white boy in an English school in India; but on his summer holidays he returns to his Indian habits and travels as a native, having his own adventures.

Much like The Jungle Book, I did find the "thee" and "thou" language stilted, but I think I picked up this time around the Kipling world that it's his way of translating different forms of "you" from Hindi into English. I also discovered I knew nothing about the story (unlike The Jungle Book where everyone knows the basic characters, thank you Disney), so that meant a good fun read without any expectations.

Funnily enough, considering the amount of stuff that happened in this book, it was strangely lacking in plot. There was no big climax or anything, but it's a wonderful journey through India, and I loved all the characters. This is probably one of Kipling's more "colonial" books (the English are definitely the good guys, although the characters are almost all native), and there's a great sense of the love he had for India. Although, as a modern reader, the strange emphasis on "native" vs "white" jarred a bit. There's no denying he loved India and all its people, but he was definitely part of a white minority in the country.

I do have to say that Kim is one of my favourite literary characters of this year. He's cheeky, smart, endlessly inventive, always cheerful, and (apparently) rather handsome as a grown up. I think I'm a bit too old for him, so I wish I'd read this when I was younger so I could have fallen properly in love with him.

****

135wookiebender
Sep 12, 2011, 8:15am

74. Cargo, Jessica Au



A small, but not insignificant, coming of age tale.

Frankie is dealing with her mother's late-in-life pregnancy, while falling in love with one of the deckhands on her father's fishing boat.

Jacob is caught up with adoration for his older, ne'er-do-well surfer brother, while beginning to discover his own skills.

And Gillian has been crippling by a shocking accident, but still dreams of long distance swimming, and is also desperate to be accepted as a normal young woman.

Their three stories all interweave and overlap one hot summer in a small fishing/holiday town on the Victorian coast. They're not all friends, but they do enter into each others' stories at times, giving us a brief, but different, viewpoint of their situations.

Jessica Au does not overstay her welcome in this short, well written and concise novel. I found all the characters, even the minor ones, interesting and well written. And there is little, if any, excess plot. It's short, to the point, and completely accurate in its emotions and characters.

****1/2

136JessiAdams
Sep 13, 2011, 6:21am

I started reading The Swarm got the Kindle edition, so I can carry it around in my purse, still. I mostly got it because I have 1001 before you die as a category in the 11 in 11 challenge group, and this book made the list...

So I'm only 25% of the way through this monstrosity but I'm having trouble figuring out exactly how it made the list. It seems to be a good book so far, but 1001 books are usually picked for being unique or revolutionary in some way. I feel like this book fits in more with Stephen King or Micheal Crighton...I keep waiting to be "completely floored" like the Amazon reviews say I will be, but so far I'm just trudging along. Maybe its just waiting to get me in the final quarter of the book in the style of Cryptonomicon or (as you mentioned) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I guess my long winded question is this: is it worth it, or should I walk away now?

137clfisha
Sep 13, 2011, 8:50am

135 I love that book cover, so simple and striking. I think if that was on display I would be drawn to it :)

138wookiebender
Sep 13, 2011, 8:04pm

#136> It is a monstrosity. :) If you're trudging from the beginning, I don't think it's going to get any better for you. For me, it made the "1001" list because it hit the environmental zeitgeist: we've polluted this planet for just too long, and we've hit some sort of tipping point. But that's fairly obvious from the start, it's not something that'll only be revealed in the last few pages. It wasn't always well written, although he did an excellent job of making the science readable and understandable (except the genetics bit, but I think that's just my personal blindspot).

I wasn't "floored" by the ending. I thought it was rather clever, if a bit ludicrous, but I accepted it as part of the story, it didn't make me want to chuck the book across the room or anything. (Might have done myself some serious damage had I tried, of course. :)

Anyhow, a long winded way of saying: if you're not suckered into the story now, I don't think it's going to get any better for you.

#137> Oh yes, I heard about it on the radio, and then when I went into the bookshop it was so easy to spot on the shelves! I hope it gets a few extra readers through its book design, at least. :)

139JessiAdams
Sep 14, 2011, 11:01am

#138> I wouldn't say I'm "trudging." Its a fairly entertaining book (although, I would say that I trudged through the first 30% of The girl with the dragon tattoo..). I guess I'm just not as blown away as I have been by a few of the other books that I've read on the 1001 list. Maybe the few I've read just raised my standards too high, I guess with 1001 books, they can't all be completely amazing to everyone.

140vancouverdeb
Sep 17, 2011, 8:10am

Just stopping by to say hi, Tania. Working my way throughThe Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje. I'm on page 200 of 250 pages and while it's pleasant , leisurely read - nothing mind blowing, that's for certain. ;) It's long listed for Canada's Giller Prize- and this is the first Ondaatje I have read.

So -at least I'll feel I've accomplished something when I finish the book.

I hope to get my Kindle tomorrow! I'm so glad you don't notice any difference between your kindle and reading a book.I'm tiny bit nervous. The thought of downloading a book in 60 seconds is very appealing to me.

I hope my next read is a real page turner!!!!

141wookiebender
Sep 17, 2011, 6:33pm

Hi Deb! I've read one Ondaatje, The English Patient, which I did like. I've been eyeing off his latest in the shops, but keep on reminding myself that I have too many books to read already!

I've just been eyeing off the books at iTunes, but resisting. I'm thinking I might buy my next bookgroup read there and read it on the iPad, but I'm also thinking it might be one I'd like to own. Decisions, decisions!

Currently reading the Booker favourite for this year, The Sense of an Ending, which is excellent. And short!! It'll never win, being short. ;)

142msf59
Sep 17, 2011, 6:54pm

Hi Wookie- Hope you are having a good weekend! I couldn't restrain myself, so I just ordered The Night Circus. This is a brand new release and it looks to be my kind of book and a good one to pass around. Have you heard about this one?

143wookiebender
Sep 17, 2011, 7:03pm

Hi Mark! Weekend is good, and only halfway through! I'm avoiding cleaning the kitchen at the moment, although I'd better get started if we're to have Sunday morning pancakes...

Haven't heard of The Night Circus, but it does look good. Oh dear, not another book for the wishlist!

144wookiebender
Sep 17, 2011, 7:03pm

75. Locke & Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft, Joe Hill



The Locke family travel across America, following a devastating family tragedy, to stay with their uncle in their family house in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. (Yes, Lovecraft. An unsubtle name if ever there was one.) The children, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode (er, I should specify that Kinsey is a girl because just looking at the names, you'd never know) slowly settle into their new life, and their fascinating new home, Keyhouse.

Keyhouse is a brilliant, rambling mansion, the sort of place I'd love to live in, but that's obviously because I've never read enough Stephen King. Anyhow, Bode (the youngest of the Locke children) discovers a special key and door in Keyhouse that allows his spirit to travel on its own, leaving his body behind as if dead. Luckily, it's also easy to get back into his own body, or it'd be an early end for this great little character.

All the characters are interesting: they're all dealing with the tragedy in their own ways (and not alway successfully), and bickering at each other like family members do, but underneath it all, the tragedy that shattered their family is also bonding them closer together. And then there are some violent and scary people out in the world, still trying to damage them, for reasons unknown. And one very creepy person in a well, who seems to be the key (no pun intended) to the disaster that has befallen the Locke family.

The art in this graphic novel is also quite beautiful, I did spend quite a bit of time just looking at the art, and ignoring the story.

Recommended for those who like graphic novels, and who don't mind a bit of creepiness in their stories. Personally, I'm not reading these late at night, I think I might get some nightmares.

****

145wookiebender
Sep 17, 2011, 11:52pm

76. Bossypants, Tina Fey



Tina Fey's memoir is most unmemoirish. This is part of what interested me in it, an online review I was referred to that said: "One particularly snippy review argued that it failed to deliver because it was insufficiently 'memoir-ish.' Bossypants the review argued, failed to disclose enough of Fey's back-story and there was insufficient disclosure of her personal life." That intrigued me, because I couldn't work out why I needed to know anything about her personal life.

For me the lack of "personal detail" (do you think they wanted celebrity gossip; or maybe brand name dropping?), actually ended up making it more interesting than a standard memoir would have been. For a start, where does the truth start in this book? She quotes childish comments about herself online, and replies in brilliant snark. (While the snark is real, I doubt the comments were.) She makes up a guide to menstruation for teenage girls from the 1970s/80s which started off as ringing true in its awkardness but by the time you get up to the bit about drinking peach schnapps to help with the cramps, you know you're in Fey territory again. And her unwillingness to discuss her facial scar (yeah, I was thinking "what facial scar?" too) makes you realise that there's other aspects of her life that she's unwilling to discuss, she's just not going to tell you that she's not going to talk about them.

