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2 - Life, the Universe and Everything - having reached that age which is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything I thought I'd read books asking the big questions
3 - It's in the cards - there are 12 face cards in a deck of cards - books about games, chance, fate, prediction
4 -12 Angry Men - courtroom dramas, noir, books of the film, crime
5 - 12 hours on a clock, 12 months in a year - books about time, time travel and the future
6 - 12 stars in the flag of Europe - books by European authors & not from the UK (which likes to pretend it's not part of Europe)
7 - 12 Olympian gods - mythology, mysticism and fantasy
8 - 12 Caesers - ancient world, history, biographies
9 - 12 signs of the zodiac - books about astronomy, space and the solar system
10 - 1912 - 1912 saw the race for the South Pole ( and Scott's death), the end of the Meiji era in Japan, the sinking of the Titanic, the death of Bram Stoker, the birth of A E Van Vogt, Tarzan of the apes, the lost world, the book of wonder and a princess of Mars are all published - books with a 1912 theme
11 - Doomsday clock - the closer the clock is to midnight, the closer the world is to disaster, as of January 2010 the Doomsday clock stands at 6 minutes to midnight - books about global disaster, apocalypse, the atomic age & nuclear war
12 - Baker's dozen - books that really can't be placed in the other 11 categories but I have to read them because they're shiny as well as short stories, novellas articles and essays and graphic novels
of men and monsters William Tenn -READ
we Yevgeny Zamyatin - READ
The city of words Alberto Manguel -READ
Planet word J.P. davidson-READ
Carter beats the devil Glen David Gold-READ
rivers of London Ben Aaronovitch - READ
Farenheit 451 Ray Bradbury - READ
a history of reading Alberto Manguel - READ
big bang Simon Singh - READ
The Psychopath test Jon Ronson-READ
The Devil In The White City Erik Larson - READ
The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer-Reading
got a rather fantastic "reading year" present which means I'll get a brand new book chosen by my favourite bookshop every month so this category is expanding...
the Slynx Tatyana Tolstaya - READ
Gould's book of fish Richard Flanagan - READ
since its a Douglas Adams themed category I'll re-read dirk gently and the long dark tea time of the soul
mind myths Segio Della Sala
humanity 2.0 Steve fuller
the earth has a soul Carl Jung
the origin of our species Chris Stringer
life: a user's manual Georges Perec
42 the answer to life, the universe and everything Mol Smith
beyond chaos: the underlying theory behing life, the universe and everything Mark Ward
42: Deep thought on life, the universe and everything Mark Vernon
the things that nobody knows: 501 mysteries of life, the universe and everything William Hartston
42: Douglas Adams amazingly accurate answer to life, the universe and everything Peter Gill
The salmon of doubt Douglas Adams
the new games book by the new games foundation
the simple art of murder Raymond Chandler
the high window Raymond Chandler (as well as all his other books!)
the killer inside me Jim Thompson
my dark places James Ellroy
the black dahlia James Ellroy (as well as all his other books!)
the choirboys Jason Wambaugh
if he hollers let him go Chester Himes (plus a few other Himes books)
devil in a blue dress Walter Mosley
the maltese falcon Dashiell Hammett (as well as all his other books!)
the riddle of the sands Erskine Childers
some clouds Paco Ignacio Taibo
inspector imanishi investigates Seicho Matsumoto
quite ugly one morning Christopher Brookmyre
epitaph for a spy Eric Ambler
gun with occasional music Johnathon Lethem
death of a red heroine Qiu Xiaolong
death in midsummer Yukio Mishima
the chinatown death cloud peril Paul Malmont
the woodcutter Reginald Hill (actually this one is one of last years Xmas gifts (from my mum))
so will have to whittle this list down somehow!