I was rather taken aback by the sexist nature of the industry she's working in - I never would have thought that women were somehow less funny than men (Jeez, get a bunch of women around and we can crack each other up within seconds), or that being a woman meant that one should somehow be intimidated in managerial positions, etc. I liked her forthright nature, I liked her sense of self-deprecating humour, I cracked up at the appalling photos of her as a child/young woman. (The 1980s were not kind to many of us.)

I mostly know Tina Fey from the fabulous "30 Rock" TV series that I occasionally catch, and usually love. So of the working parts of her life that she covered, this was most interesting to me, she's obviously drawn a lot of the stories, characters, and humour from her own life. I've never seen "Saturday Night Live", and I've only seen bits of her Sarah Palin impersonations online (if SNL is on Australian TV, it's nowhere I've seen). I understand they were important parts of her career, but without much knowledge of the finished product, I was less interested in her tales of those times. And there are many names I needed to Google afterwards, there was a lot of assumed knowledge about American comedy/pop culture. What she does uncover (or obfuscate with funny stories) of her personal life was great fun. I kept on thinking of her as Liz Lemon, so it was a shock to see that she's not Liz Lemon (husband! child!).

****

146msf59
Sep 18, 2011, 12:15pm

Wookie- I'm so glad you enjoyed Locke and Key. I loved it too and I just brought home Book 2 from the library. I heard they tried to get a TV series launched based on these graphics but it wasn't picked up. Could have been interesting.
I also loved Bossypants. She did a fantastic job on the audio.

147clfisha
Sep 18, 2011, 3:20pm

The artwork in Locke and Key is gorgeous isn't it? Great story too, I think the characters make it special.

148wookiebender
Sep 18, 2011, 7:23pm

Mark, I'd like to hear her read Bossypants! I'd forgotten you'd listened to it. Maybe I should dip my toe into Audible...

clfisha, I agree! Gorgeous art, great story, and wonderful characters. I'm quite terrified for them half the time.

I read Vol 3 yesterday (yeah, you'll be getting a review in a month or so, sigh) and there's a great section at the back which is pages from an 18th century diary about the keys. In Vol 2, this was a nice adjunct. In Vol 3, it does start to explain a bit more...

I'm most peeved. There's no volume 4 of Locke and Key available at the library! WAH!! Or at the comic shop. WAAAAHHH! I'll have to be calm and go on with some of the other 300+ books I have marked as TBR. Ahem.

Oh, that would be because they haven't been finished as yet. My bad. (*gnashes teeth anyway*)

149clfisha
Sep 19, 2011, 7:48am

You can buy the keys online... I am trying to restrain myself :)

150wookiebender
Sep 19, 2011, 6:45pm

OMGPONIES! http://www.skeltoncrewstudio.bigcartel.com/

Sorry, I may just have to be a fangirl for a while. :)

My husband picked up the first volume last night, and was suckered into it as well.

151clfisha
Sep 20, 2011, 5:37am

I am not sure which is my favourite key, I think its the Echo Key.. I wish my front door key was that exciting!

152wookiebender
Sep 20, 2011, 9:25pm

I do like the art for the Head Key best. But, as with all of them, I wouldn't actually want what it does. Actually, I tell a lie. I could really use the Anywhere Key, I'd never be late again! (In theory. In practice, I'd probably still manage to be late. :)

153clfisha
Sep 21, 2011, 5:41am

Ha yes! I would be too distracted going to exciting places and be late back from lunch ;)

154vancouverdeb
Edited: Sep 21, 2011, 6:27am

Glad to hear that your mom is doing well! That's great news. I've no compunction for enabling! ;) Maybe I should mail a copy of a Karin Fossum to you through the mail??? :) And you've got your Ipad if memory serves me..

I'm just amazed that people in Australia have heard of Kevin of Canada! That's amazing to me. I only discovered him a few months ago.

PM me your address and I'm mail you a copy of a Karin Fossum just to get you hooked......... oh the lengths I'll go too......In fact I likely have double of at least one of them. The dangers of the TBR piles that litter my house....

155vancouverdeb
Sep 21, 2011, 6:26am

BTW - congratulations on hitting 75 books, Tania! That's a real accomplishment! I know you are planning to hit 100, but for me, I'll be pleased to hit 75!

156wookiebender
Sep 21, 2011, 7:22am

#153> Oh, I like your time wasting better than mine. I could just see myself reading until the *last* possible moment and then running late. Much like now. :)

#154> Deb, I appreciate the offer, but there's no way I'm going to get you to post a book from Canada to Australia - the postage will cost you more than the book's worth! Plus, I do have well over 300 books in Mt TBR already, I really don't need more books. (Somehow I always forget that when faced by the library, or The Book Depository, or a bricks & mortar bookshop, however.)

But, yes, I have reserved it at the library. So it WILL be on Mt TBR sooner rather than later now. :)

Thanks for the congrats on my partial achievement! I'm well on track to 100, but have failed in my mini-goal of reading some of the chunksters. Unless I start picking them up about now...

157wookiebender
Sep 21, 2011, 7:49am

77. Small Wars, Sadie Jones



Small Wars by Sadie Jones, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2010, is about English soldiers (and their families) in Cyprus during the 1950s, when apparently the Greek Cypriots were trying to get rid of the British. All completely new to me, I wasn't even aware that Cyprus was, or ever had been, part of the British Empire. But of course, with the Suez Crisis looming, England needs to keep a foothold in the Mediterranean, so Cyprus is incredibly important.

And the Greek Cypriots are waging a nerve-wracking guerilla war against the British soldiers, and also against their families, leading to tragedy.

The family at the centre of this book is Major Hal Treherne, his wife Clara, and their young twin daughters, who are newly moved to Cyprus. The tension starts to build early as they are unable to be housed in the army grounds with the other families, and as is normal with guerilla wars, one never knows where the enemy is. Even when they do manage to move into an army house near the other English families, terrorism manages to rear its ugly head and Clara is badly affected by the uncertainty and the terror. Matters are not helped by Hal's own concerns with his role and duties, leaving him unable to fully concentrate on Clara when she most needs it. Sometimes the "small" wars are just as devastating as the "big" wars.

This was a great, unputdownable, complex read. Fabulous stuff. Well written, believable characters, fascinating piece of history I knew nothing about, and genuinely moving.

****1/2

158msf59
Sep 21, 2011, 8:05am

Wookie- Congrats on hitting 75! Loved your review of Small Wars. Those covers are always deceiving though. I'll have to add that one to the WL.

159wookiebender
Sep 21, 2011, 8:16am

Hi Mark! I rather like the cover, it seems to be a mashup of two images, one with the woman playing hide & seek (or having a tanty), and the background is probably Cyprus, lots of English-looking soldiers and Mediterranean buildings with barbed wire. I rather liked the contrast; which probably doesn't come up on the small picture there. :)

I did make it sound a bit soapy, but I couldn't quite convey what Hal went through which was decidedly non-soapy. Well worth a read!

160wookiebender
Sep 21, 2011, 8:16am

78. Packing for Mars, Mary Roach



To infinity, and beyond! Or, to the moon, and maybe beyond.

Packing for Mars is Mary Roach at her finest, with a breathless sense of wonder and fascination about a brand new science topic, and willing to ask the experts the questions we are too embarrassed to, like about pooing in zero G. Which obviously I cannot know enough about, because I've startled several workmates with my in-depth knowledge about defecation lately.

The footnotes are as fun as ever, as she sinks her teeth into digressions. This is a woman who will not let a question go.

Apart from the poo, there's discussions about the psychology of being in a cramped space for days on end with other people and how to pick people who would work well in such an environment; the early worry about how humans would cope physiologically with being in zero G (would blood still pump, or does it rely on gravity?); space euphoria (the feeling of cosmic connectedness that early test pilots reported); a rather silly section on sex in space; and an interesting section on the actual effects of zero G on our bodies, specifically our bones.

This is not about the physics of space flight; it is about the human aspects of space flight: the psychological and physiological challenges of putting people in space. The title is cute, but a misnomer. Most of the book is about the history of space flight (to the moon), and not so much about the future of space flight (to Mars), if that ever happens.

Overall, Packing for Mars was delightful. Although the discussion on pooing in zero-G may not be "delightful" for some readers, I enjoyed the whole book.

****1/2

161wookiebender
Sep 21, 2011, 8:28am

79. The Book of Emmett, Deborah Forster



Okay, I didn't finish this one.

I had to work too hard in the initial chapter (trying to work out how many children and the family relationships did me in; and no, this is not a blended family). I don't mind working a little hard, but this was just over-the-top "let's be clever and make it really difficult". Once I got past that, it was beautifully written but I wasn't quite sure how much I need to be told about growing up poor with an abusive alcoholic father in Footscray, a working class suburb of Melbourne, in the 1950s. It's no picnic, but that's nothing new to anyone with half a brain.

I feel a bit mean not finishing this book, because it's so well written, and because it's obviously written both from the heart and from personal experience (although she has denied its autobiographical). But it was the wrong book for me at this time. Emmett Brown, the alcoholic father in question, apparently does become sympathetic in the end, but I didn't want to forgive him anything. He poisoned his childrens' lives, and I wanted to keep my hate pure for him.

(I'm counting this because I read a fair amount of it before I worked out it wasn't going to tell me anything new.)

***

162wookiebender
Sep 21, 2011, 8:49am

80. A Mysterious Affair of Style, Gilbert Adair



This is the second book in the Evadne Mount series by Gilbert Adair, which started with The Act of Roger Murgatroyd. As can be guessed by the titles, these are parodies of Agatha Christie (et al) novels. They are easy to read, lots of chuckle moments, but are also quite clever, like the best parodies; in addition, they are obviously fond of the original crime genre, so are also also a homage to these classic novels from the British Golden Era of crime.

Our amateur sleuth, Ms Mount, is actually a Christie-esque writer herself, with a long running play in the West End called "The Tourist Trap". She serendipitously runs into Chief-Inspector Trubshawe, retired, formerly of Scotland Yard, ten years after they both helped solve the murder in The Act of Roger Murgatroyd, and their friendship starts off properly, as both are rather lonely. And luckily a good juicy murder falls into their collective laps.

In this case, the murder revolves around actors and movies. We have Alastair Farjeon, an obvious stand-in for Alfred Hitchcock, with his complex and clever thrillers. Sadly Farjeon has recently died in a manor house fire, along with his most recent paramour, the pretty chorus girl Patsy Sloots. (Love the English names.) But the show must go on, and his latest movie, "If Ever They Find Me Dead" is continuing to be filmed with a new director. But filming is not going as smoothly as it should.

This was a delightful parody of all things Christie-ian and Hitchcockian. Worth a look, especially if you're a fan of Christie/Hitchcock.

****

163wookiebender
Sep 21, 2011, 8:59am

81. Blindsighted, Karin Slaughter



This didn't get off to a good start with me. The prose was rather flat, the characters didn't have much in the way of real depth, and the opening crime was gratuitously gruesome. But I thought I'd stick with it, give it a chance, see what I felt when I got up to page 50 at least. Only I didn't even make it to page 50; I stopped at page 32.

Murder can be tricky to write about, because it's disturbing making such a violent crime entertainment. And murder with a sexual aspect is trading a fine line between Too Disturbing and Genuine Thrilling Entertainment. And then, of course, one can always drive a Humvee over the demarcation and make your readers feel ill.

I'm not usually overly worried by graphic violence; although I do acknowledge that sexual violence is a whole 'nother kettle of fish for me. Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo definitely trod a fine line, but with Lisbeth being such a strong character, a survivor and more, I hoovered up the books. And I was a fan of Dr Kay Scarpetta back in the day, I did love reading about the maggoty goodness of forensic medicine.

But. The murder in Blindsighted was violent, sexual, degrading, and just plain ICK. A combo I did not appreciate.

I only stopped myself from throwing the book across the room because it's a library book and I didn't want to have to explain any damage to the librarians. But I'm the only person on LT to give it a 1/2 star rating. So obviously other people differ from me.

I can't believe anyone can read something this disturbing as entertainment. Anyone who wants to claim I've misunderstood this book, that's fine, you're entitled to your opinion. And I'm entitled to be slightly worried about you.

1/2

164clfisha
Sep 21, 2011, 11:50am

@163 yeah I get funny about sexual violence, it's one of the few areas I draw a line, especially when there is no real depth to the characters to carry it, think I will stay away!

oh and great review of Packing for Mars!

165wookiebender
Sep 21, 2011, 8:22pm

clfisha, at least it's one set of books I don't have to worry about finding the next in the series now. :) And I didn't buy it, it was a library book, so I don't have the added ARGH of wasting money. (Yes, I know, there's never any guarantee that a book will be worth its cost, but this was spectacularly not to my tastes, and I would have been peeved to spend money on it.)

166iansales
Sep 22, 2011, 2:33am

I was not so impressed by Packing for Mars - see here.

167wookiebender
Sep 22, 2011, 8:37am

Hi Ian, I know, I read your review when you posted it in your thread. I did notice that weird passage about locomotive speeds in 1943, but the other technical errors went over my head. I think we're different audiences for this book, as you said in your excellent review. The things that annoyed you tickled my funny bone.

I would have liked to know more about planning & preparing for Mars, granted. But what she talked about, I did enjoy. And I think that her style of science writing does focus on the failures (the awful food, poo in zero G, bad tempered astronauts and cosmonauts) rather than the potential, which hasn't had a chance to fail yet.

I probably shouldn't be laughing with her, it's probably all part of that annoying tendency current society has towards belittling experts. The achievements of space travel are truly brilliant, and I definitely don't feel any less admiration for the clever men and women who managed to get people into space after reading this book. And the clever men and women who will hopefully get us further along in the future. (Although. Three years in space. Not a prospect I'd like.)

168ronincats
Sep 23, 2011, 2:45pm

Lots of activity here! Glad to see you are reading some entertaining books, but I am with you about reading graphic violence and poisoning parents--I can definitely do without them.

169vancouverdeb
Sep 26, 2011, 6:54am

Hi Tania! Interesting and good review of Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter. I must admit that I used to like some of her mysteries/ thrillers, but I lost my appetite for her books. I'm not sure if she's gotten worse, or my taste has improved.

At any rate, I finished up Touch and I found it to be beautiful, wonderous book. I put together a bit of review. I really recommend it, though taste does vary from person to person, as I well know!;)

And Three Years in space? No thanks. Aside from the Isolation etc -imagine what dreadful osteoporosis and muscle wasting would happen in that three years without gravity. I am always eminently practical!;)

170SouthernBluestocking
Sep 27, 2011, 9:24am

Wow- you've been reading some great books. Adding the Gilbert Adair books to my list and just requested Small Wars from the library. Thanks for the reviews!

Oh, and if you still haven't read The Night Circus, you absolutely need to.

171wookiebender
Edited: Sep 27, 2011, 9:30pm

Phew, had a busy five day weekend. Went to Melbourne for a weekend away with my Mum, sister and niece. Then came back to school holidays and looking after my kids for a couple of days. Back at work now, wah. (But another long weekend coming up!)

#168> Hi Roni! It's funny, considering how sensible my parents were and how well we get along now (the usual hiccups when my sister & I were teenagers, of course), how sensitive I am to poisonous parents. I can barely watch the opening of "Tangled" because the wicked witch who is pretending to be Rapunzel's mother is so horrible and manipulative I just want to throw things at the TV.

#169> Hi Deb! I have to say it's your taste that's improved :), although maybe I just started with the wrong Karin Slaughter. But there are more than enough great books/authors out there that I don't really feel I need to try another of her books anyhow.

#170> Hi RR! The Gilbert Adair books are fun, I snaffled the third at the library the other day, And Then There Was No One. If this is the last, I shall be sad to say goodbye to them, but I'd also hate for them to overstay their welcome and get stale.

And okay, okay, The Night Circus is on my BookDepository wishlist. (And, Deb, I picked up Don't Look Back from the library, which turned up in record time after I reserved it!)

172vancouverdeb
Sep 28, 2011, 3:20am

Hi Tania! Thanks for visiting my thread! You know, I think that you are correct, that my taste has improved. I used to make a more or less steady diet of mysteries. I'm glad to hear that you've got Don't Look Back from the library so quickly. That was the first of the series that I picked up.