The high window Raymond Chandler
the price Joseph Garraty
The Mourner Richard Stark
If he hollers let him go Chester Himes
an experiment with time J. W. Dunne
breaking the time barrier: the race to build the first time machine Jenny Randles
the end of time Damian Thompson (also fits doomsday clock category)
a brief history of time Stephen Hawking
the prince Machiavelli
purge Sofi Oksanen
suite francaise Irene Nemirovsky
harbor John Ajvide Lindqvist
54 Wu Ming
Q Luther Blissett
The baron in the trees & the castle of crossed destinies Italo Calvino
Harbor John Ajvide Lindqvist
Bruges-la-morte Georges Rodenbach
The Rebels Sandor Marai
Bartleby & Co Enrique Vila-Matas
the gormenghast trilogy Mervyn Peake
the riddle-master's game patricia a McKillip
in the night garden Catherynne M. Valente
in the cities of coin and spice Catherynne M. Valente
the labyrinth Catherynne M. Valente
dreams of Inan Andy Boot
Legend David Gemmel
In the night garden Catherynne M. Valente
Babylon Steel Gaie Sebold
in the cities of coin and spice Catherynne M. Valente
Candidates (dont actually have many of these though):
Titanic: A passenger's guide by John Blake
any of Heinrich Harrer's books (born in 1912) - although not 7 years in tibet which I read last year
alexandria quartet Lawrence Durrel (born in 1912)
death in venice Thomas Mann (published in 1912)
the lost world Arthur Conan Doyle (published in 1912)
manalive G.K. Chesterton (published in 1912)
the night land William Hope Hodgson (published in 1912)
Journals:Captain Scott's Last Expedition (Oxford World's Classics) Robert Falcon Scott
a princess of mars Edgar Rice Burroughs (published in 1912)
scarlet plague Jack London (published in 1912) - also fits the Doomsday clock category
Titanic: A passenger's guide by John Blake
The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski
Scott's last expedition by Robert Falcom Scott
the great god pan Arthur Machen (novella)
Oriental ghost stories - Lafcadio Hearn
my goat ate its own legs - Alex Burrett
Zoo - Otsuichi
Cosmicomics Italo Calvino
January Dancer by Michael Flynn
The Sisters brothers Patrick deWitt (didn't fit another category)
January Dancer by Michael Flynn
Nelson by Rob Davies and Woodrow Phoenix
Walking Dead 15 by Charlie Adlard & Robert Kirkman
Hector Umbra by Uli Oesterle
Cultural Paradox, fun in mathematics Jeffrey Zilahy
Pure Andrew Miller
It rains in February Leila Summers
Alan's war Emmanuel Guibert
Blankets Craig Thompson
Astro city book 1 Kurt Busiek
unwritten volume 1 Mike Carey
unwritten volume 2 Mike Carey
unwritten volume 3 Mike Carey
@20-23 - thanks am hoping that they're not too restrictive this year (a mistake I made in the 1010)
I think the only category I won't do that in is the 12 days of Xmas one as the number of books will be random in that one..
Also in previous years I've not included graphic novels (for no readily apparent reason) so for the 1212 they will go on the Baker's dozen....
having still got books from last Christmas and last birthday on the TBR I thought a good way to avoid that this year was to have a category for it...
Am raring to go, is it December yet?
Books will be rated:
Unfinished - self explanatory really, it was so bad I couldn't finish it
Poor - I finished it but it wasn't very good
Average - an OK book but one I wouldn't really recommend it
Very good - a good example of the genre, one I'd recommend
Brilliant- books that everyone should read, really outstanding and memorable
I like your categories. Fun theme, and I'm especially curious about your 1912 category. I'm presently fascinated with fiction taking place in the much broader period between the Edwardian Era and post-WWI into the Great Depression.
I've no idea if books can be found about these events (outside of the Titanic stuff of course), but it sounds like interesting reading if you can find some.
@64 - I think that's one of my most fun categories as it involves a good bit of research both of the year and books related to the year :-)
the high window by Raymond Chandler
(Bruce's evil twin :-))
Finished Carter beats the devil which was rather splendid as well as walking dead 15, Nelson by Rob Davies and Woodrow Phoenix and Hector Umbra 3 graphic novels to add to the Bakers dozen category
Will do some reviews next year ;-)
Just started Babylon Steel and just in the world building stage of the story....
A rare coin goes missing and Phillip Marlowe is hired to look for it. Filled with Chandler's trademark hard boiled descriptions and dialogue another brilliant example of the noir genre. if you've read Chandler you'll know what your getting, if you haven't read Chandler why the he'll not? He is the master of noir.
Overall a brilliant quick and easy read
Using a similar mechanism to the 1001 nights Valente creates a fascinating fairytale like world through tales that are nested and inter-related. Almost every character has a tale and whilst we follow one they meet others who then also tell their tale. This could be annoying as each tale is told in a series of digressions but in Valente's hands it all works brilliantly and contributes to the overall feel of the book. The world is vividly imagined and explored in the tales and I can't wait to read the next one (although it will have to wait for the group reads in January). The world is so rich no summary could do it justice, there are transformations (a bit of a theme that) and talking animals, stars as gods, princes on quests (slyly and entertainingly parodied) , witches and orphans, necromancers and wizards. If you are a fan of fantasy or new weird get yourself a copy as soon as you can.