I guess that there will be a lot of us reading the The Night Circus. I'm not entirely sure that it is my kind of book, but as I'm sure you know, Mark - msf59, or whoever he is, is planning a group read for November. That should be fun! Right now it's 40% off in the our main book store, so I think I will try to get in there and pick it up.

I looked at average temps in Sidney Australia - and you are correct - that your average temps are higher than ours in Vancouver BC. It doesn't look like it goes down to 0 C at all - whereas here it can do that for days at a time in the winter, though Vancouver has the most moderate weather in Canada. It's really damp in Vancouver -so that cold can really get to your bones!

173wookiebender
Sep 28, 2011, 3:39am

Coldest Sydney will get is in the western suburbs (away from the coast) where it may drop down to about 4C or so overnight. I'm much closer to the coast, so it's incredibly rare to even get down to single digits. Having a bit of rain at the moment though, which is never pleasant as a commuter, but I think the flowers I planted yesterday on my day off are probably enjoying it. Looking forward to the burst of colour come summer, and I'm glaring at the cats if they put a paw anywhere near it.

Yes, I've put up my hand for a group read of The Night Circus on Mark's thread; gosh darn, I guess that means I'll be shopping at The Book Depository sometime soonish. Some days it doesn't take much to twist my arm. :) And while I'm there, I may as well add another book from the wishlist to the pile...

174clfisha
Sep 28, 2011, 7:07am

Hmm I keep hearing good things of The night Circus and the local chain book store had a enormous display when was last there (which sadly usually puts me off a book.. ahem). Will be tracking the group read with interest!

175ChelleBearss
Sep 28, 2011, 1:28pm

Just de-lurking to say Hello :)

176divinenanny
Sep 28, 2011, 3:05pm

I am reading The Night Circus right now, and the only thing I hate is that I don't have the time to dive right into it and read it all at once. It feels great, the whole setting of the book, magical.

177wookiebender
Sep 28, 2011, 8:20pm

Hello everyone, and thanks for popping by! The Night Circus is available locally here, but is $40, so I'm thinking they're imported hardback copies. I'm thinking I'll probably stick with The Book Depository in this case. (Oooh, and then there were those two second hand books on that other site....)

My credit card is about to be damaged a little. But for a good cause. :)

178msf59
Sep 28, 2011, 8:34pm

Wookie- I landed my copy of The Night Circus from Amazon for about 14 bucks. Not bad. I bought my 2nd graphic novel today, Wonderstruck. Yah! It was from an independent book store, so it cost a bit more, but it looks like it will be worth every penny.

Deb- "Mark - msf59, or whoever he is..." Hmmmmmmm....

179PrueGallagher
Sep 28, 2011, 9:10pm

Hello Tania - great reviews! just a flying visit from me to get you starred. Will return for a longer visit soon!

180wookiebender
Sep 28, 2011, 9:46pm

Mark, I think The Night Circus was ~AU$20 on TBD, not much price difference between the paperback and the hardback either, so I thought I might get the hardback for a change...

Oooh, I'm reading one of your recommendations now: Jim Crace's Being Dead. Only just started it on the bus this morning, but it's good so far.

I don't often buy graphic novels either (well, not now all my disposable income goes on Lego and My Little Pony, etc). Exceptions are Unwritten (unavailable at the library) and Sandman (because I started collecting them years ago, pre-children). Oh, and The Walking Dead for Don. And probably Radioactive and Daytripper from TBD because they're not available here at all.... Oh dear. Book greed!!

And Hi Prue, and thanks and welcome! I've just been starring a couple of extra threads over on the 75 book groups, so you and Chelle should expect a comment from me one day. (Right now, I really should buckle down and get some work done...)

181vancouverdeb
Edited: Sep 28, 2011, 10:17pm

Well, talking of Graphic Novels, I got a second hand GN through the mail today - Stitches which several people recommend to me here on LT. Once I finish my current book, The Hotel on Bitter and Sweet I most eager to get to Stitches.

182vancouverdeb
Sep 30, 2011, 3:24am

Tania! I'm blaming you personally - along with Mark - because I was undecided about the Night Circus - but when I saw that you had purchased it -well - what do you know - I went to the Book Depository and got in paperback for $15.47 Cdn just now.

LOL at Mark! I just cannot remember his " handle" . ;)

183wookiebender
Sep 30, 2011, 9:45pm

Deb, happy to shoulder the blame. I'm very chuffed at suddenly stumbling on The Night Circus on sale in Sydney! Woot! Now I just have to hold on and not read it until the November group read. Harrumph.

I haven't read Stitches, I hope it's a good one for you!

184wookiebender
Edited: Sep 30, 2011, 9:55pm

82. Locke and Key: Head Games, Joe Hill



I like the idea he's come up with, I'm scared for the characters, and it's a beautiful book to read.

****

185wookiebender
Sep 30, 2011, 10:37pm

83. A Dry White Season, André Brink



A Dry White Season is the story of an ordinary man who gets caught up fighting for justice in South Africa in the 1970s. Ben Du Toit is an Afrikaner teacher who forms a friendly relationship with the black gardener at his school, Gordon Ngubene. Gordon's son Jonathan gets into trouble fighting Apartheid, and dies in highly suspicious circumstances while in custody. Gordon then gets into trouble with the Special Branch (South Africa's secret police) for trying to find out the truth about Jonathan's death.

Throughout it all, Ben is convinced that it's all just a misunderstanding, that if only the truth were told people would understand and justice would be served. His faith is sadly misplaced, and when he sees that the truth is being ignored by the justice system, he starts his own fight to find out the truth.

The story is told through an old University friend of Ben's, a writer of popular fiction, who is given Ben's papers after Ben's sudden death in a hit and run accident. He pieces together what happened through Ben's diaries and newspaper clippings, forming a compelling story.

I liked the fact that Ben is just an ordinary bloke who was pushed too far. He's not upstanding, or brilliant, or a fighter. He's just an ordinary man who has noticed what's going on around him, and it's offended his sense of justice. It's hard not to like the idea that it can be ordinary people who do extraordinary things.

And the whole political situation in South Africa was terrifying. It was all falling apart when I was a teenager, so it was interesting revisiting that era, although I'm extremely glad we've moved on.

A Dry White Season was a great account of an ordinary man trying to seek justice in a corrupt society. I'm still pondering it, it didn't offer any easy solutions or resolution. Matter of fact, the very ending sent shivers down my spine and I hope I never forget the terror it raised.

****1/2

186wookiebender
Edited: Sep 30, 2011, 10:46pm

84. Locke and Key: Crown of Shadows, Joe Hill



The third volume in Joe Hill's "Locke and Key" graphic novel series. The plot gets thicker around Zack and the Locke children, and we find out about the Shadow Key.

****

187msf59
Oct 1, 2011, 6:35am

Tania- Great review of A Dry White Season. I've never read it but saw and enjoyed the film, (with Marlon Brando) many years ago.
I just started Locke and Key: Vol 2. Yes, they are beautifully illustrated.

188lauralkeet
Oct 1, 2011, 6:43am

Tania, I second Mark-or-whoever-he-is regarding your review of A Dry White Season. I have Cushla to thank for bringing this book to my attention. It was a really compelling read!

189jfetting
Oct 1, 2011, 8:40am

Thirding the great-review of A Dry White Season comments - I'm definitely adding it to my wishlist.

190Storeetllr
Oct 2, 2011, 1:39am

Hi, Wookie ~ Just catching up. You've been reading some very intriguing books lately. I just read the first Locke and Key and just loved it. Scary as heck for the characters, as you pointed out, but can't wait to get my grubby paws on the next two. Will be great scary reading for Halloween month. Also have Packing for Mars queued up on the Kindle, and after reading your review am putting Bossypants on the wishlist.

191wookiebender
Oct 2, 2011, 3:45am

Thanks Mark! I hadn't heard of the film adaptation until the library copy of the book arrived with a "NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE!" sticker slapped across the face. I had a quick look at it on IMDB, it did look good. I assume Brando was the writer friend, who I think was unnamed in the book...?

Thanks Laura! Ahah, I knew I'd run into it on LT somewhere, but I did remember one of the women in my Australian lit bookgroup really loved it, so she got most of the credit. :)

Thanks Jennifer! It is a "1001" book, you're also working your way through those, aren't you?

Mary, I'm glad you're enjoying Locke and Key too! And my apologies for enlarging your wishlist even more!

192wookiebender
Oct 2, 2011, 4:04am

85. The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes



The Sense of an Ending is the front runner for the Man Booker Prize this year (after all other serious competition was nobbled after not being nominated or shortlisted). If it does win, I will be happy, it was a fascinating book, about memory, history, and the unreliability of both. It ended up being one of the rare books that I went back to re-read sections after finishing it.

The story is told from the point of view of Tony Webster, an ordinary man recently retired from an ordinary job; divorced but still friendly with his ex-wife; father of two young women. He recalls his school life, when his clique of three suddenly has a new member added to it, Adrian. Tony is sent a solicitor's letter saying that Adrian's diary has been left to him in a will, and that causes Tony to start remembering his young adult life.

"Remembering" though is a bit of a misnomer for what happens. Tony is having to patch together memories from half forgotten incidents, analysing and interpreting events from four decades before. He's upfront about his unreliability, and we sometimes get verifiable evidence that show his version of events is wrong in some aspect. But for the most part, we just have to trust what he's reconstructing, much as he himself has to trust what he is constructing is actually the truth.

This was a very short, readable novel (more a novella, really), but one that will stick in your mind after you've finished it.

****1/2

193julyso
Oct 2, 2011, 5:11am

Thanks for the sweet note & the congrats on making 50! Congrats to you on 75!!!

194msf59
Oct 2, 2011, 9:10am

Tania- I thought Brando played a lawyer or judge. He was very big at this time (girth-wise). It's been over 20 years since I seen it.
Great review of The Sense of an Ending. I need to read that. I have never read Barnes. Have you read him before?

Laura- "Mark-or-whoever-he-is " LOL. Maybe that should be my new handle.

195clfisha
Oct 2, 2011, 1:42pm

Great reviews for A Dry White Season & The Sense of Ending. Quite intrigued by the latter, I have started to enjoy novellas/short novels a lot more recently, more meaty than a short story but still refreshing

196Storeetllr
Oct 2, 2011, 2:02pm

And yet another book for the wishlist, and this one placed way at the top: The Sense of Ending. Other than the gender of the protag and the fact he's managed to retire already while I am only wishing I were able to do so, it could be me. There is so much I've forgotten from the distant past, so many vague snatches of recollection from my childhood through early 20s that, like dreams, when I try to remember more, it all fades away. I tried to read Barnes once before (can't remember which novel ~ hah! see what I mean about memory!) but it didn't click. This one sounds so intriguing that I will definitely try him again, esp. since it's novella-length.

197vancouverdeb
Oct 4, 2011, 7:08am

Hi Tania! Just stopping by to say hi, and see what you've been up to. I still haven't read Sense of an Ending. Instead I got caught up in Stitches, the graphic novel which I just loved. Then, I had a new book by a Canadian author Tell it to the Trees. It too was a fabulous but dark read about domestic abuse -so I thought I'd try an autobiography that I had picked out - only to find that my first early reviewer book had arrived in the mail today -so I put that aside to read my early reviewer book. It's quite good so far - heaven's sakes, I can't think of the name right now. Hmmm. I do know it's about a woman who gradually realizers her mom, just aged 68, is suffering with dementia and Alzheimers. Hmm...with the way I can't remember the title off hand -and I referred to Mark as msf59 or who ever he is - maybe I'm reading about myself!!!!!:) LOL! Well, I shouldn't laugh and tempt fate. Hmm Remembering the Music - yes that's my early reviewers book.

Wow, wiping the sweat off my brow!!!:)

198wookiebender
Oct 4, 2011, 11:44pm

#193> Hi Julie, thanks for popping by!

#194> Hm, there was a judge in A Dry White Season, but he wasn't that major a character. Still, that's not to say they didn't rework the book to make it work better as a movie. (Which is a bit worrying, I'm not always fond of Hollywood's tinkering with good stories.)

My favourite bit about reading A Dry White Season was a very confused conversation I had with Don about it because he assumed it was about wine. A good season for sauvignon blanc! LOL.

Of Barnes' other books, I've only read his A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, a collection of short stories. I liked it at the time, which was many years ago now. Apparently I do have England, England somewhere in the house; and I did just pick up his Flaubert's Parrot from the library, which is apparently all meta-textual. Hopefully it won't go over my head. :)

#195> clfisha, you're quite right: a novella is meatier than a short story, but still has the tight plotting and resolution that one expects from a short story. There's a few authors out there who should take some tips from novellas and shrink down their tomes!

199wookiebender
Oct 4, 2011, 11:53pm

#196> Mary, I know what you mean about memory! Mine's full of holes. Although that does mean that up until the movie adaptations (and their constant screening on TV), I could re-read Lord of the Rings quite regularly and still be shocked by the ending. :)

I'm loving cataloguing and reviewing my books on LT because it's a memory aid for what I have read, and what I thought about it. Otherwise I'd be "um, I know I read a good book the other day...".

#197> Deb, that's some juggling routine! I must chase up a copy of Stitches, but maybe another day, I'm not really up for domestic abuse stories at the moment. And I've already got a serious read on the near horizon: Bereft for my ANZ Literature bookgroup. This one does look good, I've got my copy all lined up, I've just got to finish a library book first...

How do we get into these reading schedule pickles?? I shall blame the library, they make book greed so easy...

200wookiebender
Oct 5, 2011, 6:57am

86. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, Daniyal Mueenuddin



A series of connected short stories set in Pakistan, covering a variety of plots, characters, classes, times, and themes. The one thing they all have in common is at least a passing reference or acquaintance with the wealthy landlord K.K. Harouni.

This was a very readable group of stories. I'm not usually a short story reader, but I enjoyed these windows into another world. It was rather depressing however that the only way for the struggling female characters to get ahead was by sleeping with one of the powerful male characters in the book. This rarely ended well for the female characters in question, leading to a rather bleak view of contemporary Pakistani society for me.

Overall, I enjoyed it very much, although I was expecting more intertwining and overlapping rather than just all the stories having K.K. Harouni as a common character.

****

201vancouverdeb
Oct 10, 2011, 9:08pm

Stopping by to say hi! Now I'm juggling two books -which I never do! Extreme Vinyl Cafe a humourous book of short stories and All Quiet on the Western Front. I'm enjoying both, but I needed the light book to offset all of my darker books.

Great review of In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. It sounds interesting. I don't read a vast number of books with short stories, but sometimes it is really worth it.

Hmm - the women having to sleep with the men to get ahead - that is depressing.

202PrueGallagher
Oct 11, 2011, 12:16am

Hello Tania! Stopping to say hi - The Remains of the Day is one of my favourite books - so English and so Japanese. Other Rooms, Other Wonders is tempting...don't think I have read any books set in Pakistan...drat...remind me not to come here often!

203ronincats
Oct 11, 2011, 12:24am

Stopping by as well to see if you've recovered from the book bullets you took over on my thread!

204wookiebender
Oct 11, 2011, 12:26am

Hi Deb! Sometimes you do have to mix in some light reading to get through the dark stuff. I used to read in parallel a lot (a "serious" read for the bus, and a fluffy read for bedtimes). Once I was reading two books that were set during WW2, with a young female protagonist. Completely different books and styles, but I did get plot strands muddled up between the two! (They were: The Book Thief and Sorry. And both definitely worth a read, but not at the same time. :)

Funnily enough, I'm reading short stories again right now: The Lottery: And Other Stories. I used to read more short stories than I do now. Maybe they're making a comeback in my reading!

I'm glad you're reading All Quiet on the Western Front that was a recent-ish best book for me. Very, very powerful stuff. The book I just finished reading, Bereft, is another WW1 tale. I may continue on some WW1 reads soon, too, I find it a very compelling period.

Although I did stay up too late last night after finishing Bereft, thinking about my grandparents' generation, who fought that war. My maternal grandmother lost a brother at Gallipolli; my paternal grandfather was wounded (shrapnel to the head; patched up and sent back, but he had permanent nerve damage to part of his face); and Dad's uncle lost an arm. A truly horrible war.

205wookiebender
Oct 11, 2011, 12:33am

Hi Prue! It was good, visiting Pakistan in literature, I don't think I'd read anything set there before. (India, yes. Pakistan, no.) I should see if I can dig up some more Pakistani authors; Daniyal Mueenuddin has spent a lot of time in America, so they were probably a good stepping stone to other authors for me.