Overall - a richly woven story tapestry
The Sisters Brothers are hired killers working for the Commodore who wants a man tracked down and killed, the man is an inventor who is in San Francisco for the gold rush. Charlie is the faster, harder and a the major drinker of the two and is lead man. Eli is slower, has a heart of gold and falls in love at the drop of a hat and is the narrator of the story. I confess to being mystified at all the glowing reviews for this one. It didn't bring the Wild West to life for me, it's not amusing (as some others have reported) and the story is not that original. It's not a bad read it just never caught my imagination and in the end forgettable
Overal - Meh, read something more interesting instead
Set on an insular Swedish island where Summer visitors are not fully trusted or liked by the islanders. A young couple have their daughter disappear on a trip to the lighthouse; she did not fall through the ice, there is no-one around to take her, she just disappears. The story then follows the father, Anders as he tries to put his broken life back together. The book felt as if it were a little too long but is well written and the supernatural element is well done if not so creepy.
Overall - a good mystery with a supernatural twist
A gothic novella set in the Belguim town of Bruges. Hugues is a widower who lives his life in mourning keeping a veritable shrine to his dead wife including a lock of her hair and her clothes as well as many portraits. When he glimpses a woman in the streets that resembles his dead wife perfectly there starts a story of doomed obsession. There is a version with photographs (one of the first I believe) and that would be much better.
Overall -Competently written, an average example of the gothic genre
A fictionalised biography of a 1920's stage magician
Carter the great was a real magician, a contempory of Houdini (who has a cameo part in the novel) working during the height of interest in magic shows in the early 20th century. The story blends fact and fiction with a mystery surrounding president Harding's death after he attends Carter's show and takes part in the thrid act when Carter "beats the Devil" . Carter asks the audience not to reveal any details of the third act as it would spoil the enjoyment of those who have yet to see it. Along the way we get a full biography of Carter, an exploration of his friendship with "Borax" Smith, the early days of the US Secret Service, Asian pirates, rivalry, tragedy and theatre. The book has its faults, including being a little too lengthy where some sections, although interesting, could have been cut with no harm to the overall book but many sections are gripping having me turning the pages and unable to put it down so on balance I'll give it a Brilliant as its going to stick in my mind for a while. If I were still doing stars it would get 4 and half
Overall - Recommended to those interested in stage magic, vaudeville or 1920's San Francisco oh and good suspenseful plots...
This is a collaboration between 54 British comic artists which through the tight editorial control of Davies and Phoenix forms a fully cohesive life story. Each collaborator shows us a single day in the life of the main character. These days are then chronologically arranged by year from 1968 to the present day. A great concept that works surprisingly well although there is a great mix of styles and art.
Overall - well worth reading, recommended as a showcase for British talent
This series explores post zombie apocalypse America following ex-sherrif Rick
The story continues to surprise and this trade feels like a plot builder with a little lull in the action. Recommended to all zombie lovers, Adlard's art is still amazing and the post-apocalyptic world still interesting. Also much better than the TV adaptation. Read the entire series though, you cant jump in late on and expect to follow it.
One of Hector's friends is a DJ who disappears during a triumphant set, when Hector starts painting strange pictures he decides to play detective to find his friend. With some help from a mad homeless lady and a dead man Hector finds out the surreal truth about madness. The pictures were very good and the story had promise but overall this graphic novel didn't enthral me.
Overall - flawed and didn't live up to the story premise
Plane hopping fantasy
Babylon Steel is an ex sword-for-hire who runs the Red Lantern, a high class brothel in Scalentine, city of many portals. When she has a few problems balancing the accounts and having enough ready cash to pay her taxes she takes on a missing person case from the mysterious Darask Fain against her better judgment. Along the way she runs into trouble from the prudish Vessels of Purity religion and the past she's tried to leave behind finally catches up with her. Its a fine rollicking adventure tale with an interesting female lead and a collection of colourful characters as Scalentine, having many portals, is a melting pot of people from many planes. There is a good dollop of mystery, some magic (its a multiverse where you can hop from world to world using portals and there are some "glamour" style spells but no-one throwing fireballs) and an interesting world(s). I was generally ahead of the main character which can spoil a mystery for me but it was a very enjoyable debut and I look forward to seeing what Sebold does next. Recommended to all lovers of fantasy.
Overall - A fine rollicking adventure tale
Do the Walking Dead books spoil the tv series much? I know there are major differences between the two but does the show follow the basic plotline of the books or are they completely different?
I've not heard of Babylon Steel before now. No reviews on the book page but I'd thumb yours if it was there as it sparks an interest for me.