Hi Roni, I'm trying to dodge those book bullets, but, my, there are a lot of them around here! (Would people please stop reading such good books!!)

206msf59
Oct 11, 2011, 6:54am

Wookie- I loved your thoughts on In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. I've had this one on the WL for several years now. I need to snag a copy.

207vancouverdeb
Oct 12, 2011, 9:18pm

Oh Tania, so sorry to hear that your independent bookstore by work is closing down! What a big letdown! What to do on your lunch hour and where to purchase your books in the future. Oh and the The Lottery - I read that as part of some assigned reading in my youth -and indeed - such a horrifying story.

208wookiebender
Oct 13, 2011, 2:17am

No! No! No! Bray's is remaining open, they're just losing me as a customer!! Our office at work is moving from a funky converted old bakery near the shops to a nice new modern building in the middle of a wasteland. And I won't be able to browse at Bray's at lunch any more, it'll be too far to get to.

(There are plenty of positives about the move, this is just the major negative from my point of view! I doubt anyone else has an issue like this. :)

209clfisha
Oct 13, 2011, 6:53am

I miss being able to browse at lunchtimes.. still I now make a trip to the my favourite independent bookshop an event :)

210vancouverdeb
Oct 13, 2011, 3:45pm

Ohhh sorry I mixed that up, Tania!Glad Bray's is remaining open, but nonetheless you'll have further to travel. One wonders how I am able to read a book, if I can't read a post properly!Gasp!

211wookiebender
Oct 13, 2011, 7:51pm

#209> Oh, that's what I'll have to do! Make it an event! I like that idea. :)

#210> LOL.

Gosh, I'd better get caught up on some reviews.... Hopefully this weekend I'll have some solid computer time! And a semi-focused brain. :}

212ChelleBearss
Oct 13, 2011, 11:39pm

Hi Tania, I see you are also reading The Last Werewolf. I hope you are enjoying it!

I was surprised to find that it reads a tad on the difficult side, but it's very good writing. I guess I am used to easy to read werewolf stories! Almost reminds me of Anne Rice, but for werewolves instead of vampires

213Storeetllr
Oct 13, 2011, 11:42pm

>199 wookiebender: ...Until the movie adaptations (and their constant screening on TV), I could re-read Lord of the Rings quite regularly and still be shocked by the ending.

LOL

214wookiebender
Oct 14, 2011, 12:08am

Hi Chelle! Yes, I think I was expecting a easy, fast read, but I'm finding I'm having to pause and let things sink in. I do love that the plot isn't going where I thought it was going (hurrah! I like unpredictability in my books, I hate feeling like I've read it all before).

Hi Mary. :)

215vancouverdeb
Oct 14, 2011, 12:15am

Ohh ! Glad to see that you too are interested in Gillespie and I I had looked at in the bookstore -and then I had to back to the bookstore the next day and purchase it! They had a 20 % off all regular priced books, plus I get 10% off because I have a loyalty card - so the price ended up being quite reasonable. Bellestria - or whatever that review thing's is called, gave it a good review. Let me know what you think of The Observations .

ETA - sad to say, my husband is not much of a reader, so I do the picking. He likes newpapers , news magazines and things -but not book. How have we been married for 28 happy years again???:)

216wookiebender
Oct 14, 2011, 12:25am

30% off sounds more than reasonable to me! :)

Don isn't that much of a reader - he tends to return to the same books over and over again, plus newspaper and pop science. But he does like graphic novels, so I rely on him to pass them over if he thinks I'll like them too. (I'm less into the superhero ones, although I do have a soft spot for The Green Arrow, and will also read them if I like the author.) But when he does read, he tackles some good stuff, he's generally just too tired.

217judylou
Oct 14, 2011, 1:15am

I wonder is there a theme here with husbands? My husband tends to read only magazines and such until a book captures him. Mostly fantasy - think The Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings.

I FORCED him to start The Last Werewolf which he read in one great gulp. But hasn't read anything since. Typical!

Wookie, did you like Bereft? I thought it was good. I have just finished Animal People - really good. I think you might like it too.

218wookiebender
Oct 14, 2011, 1:24am

Judy, I keep on mentioning The Last Werewolf to Don and he keeps on looking blankly at me. This one just isn't sinking in! :)

I did really like Bereft, I thought it was beautiful and sad and compelling, and set in such a fascinating time. Loved its gothicky nature too, of course. :) I've given it 9/10, and will write a review sometime. Ahem.

I was half-listening to RN's Bookshow podcast from a week or so ago and they were chatting with Charlotte Wood. I got the impression that it was a sequel to her The Children which I'm yet to read. I did like her Submerged Cathedral though, so I should get stuck into some of her other works.

Oh dear. There are too many good books out there!!

219judylou
Oct 14, 2011, 1:31am

It is not really a sequel. It does follow one of the characters, but you can read it without reading the first one.

220wookiebender
Oct 14, 2011, 1:55am

Ahah, that's good to know! Thanks Judy.

221msf59
Oct 14, 2011, 6:45am

Oh, those husbands what are we going to do with them??

222wookiebender
Oct 17, 2011, 2:39am

Mark, we are going to be very grateful for them and all their tolerance of our book obsessions. :)

223lauralkeet
Oct 17, 2011, 8:13am

>222 wookiebender:: absolutely!

224judylou
Oct 18, 2011, 4:59am

Spot on wookie!

225wookiebender
Oct 18, 2011, 5:55am

87. Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon



This rather charming murder mystery opens with the death of Maestro Helmut Wellauer, who got bumped off halfway through conducting La Traviata at Venice's La Fenice, the great opera house. But, for me, it was much more about the life of our investigator, Commissario of Police Guido Brunetti, who calmly proceeds with the investigation between juggling useless co-workers and bosses, delicious meals cooked by his loving and lovely wife, and parenting his two clever and charming children.

I got so caught up in Brunetti's life that I'd rather forgotten about the murder after a while, and it was a bit of a surprise to suddenly remember why he was wandering around Venice, asking people awkward questions.

But when we do focus on the plot, it had a clever conclusion that I did not see coming, although for a while I thought I had it all sussed out. I was quite wrong.

A good read, just what I needed when slumped on the sofa with a cup of tea after digging up the garden. :)

****

226wookiebender
Oct 18, 2011, 6:23am

88. Divergent, Veronica Roth



Set in the future of what I assume is our planet, people have divided into five groups: Dauntless, Candour, Erudite, Amity, and Abnegation. These five factions have risen to stop wars: the Dauntless believe it is fear that causes wars so have created a faction that promotes bravery; Candour believe that secrets were the cause of war; Erudite believe that learning and education will stop war; Amity that friendship is needed to end wars; and Abnegation believed selfishness was the root of war. Children born in one faction are brought up by their family within that faction, but when you turn 16, you can choose what faction to belong to.

And faction is more important than family, so changing factions has extreme personal consequences.

Sixteen year old Beatrice is chafing within the confines of Abnegation: she believes what she is taught, yet cannot subjugate her sense of self enough to fit in. Obviously for plot reasons she will change factions at her Choosing Ceremony, but which faction she will choose (and whether she will pass the initiation into her new faction and not be rejected and become factionless) forms the plot of this highly entertaining page-turning young adult dystopian novel. She's a great heroine, the baddies are clear cut and loathsome, and a burgeoning romance is handled nicely.

I'm trying to work out why young adult dystopias are always so much fun to read. I think the hope of a new generation wins me over every time.

****

227msf59
Oct 18, 2011, 6:55am

Wookie- Good review of Divergent. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I think the next one comes out in 2012.

228wookiebender
Oct 18, 2011, 7:41am

Hi Mark, and thanks! 2012?? But I want it now!

229wookiebender
Edited: Oct 18, 2011, 7:48am

89. Blood Rites, Jim Butcher



The sixth in the Dresden files, this sees our intrepid hero, Harry Dresden, up to his neck in the usual schmozzle of plots, trying to protect a porn movie magnate, deal with various nasty vamps who are out to get him, and get more revelations about his mother. Somehow this all makes coherent sense in the end.

A good fun reliable series, even if I'm always slightly exhausted by the end through empathy with Harry's breakneck adventure. (I know, I know, it'd be really dull if he took a break and put his feet up and cogitated for a while, but I think I'd be slightly more relaxed at the end if he did.)

***1/2

230wookiebender
Oct 18, 2011, 6:40pm

And Julian Barnes wins the Booker, for my #85 read up above. Congratulations to him, it was a magnificent novel and the best of the shortlist I've read so far.

It's also been nominated as a 2012 read in my bookgroup, so I may well be re-reading it next year! :)

231ChelleBearss
Oct 18, 2011, 7:26pm

Good review of Divergent! Isn't it soooo hard to wait for the next in the series!
Blood Rites sounds good too, I haven't Jim Butcher before.

232wookiebender
Oct 18, 2011, 7:45pm

Chelle, I used to have a rule: no starting a series until ALL books in said series have been published. I'm beginning to think I should revisit that rule. :)

The Harry Dresden books are fun, the first is Storm Front. There's about 12 out now, my husband's read them all and is impatiently waiting for me to catch up. (He did accidentally give me one big spoiler about this book, but it was so long ago that I'd forgotten by the time I finally read it. :)

They're urban fantasy: werewolves, demons, magic etc in our real (urban) world, in this case Chicago. Harry's a wizard, and acts much as a private investigator does in a crime series, only with magic.

233vancouverdeb
Edited: Oct 18, 2011, 8:22pm

Hi Tania! These husbands! Mine discovered my kindle today! ;) OH ho! Well, at least now I can read from it in his presence. Yes, our husbands are great in their forbearance! BTW - I really did love The Twin - unless you have heard all you need from your book club discussion, I would urge you to read it.

Looks like you've been reading some fabulous mysteries! Well - the dog is crying insistently at me for her supper! Honestly, your children grow up - or mine have -and then we adopt a demanding little dog!!!LOL!!!! :) Off I go to keep her from crying.

234wookiebender
Oct 18, 2011, 9:14pm

I can't believe you managed to hide your Kindle from him for so long!

We've got the fur kids already - three needy cats. I had to rescue Mr Bear from Sweet Pea twice last night (she thinks he's the cat's pajamas, and then stomps all over him at bedtime); Porchie threw up noisily in the wee hours this morning (luckily on the tiles, not the carpet); and Pippi was on my pillow this morning, licking my hair. Ew.

Love them all dearly, but sometimes I wish they'd go and bother someone else.

235cushlareads
Oct 19, 2011, 3:01am

Hi Tania,
I lost your thread aaaages ago - I made the mistake of reading your new one when it was 10 posts long, so now I've just read 224 posts!! Have added Small Wars to my WL.

I am so pleased that Julian Barnes won the Booker - I loved The Sense of an Ending too (and it's the only one of the SL that I'd read, but I'm going to try to read The sisters brothers soon.)

I really enjoyed In Other Rooms, Other Wonders last year. Have you read Burnt Shadows? Some of that's set in Pakistan.

236wookiebender
Oct 19, 2011, 5:54am

Hi Cushla, nice to see you again! Not sure if I've commented on your thread of late, but I do lurk there a bit.

I have a copy of Burnt Shadows, but have not read it yet. Didn't realise the Pakistan connection!

237wookiebender
Oct 19, 2011, 7:25am

90. Zoo City, Lauren Beukes



Oh, I don't want to give much away about this fascinating book, I had so much fun finding out what was happening on my way. Suffice it to say, it's set in Johannesburg, and people have animal companions, much like a familiar (or a daemon, for those who have read Philip Pullman's excellent His Dark Materials series). The symbiotic relationship allows the human a certain magical skill. Our heroine, Zinzi December, has a sloth, and lives in a rundown area called Zoo City. (I want a sloth!) Sloth allows her to find lost objects, which skill she uses to eke out a living. And then it gets a whole lot messier from there on in.

The characters were nicely complex, the idea was clever, and it was excellent reading something set in modern Africa (a continent I'm only just beginning to discover in my literary journeys). There's also nice use of extra information: reviews of a documentary about animal companions from a website; interviews with men and their animals in a prison; magazine interviews with various of the characters in the music industry.

I noticed in the back of my book that there is even a soundtrack available, and since there was so much music referred to in the book, this makes a lot of sense, and also adds yet another layer to the book. I'll have to look up some of the artists...

It was a great plot, a great idea, and had a great noir style to the writing. I'll be reading further of her works.

****1/2

238clfisha
Oct 19, 2011, 8:11am

Great review of Zoo City, I didn't know there was a soundtrack so I am going to have to check it out. There was a great article on the artwork mentioned in the story and the origins of the story itself here, its quite a cool read.
http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=13275

239ChelleBearss
Oct 19, 2011, 7:06pm

Great review of Zoo City, sounds like one I would enjoy! Added to the list :)

240wookiebender
Oct 19, 2011, 7:20pm

#238 & #239> Thanks!

I just spent far too much time on that Warren Ellis page, and looking at the other pages he links to. There's some fabulous stuff out there!

My copy of Zoo City was a library book, sadly. I'm thinking I may have to buy a copy for myself (and a copy of Moxyland, too...).

241vancouverdeb
Oct 19, 2011, 8:05pm

Tania! Thanks for visiting my thread! Isn't that dreadful when you read a book from the library and realize that you may have to purchase it anyway! ;)

As to the kindle, I put in my where I hide my things drawer -and I only read from my kindle when my husband was not at home. Now I can pull it out whenever I want. I guess my husband kind of knows about my many " hiding place drawers" in the house. I"ve an entire room for my hobby / book stuff. And it's very messy, so he does not go it there too often. LOL!!!

242vancouverdeb
Edited: Oct 19, 2011, 8:09pm

You know, when you mentioned Little Bear - I thought you must be using a nickname for a son! I called my two - and still do, Mr Sunshine and Mr Sunshine Jr . The eldest was a bit of negative guy -so I called him Mr Sunshine in an ironic way -and even in his early years - 2 and above I think he caught on. Then the younger one had a more sunny temperament - and how can you favour one over the other - thus they both got the same nickname. I think it still makes them laugh.

243wookiebender
Oct 19, 2011, 8:13pm

Yep, like cats, our kids have multiple nicknames. But usually they're Mr Bear and Miss Boo. (Sometimes they morph into Beartastic Boy and Princess Ninja Boo, etc.)

I don't always mention their real names online (although they do slip out every now and then) because I think they can have their own lives on the internet when they're old enough and not have to run into my blitherings about them when they were small kids. :)

244vancouverdeb
Oct 21, 2011, 3:03am

Hi Tania! I'm not sure just what you are reading, but let's just hope it's a ripsnorter or corker or ace of a book! ;)
Our dog has more than one name too. Daisy , or Goofy. She really is goofy and she answers to Goofy or Daisy.

You have a great sense of humour!

245wookiebender
Oct 22, 2011, 6:05pm

Hi Deb! It is rather a corker I'm reading now, it's The Observations by Jane Harris, about a young servant girl in a decrepit old house in Scotland. She's the narrator and is quite economical with the truth, and her mistress is quite barmy. No idea where it's going, but it's a great ride. :)

I was actually giggling on the bus the other day reading some of this book. Our narrator, Sally, is a cheeky gem.

246vancouverdeb
Oct 23, 2011, 8:25pm

Oh! Tania, I've got Gillespie and I by Jane Harris in my TBR pile!Great minds and all that! Glad to hear that The Observations is a corker! I imagine Gillespie and I should be a similar book. I'm nearly at my 75 books -so I'm waiting til I hit that magic number before I languish in Gillespie and I .

My last book, Natural Order had a very cheeky narrator - rather cantankerous, so I quite enjoyed that read too. Still pondering a review for that one.

Glad to hear you liked Atonement. This is my first McEwan...

247wookiebender
Oct 23, 2011, 8:46pm

Yeesh, I got the narrator's name completely wrong in #245 above! Bessy, not Sally! Don't know what I was thinking there. (Or, obviously, not thinking.)

She is definitely the highlight of a very entertaining novel.

I've heard Gillespie and I is brilliant, but it wasn't available at the library, so I got The Observations instead. I've requested the library buy Gillespie, but that's a long, slow process. I may have to buy my own copy in the meantime!

248vancouverdeb
Oct 23, 2011, 9:18pm

I know what you mean! I request books get purchased at my library too, and as you say, it's long process from purchase to cataloging to the actual shelf.. sigh!

249wookiebender
Oct 24, 2011, 12:05am

Deb, apparently there's an undocumented step in the whole process that can roughly be described as: "librarians get to take new book home first and read it".