Not sure about the TV series I stopped watching it but I seem to remember that it differs from episode 1 and more happens in the comics, I'd say you could enjoy both certainly I know people who do so, 1 friend started reading it due to loving the series and he didn't think either is spoiled by doing so
When I'm at a proper computer I'll stick that review on!
This visit you hit me with the collaboration Carter Beats the Devil (because you mentioned "good suspenseful plots"), Nelson, (Hum, can't find touchstone -does that make it a half book bullet?!?) and of course Babylon Steel because one can never have too many books for pure escapism purposes.
Claire (clfisha) managed to add Nelson to her library so check it out there?
I'll be interested in how you find The Psychopath test, I listened to a podcast interview with the author a while back and the book sounded very interesting.
Dystopian novel set in an ultra-commercialised world
We follow the narrator (is he reliable?) Snowman who starts the story living in a tree wrapped in a sheet looking after strange demi-humans called “Crakers” and through a series of flashbacks find out why the world he lives in is the way it is. Atwood takes certain trends in our world – commodification, reality TV, GM crops & animals etc and a vast gap between rich and poor and exaggerates them. Atwood can certainly write and her dystopian view is certainly bleak but I wasn’t overly enamoured of the characters – Snowman is intentionally dumb – he has to be for the plot to work, Crake is emotionally retarded and Oryx is merely a cipher. Jimmy’s mum is a potentially sympathetic character but since we only see things from Snowman’s perspective we can only guess at her thoughts, feelings and motivations. Some of the exaggeration didn’t feel quite right – the wolvogs didn’t seem to be something that anyone in their right mind would develop (maybe that’s the point?) and the world itself seems simplified - are there countries still?. However despite these faults I did enjoy the book and Atwood can certainly write and I was always interested in finding out what was going on.
Overall – Like any good speculative fiction it makes you think (I’m not convinced that “it could happen” though) good discussion novel & great choice for a group read…
Mocked up passenger guide
This is a brief (I read it in a couple of hours on a couple of bus journeys) but well packaged book, a small hardback pocketbook style. Its conceit is that it is a handbook that could have been handed to passengers as they embarked on the Titanic. Using extracts of the available promotional material with a mix of photographs and illustrations the book is divided into 3. The first is a guide to the construction (lots of juicy engineer geek info such as how many rivets it took to make, comparison of size with other transatlantic ships & famous buildings like Empire state and the pyramids etc.). The second is information for passengers including menus for first, second and third class (what is boiled Hominy? Its on the first class breakfast menu) and information on what to expect from the various berths. The final section is on the operation and safety of the vessel and is rather poignant due to knowing what happened to the Titanic in 1912. The jingoistic nature of the promotional material read by the modern reader comes across oddly:
“the firm, (the shipbuilders) by their work, exercised a potent influence upon the strengthening process which is knitting the British Empire more closely together, and by this same forging of new commercial links they have done much to bring into a closer band of union the great Anglo-Saxon race”
This book has been lovingly produced and is recommended for anyone at all interested in the story of the Titanic. I got it as I am going to try and track down a good history of the ship and probably a survivors story (some of which were published the same year she sank) and think it will be a great little guide to dip back into for visualisation purposes.
Overall – Small but well formed with excellent content
Space opera about the discovery of an alien artefact which we track across the known universe
I picked this up for the TIOLI "2012 has twelve months" due to it having January in the title, the plot sounded vaguely interesting and it had a few good reviews. I’m so glad I did as its introduced me to an author I’d like to read more from. In a bar on a major trade route a female harper listens to an old man spin a tale about the Dancer, an alien artefact that was discovered by a certain Captain January and changed hands many times in a trip across the universe. Flynn’s tale is well told with a cast of almost mythic characters and an always interesting story interspersed with the wordplay between harper and old man. There are difficulties here that make the book a bit chewy and require a bit of effort from the reader. The universe is well imagined but you could spend lots of time flicking to the map at the front of the book (after a few times I decided to ignore it) since the book really does span the universe. Also I’m not a fan of characters speaking phonetically (and in one case in Pidgin a lot of the time, wol wontok indeed) which my inner ear sometimes had difficulty with (each character seems to have a different phonetic accent) – Irish and Scottish I can do (luckily most of the main characters), Scandinavian yes, but some I just didn’t get at all however and it went from an annoyance at the beginning of the book to being mostly background by the end. It’s pretty much all show and not tell about the universe as well which I expect is explored in some of his other books? – and it is an interesting place to explore so I will be gathering his other books as and when I can. Another 4 and half star book this.