We have lucky librarians! :)

250vancouverdeb
Oct 24, 2011, 3:33am

LOL Tania! I'll bet that's true.

251ChelleBearss
Oct 24, 2011, 11:48am

#249 Tania it's funny that you say that, as my fiance said that to me yesterday!
We were talking about what I might do for work once we move in the new year and he said I should find a part time job in a library so I could try and get the good books first and save money! ;)

252vancouverdeb
Edited: Oct 26, 2011, 1:53am

Hey Tania!! I went flying out of the house today to get a long awaited new release Virgin Cure By Ami McKay. She wrote an award winning debut Canadian book The Birth House which was excellent. Anyway.... I ended up also purchasing The Observations by Jane Harris and it's all because of your influence. Do expect a bill in the mail! ;) At least it was soft cover!;)

253wookiebender
Oct 26, 2011, 2:29am

Bwahahahahahahahahahaha! I'm trying to not let my book-suggesting power go to my head, but it's all too hard.

254vancouverdeb
Oct 26, 2011, 4:26am

Shall I just address it wookiebender, Sydney Australia? I'm certain that the bill will get to you! :)

255divinenanny
Oct 26, 2011, 4:36am

Great to know I can send all my book-bills to you, with all the good recommendations I have bought :D

256clfisha
Oct 27, 2011, 4:46am

Hi, just wanted to say I pick up Sense of an Ending in a 3 for 2 offer, inspired by your review and loved it! I usually avoid Book prize winners as they never match my taste so thanks the push:)

257wookiebender
Oct 27, 2011, 7:47pm

My deity, I am rocking the recommendations right now! I'm glad you all liked the books I recommended, it's always slightly disappointing when other people don't like books as much as you do.

Must get onto some more reviews...

258msf59
Oct 27, 2011, 8:07pm

Tania- I recently requested Sense of an Ending from the library. Since it's a shorty, I should be able to squeeze it in, when I get it. I'm getting ready to start Feed & wonderstruck.

259wookiebender
Oct 27, 2011, 8:43pm

Mark, I'm envious you've got a copy of Wonderstruck! I'm resisting at the moment, having spent too much money on books lately (damn that free glass of wine last night; it's cruel to one's budget, handing out wine in a bookshop) and Christmas (and Mr Bear's birthday) are both just around the corner...

I might add it to my Christmas wishlist; Mum asked what I wanted for Christmas and I said I could come up with a list, and she'd be shocked if there were no books on it. ;)

260msf59
Oct 27, 2011, 9:31pm

Tania- Have you seen a copy of Wonderstruck yet? It's a work of art. I can't afford a lot of new books but this one was worth every penny.

261wookiebender
Oct 27, 2011, 11:46pm

I saw a copy one day, when I was at the local bookshop with the kids. Their purchases took priority over mine (WAH!) so I had to regretfully leave it behind, the budget wasn't going to stretch to three books that week.

I did love The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I will be buying Wonderstruck. Just not for a little while yet. :)

262judylou
Oct 30, 2011, 5:36am

"librarians get to take new book home first and read it".

Well, there has to be some perks in the job!!

*blush* I am sooo guilty of doing that! Nothing like a brand new book fresh out of the box!

263wookiebender
Oct 31, 2011, 5:41am

judylou, I think librarians are entitled to first dibbs on new books! It'd be too cruel, making you work among new books, but not read them!

264wookiebender
Oct 31, 2011, 5:41am

91. Bereft, Chris Womersley



This Gothic Australian novel opens with an overview of the rape and murder of twelve-year-old Sarah Walker in the western plains of New South Wales, during a monstrous thunderstorm in 1909. Her brother, Quinn, who was seen as being too close to his younger sister and was found by her body with a bloody knife, is instantly blamed for her death and runs away. When he's never found, the townsfolk assume he has died in the thunderstorm, or was killed by the natives, or starved to death in the bush.

But where would be the story in that?

Quinn in fact does survive, and ends up overseas fighting on the Western Front in the First World War. On his return to Australia, with gas scarred lungs, an impressive facial scar, and nightmares, an influenza plague has broken out. He returns to his home, where he stays in hiding while making contact again with his mother, who has been taken ill herself.

Thunderstorms, plague, suspected incest, mental disturbances, these all combine to create an impressive Gothic atmosphere. One wouldn't normally consider Australia a suitable location for Gothic stories (all that damned sunshine), but Womersley does a great job, even twisting the hot relentless sun into a dark menace. The location he's chosen, filled with deserted gold mines and a small town fallen from former glory, does help as well.

I was completely gripped by the story. The history was fascinating, the characters were interesting, and there's a wonderful sense of mistrust of what's happening. What's written on the page may not be what's actually happening, and there's no one story that is fully true: each possible interpretation is contradicted by other parts of the story. While I have an opinion on what happened, other members of my bookgroup had quite different ideas.

****1/2

265wookiebender
Oct 31, 2011, 6:54am

92. The Lottery and Other Stories, Shirley Jackson



Shirley Jackson is well known as a writer of creepy stories: not necessarily very scary stories; definitely not gory, gruesome stories; but quietly ever so slightly disturbing stories. This excellent collection is no exception, but beware if you're looking for something with a real bang, you won't find it here. Instead you'll find a selection of perfectly pitched little gems of creepy, enough to maybe make you shiver slightly, move on to the next tale, and then discover yourself lying awake at 3am, thinking over the stories you've read.

The most famous story in this collection is, of course, "The Lottery", but I felt that too much expectation was riding on it when I finally read it, and the outcome wasn't all that shocking or unexpected. My favourites were the ones that I knew nothing about at the start, like "The Flower Garden" about racism and conformity in a small town; or "Just Like Mother Used to Make" about a young man who has created his perfect home in a small flat in New York.

There's no resorting to BOO! moments or the supernatural, just stories that push human and social interaction slightly too far, leaving the reader slightly disturbed by the end.

****1/2

266msf59
Oct 31, 2011, 8:25am

Tania- Good review of Bereft. Sounds haunting. I'll have to add it to the WL. I have not read Shirley Jackson or The Lottery since I was a wee lad. I'm over-due.
Hope you had a nice Halloween!

267ChelleBearss
Oct 31, 2011, 11:10am

HI Tania! Great choices lately, fits well into Halloween!
Bereft sounds quite interesting, I'll have to take a look for that one!

268jfetting
Oct 31, 2011, 11:59am

I'm reading the Shirley Jackson collection next year and I can't wait. So creepy! Especially the one about the dog (I don't remember the name).

269lauralkeet
Oct 31, 2011, 8:27pm

Interesting reaction to "The Lottery." I read it as a teen, free of all the hype, and between the story and a short film shown in English class, I was totally creeped out. But I can see how if someone pressed it on me now, I might react differently.

270wookiebender
Oct 31, 2011, 11:43pm

Hi Mark, we had a fab Halloween, we even got our first trick-or-treater *ever*! (We are down a somewhat scruffy laneway, I wouldn't have picked it as a road to try if I was out with kids myself. Our sixth Halloween at this house, every year we put out Jack'o'lanterns and get a bowl of candy, and every year we have to admire the pumpkin carving and eat the candy ourselves.) The kids looked fab (I'll post a pic later) and made out like bandits.

Chelle, I know, I wasn't really *planning* Halloween reading, it just sort of happened that way. :)

Jennifer, it's called "The Renegade" or something? Yes, it was a good one too. They actually all were - I thought the opening one was a bit unexciting, but after that they were all so consistently good! "The Lottery" was possibly overhyped, but was still excellent.

Laura, as I just said :), it was a very, very good story. It was just that knowing what I'd heard (and people couldn't help telling me how much they loved it and how much it affected them) I just knew as a reader where it was probably going to be heading, so it didn't have the powerful emotional punch it might otherwise have had.

But she's one hell of a writer!

271clfisha
Nov 1, 2011, 8:22am

I had the same reaction to "The Lottery", its such a great idea I guess its been reused a bit too much so combined with the hype it kills its impact. The rest of the stories though are great.

272judylou
Nov 2, 2011, 3:24am

So glad you enjoyed Bereft. It was a wonderful story.

273wookiebender
Nov 2, 2011, 7:52am

#271 & #272: Thanks for your comments!

I've started up a new thread, this one was getting a bit long. (I was getting fed up with all that scrolling... ;)