Overall – Very enjoyable space opera set in an interesting universe that needs further exploration. (apparently there is a sequel which I will be getting to once I’m able)
ETA: January Dancer is the first in a trilogy. The second, published in 2010, is Up Jim River and the third, scheduled for publication in 2012, is In the Lion's Mouth.
132 - thanks for the info I'll definitely read the trilogy, may be some time until I can justify buying any new books though after a bit of a glut over Xmas
@133 - I'm sure you'll love it
# books read 14
# fiction 13
# non-fiction 1
# male writers 11
# female writers 3
# Unfinished 0
# Poor 0
# Average 3
# Very Good 5
# Brilliant 5
1 uncategorized (walking dead as its part of a long series)
categories so far
12 days of christmas = 1
12 Angry men = 2
12 stars in the flag of Europe = 2
12 Olympian gods = 1
1912 = 1
Baker's Dozen = 5
I'm fairly sure I'll finish the price tonight too & if I do I'll adjust the stats accordingly
The Titanic Display was, however, a travelling display that, as far as I know, criss-crossed North America. This was about five years ago. In fact, I just saw on the news a couple of nights ago where they are in the process of auctioning off some of the artifacts brought up from the Titanic, apparently the public isn't as interested as they were. The report did say that anyone who purchases an artifact has to sign a form saying they would be willing to put their artifact up on display if requested.
and a permanent titanic museum in Branson Missouri...
Urban fantasy mixing the mob with magic
I used to be a nice guy, believe it or not. These days, your average nice guy wouldn’t be seen in the same county with me, but it wasn’t always that way. It just sort of crept up on me, and one day I looked around to discover that I’d become a hardened killer. By then I didn’t much care anymore—that’s what not being a nice guy means.
I didn’t put paid to my inner nice guy all at once, because that’s not how it works. I did, however, make a hell of a down payment the day I met Benedict and Lazzaro.
So starts The Price a book about a kid from a poor neighbourhood in Boston who is able to talk to inanimate objects and convince them to do things, like talk to a lock and get it to open. He’s recruited into the mob by Benedict who is a Wizard and so begins his slow slide into not being a nice guy. I got this book via a member giveaway based on the premise of the mob using wizards. I devoured it in two sittings and loved it. This is urban fantasy that’s been kicked down the stairs and woken up with a horse’s head in its bed. Jimmy is a great character and utterly believable – the key is that line above that says that becoming a hardened killer happens incrementally and it turns out using magic also has a “price”. There is violence, sometimes extreme violence, and a lot of cussing but its about the mob so you have to expect that. I see that Garraty has another book called Voice which sounds intriguing and also gets some good reviews so going to track that one down.
Overall – highly recommended gritty darkly humorous urban fantasy.
This is supposedly the definitive collection of weird stories (although they admit to not being able to get a few in there due to publishing issues which they list in the introduction) and theres an immense amount here in chronological order over 100 years of the best english and non-english (some new translations were commissioned for the book too) short weird fiction
you need strong wrists to read this book ;-)
I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want.
@151 I'm really enjoying the book so far, about half way through and will probably finish it tonight so the review will be soon
The first "story" in the collection is actually half a book. I'm not a big fan of extracts and this is the second half of the book which if you hadn't read it may be a little confusing. Characters that have been introduced in the first half are mentioned, as if you know them, in the second half. The impact of the ending I feel was mostly lost due to not having the build up. Luckily I have read the book fairly recently (sometime in the last 5 years) but if you haven't I would skip this and get the full book. Seems a strange decision - I guess the editors really really wanted it but couldn't justify the length.
The second story in the collection is a masterpiece of gothic storytelling. Told in an almost stream of consciousness monologue of a retired sea captain to a guest in his house about the skull of the title. Although the basics of the story are a little hokey in this day and age the writing is so good at creating the fevered brooding atmosphere that you simply dont care. I've never read any Crawford and if this story is anything to go by that's something I need to remedy.
weird... you can also pay $5.99 for what appears to be the same story, but with a 2010 copyright (I can't imagine that formatting is that big of an issue in a 32 page short story)
one more edit.. ok I bought it... $.99 is less than a cup of coffee after all...
supposedly a gothic romance but is so much more
Opening with one of the most iconic first lines in literature “last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again” this is a masterpiece of writing by du Maurier. The plot summary will do it no justice but suffice to say it is an exploration on the role of a woman in a man’s life and vice versa. Written in the 1930’s it vividly portrays the polite society of England between the wars with a young naïve ladies companion who is taken from her life by a rich widower and thrust into being the lady of a great house under the shadow of the dead first wife. Du Maurier manages to make the great house of Manderlay one of the main character’s of this utterly captivating and suspenseful tale.
Overall - This is a classic and a must read. It is poetical and dark, suspenseful and mysterious and totally compelling.
Oh and Wolfy I think your thread is going to be just as dangerous...
the willows Algernon Blackwood - Very Good - two men canoeing the Danube attempt to wait out a flood in the delta on a small island covered by small Willow bushes, weirdness ensues. H. P. Lovecraft called this Blackwood's best and was a big fan but it lacked a certain something for me although very enjoyable
Sredni Vashtar Saki - Very Good - a young boy has but two friends a hen and a polecat-ferret hidden in a disused tool shed. When the boy starts to worship the ferret who he names Sredni Vashtar As a god the tale turns creepy
Casting the runes M.R. James - Very Good - When an expert on the history of Alchemy delivers a bad book review of a certain Mr. Karswell's book on Alchemy he discovers that a previous book reviewer of a book by Karswell on witchcraft came to a mysterious and gruesome end. Fearing for his own safety he decides to investigate.
Having to average 100 pages a month on this book to finish it I note that I need to read another 5 stories to achieve that goal, but first I'm going to read in the cities of coin and spice
Have any Rebecca fans read anything else by or on her? And if so did it increase your appreciation of Rebecca?
(Bruce's evil twin :-))
ETA: Definitely not complaining since I think WBN is one of the greatest ideas ever!
How Nuth would have practised his arts upon the Gnoles - lord Dunsany - Very Good
I've been meaning to read some Dunsany and this story may bump him up the list a bit. Nuth is a thief who sets off to steal giant emeralds from the Gnoles. In this very short story Dunsany manages to create a very peculiar atmosphere
The man in the bottle - Gustav Meyhrink - Average
At a masquerade ball there is a play where a man is put inside a giant bottle, a short twisted tale.
The dissection - Georg Hym - Average
Very creepy short about a man being cut open
the spider - Hans Heinz Ewers - Very Good
flawed story where you know whats coming but then again so does the narrator as he notes in his diary - 3 men hang themselves in a boarding house room and our narrtor sets out to work out why
The hungry stones - Rabindranath Tagore - Average
Haunted house story with a difference with quite flowery writing.
The vegetable man - Luigi Ugolini - Average
A botanist discovers a new plant in the Amazon and brings it back to civilization where strange things happen
Second book of The Orphans tales (see review of In the night garden message 94
Following straight on from the first book (I get the impression that they were meant to be just 1 book) we again get lost in Valente’s phantasmagorical world which takes the tropes of fairy tales, myths and other fantasy and throws them into a blender. The same structure as the first book and again characters that appeared in earlier stories, including those in the first book, make cameos or have their tales explored. The first tale mostly takes place in the lands of the dead and thus misses a lot of the wonderful world that makes the books so good, still enjoyable but the weakest of the tales in both books I think. More is explored of the narrator and her audience and the world of the garden.
Overall – fantastic conclusion to the labyrinthine tales
Accompanies the BBC series exploring all things Language
Split into 5 sections the book explores the origins of language starting by asking “why is it we can talk but animals can’t?” and exploring how different languages are born, and die, its uses and abuses (including swearing), writing and what language can achieve. It’s a summary of all the many different disciplines: obviously linguistics, semiotics and other language studies but also anthropology, philosophy and psychology. It’s written clearly, in a very engaging style and full of very interesting facts and I read the whole 400+ pages in two days. Highly recommended if you have a love of language.
Overall – Great overview of how language evolved and the many things we use it for
A series of essays exploring the stories we tell and what they say about identity
Manguel explores the idea that stories can change the world and that stories can give us identity or help us to define “the other” and what that means for a post-nationalist globalised world. The book is split into 5 essays which are a bit mixed. I found some of his arguments, although backed up with examples from the history of literature, thin. He was at his best exploring the concept of Spain using Don Quixote (which one day I may get round to reading – and his essay made it sound much more interesting than I remember it being before I abandoned it many years ago) and the Jews and Moors who were expelled in the Reconquest. Its clear that Manguel is vastly more well read than me and perhaps that explains the somewhat difficult nature of some of the essays?
Overall – 3 and a half stars mixed bag of musings
Using short introductions to mathematical ideas whilst minimising the jargon Zilahy tries to make Maths fun
Zilahy seems to be on a mission to convince maths ignoramuses that maths can actually be fun in a series of short well explained chapters written in plain English with a minimum of jargon. Some chapters are barely half a page long and some potentially interesting ideas are skimmed over. I dipped into this over a period of a few weeks whilst I had those odd 5 minutes of having to wait for something and its very easy to do so. I’m not sure who the audience is for this book, I downloaded it due to the blurb is ideal for students who need a little push to get motivated, and also great for scientists and those in the math community that like to be in-the-know on relevant and current topics. but I’d say its best aimed at younger students and not for scientists or the “math community” (if there is such a thing) at all.
Overall – very short but cleverly simplified introduction to some interesting maths
Classic SF tale about humans living in an Earth conquered by giant aliens
Mankind consisted of 128 people. The sheer population pressure of so vast a horde had long ago filled over a dozen burrows.
So starts William Tenn’s only novel full of satire of a future where man has been relegated to being vermin living like mice, rats or cockroaches in the vast homes of gigantic aliens who have taken over Earth. Like vermin they steal food and other items from the “monsters” hoping to avoid the traps laid for them. We follow Eric the Only as he approaches his manhood test in a hunter gatherer style society in which he must prove his manhood by performing a Theft. Eric is about to discover that what he thinks he knows about the world is perhaps not how things actually are. Tenn is a satirist and the society he has built is utterly sexist and in the middle of the book there is a toe curlingly bad scene but I can't tell if he's satirising sexism or is a sexist himself.
Overall – enjoyable tongue in cheek SF adventure
The tagline is “A journey through the madness industry”
If you’ve read Them then you will know what sort of thing your getting in this deceptively light but entertaining book about madness. Ronson has a bit of a contrivance for starting to research psychopaths due to being asked to solve a mystery to do with a strange book that seems to be linked with Douglas Hofstadter and touches on this a few times during the book. I felt this strand of the book could easily have been dropped without losing anything and perhaps should have been developed separately. Ronson spends time with scientologists who are vehemently opposed to psychiatry and through them is introduced to “Tony”. Tony says he faked mental illness to get off his sentence for GBH and was committed to Broadmoor and has been trying to prove his sanity ever since. Tony’s story is the other major strand of the book that Ronson returns to throughout and uses to highlight his own journey in understanding the madness industry. As with all of Ronson’s books you get a great deal of him and his anxieties in it and although he does have some important points its all conveyed with an absurdist humour. The important points? The psychopath test (which you can see here http://www.arkancide.com/psychopathy.htm) is an example of the checklists used by the psychiatric community to decide on a person’s sanity. In the DSM (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diagnostic_and_Statistical_Manual_of_Mental_Disorders) are many other checklists and Ronson makes a convincing argument that the checklist approach has been responsible for making more and more behaviour “close to the norm” become medicalised as indicative of mental illness. This is the real reason for an explosion of Autism (a change in the goalposts of categorization and not an increase in the number of autistic children) and the fact that many children are now routinely being labelled Bipolar. This is a very important insight and it’s a bit of shame that its buried here rather than being thoroughly publicised. Ronson takes a course to be able to use the test (as designed by Robert Hare - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hare_Psychopathy_Checklist) and contends that it is a dangerous weapon to put in someone’s hands. Hare wrote snakes in suits and inspired by this Ronson does interview a CEO with the express purpose of finding out if he’s a psychopath.
Overall – Lots of thought provoking stuff in here disguised by Ronson’s humorous prose
Parker is a thief and he’s employed/blackmailed into acquiring “The mourner” a rare 14th century statuette
The book opens explosively in the middle of a fight which hooks you straight in. The book reads like noir but when near the beginning of the book Parker tortures a woman for information (the details left to the imagination) you know he’s not trying to do whats right in a dirty world, he’s definitely part of that dirty world. Throw in a femme fatale, a heist, communists and the mob and you have all the ingredients for a great story. As another reviewer points out – it’d make a great Jason Statham film. Parker has few redeeming features and in fact none of the characters are sympathetic but somehow it works and if not exactly rooting for him you do follow along wondering how he’s going to pull it off.
Overall – lightning fast crime thriller
Classic Dystopia where owning a book is a crime
Although written in the 1950’s this book has aged very well although of course some dating is inevitable (imagine the horror of driving over 100 miles an hour!!). Guy Montag is a fireman whose opening lines “It was a pleasure to burn” show that he’s not a fireman as we’d understand. In fact all houses are now fireproof (although the contents are not) and firemen set fires in those houses in which books are found, it being a crime to own a book. When Montag has a series of conversations with a 17 year old neighbour he starts to doubt and when asked the seemingly simple question “Are you happy?” it forces him to assess his life. As obviously chilling as it is for us book lovers Bradbury’s created a monstrous society in many ways. The entertainment is via “the family” (interactive TV) on 3 walls and Montag and his wife discuss whether it would be better if there was a fourth wall (meaning it literally although of course we, as readers, will take the allegorical meaning as well). Bradbury wrote it as a 25,000 word story which he had problems selling, eventually it was picked up by playboy, and expanded it to book form later doubling the word count. The 2008 edition has both a foreword and an afterword by Bradbury which were interesting and worth getting that edition for.
Overall – Very thought provoking dystopian vision, well worth a read
Examines all of the popular myths, prophecies, and predictions circulating about 2012
Jones sets out to explore what the meaning behind the end of the Mayan calendar could be in this very mixed book. She does a poor job of explaining the calendar (in my view) in the first chapter but then goes on to explain that scholars disagree about the end date, is it another date in 2012 or is it not even 2012 at all? However she goes with the consensus and uses December 21st 2012 as the possible date when “things happen” she then speculates on what those “things” could be. She does this by firstly talking about “Mayan teachings of time acceleration and global awakening on a consciousness level” using some new agey woolly thinking books as “research” (when someone says that emotions have an energy level and that someone who has reached the energy level of love can offset the negative energy of x thousand people who have only reached the energy level of grief and this is held up as “research” you know your on shaky ground). Happily though after this nonsense she examines the potential apocalypses – first those that would destroy us – sunspots, supervolcanoes, asteroids etc etc and those that could account for a paradigm shift (or “global awakening on a consciousness level” if you like) such as nanotechnology, quantum computing, AI singularities etc. The last part of the book is a series of essays by other authors (mostly of new age books) asked to speculate on what 2012 will mean. I must confess that I just skipped through the essays which mostly exhibited a certain style of wishful thinking.
Overall – if you ignore the “we’re going to all become spiritually mature and we’ll all see that just by being nice to each other we can fix all the worlds problems” stuff it’s a good summary of what could cause our potential doom or the next huge paradigm shift
A young engineer is charged with the task of overseeing the destruction of the cemetery and church of Les Innocents in Paris in 1785.
Jean-Baptiste Barratte comes to Paris to make his name as an engineer and is set the task of removing the bodies from the cemetery of Les Innocents and demolishing the church to make the land “pure”. It seems that the cemetery is so full that the surrounding land reeks with corruption, cellar walls collapse under a flood of corpses and it even infects the breath of the inhabitants of Les Halles. Barratte takes a room overlooking the cemetery and church and hires a group of mostly Flemish miners to undertake the work.
The work did actually happen and the bones can be seen in the Paris catacombs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catacombs_of_Paris
which are well worth a visit.
Paris just prior to the French revolution is a very evocative setting that Miller uses to his advantage (hence Dr. Guillotin is a minor but important character in the novel and there are lots of foreshadowing of the revolution). Although I enjoyed the book I was left a little dissatisfied at the end, I felt that it should have been better. It felt like a longer book that had been hacked down as the build up seemed long and the denouement rushed, I wonder if there was an editor making cuts in the background? Note though that I’m still giving it a 4 star rating so it’s a minor quibble but one that prevents it being a 5 star book.
I read another review (by Clare Clarke – full review here http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/24/pure-andrew-miller-review) that a short excerpt may explain my dissatisfaction (although she loved it):
The characters are often opaque. The narrative lacks dramatic structure, unfolding in the present tense much as life does, without clear shape or climax.
Overall – Brilliant premise slightly let down by the writing
Ive finished rivers of London and almost finished portrait of the gulf stream
Pure did win the Costa award and most people love it, I did like it but not sure it quite matches the hype but still very enjoyable
@204 - have you read any of his other books? or seen the film "The men who stare at goats"? as he wrote the book the men who stare at goats - I've read the book but not seen the film so don't know how it compares.
First in an urban fantasy series about a wizard in the police force
Peter Grant is a probationary constable in the Met who, when guarding a murder scene, meets a ghost who tells him things about the murder. He is then recruited by the only wizard to work for the Met who saves him from a career of doing paperwork “so that real coppers don’t have to”. Together with a fellow probationary constable (and possible love interest) and a river of London (river spirit) they investigate a series of supernatural happenings linked to the murder. Grant is an entertaining narrator with some good humorous turns of phrase throughout and the story itself is competent. However I feel the book lost its way a little in the last 3rd and I’m not 100% convinced that some of the later twists and turns made sense based on what had gone before (although only a re-read would tell I guess). There are touches of greatness here, Aaronovitch has certainly done his research on the history of London and the lost rivers of London (like the Fleet and the Tyburn) and there are a lot of possibilities with the world. However like many urban fantasies I got the impression that any and all supernatural enemies could exist (he’s already introduced wizards and magic, vampires, ghosts and spirits of place for example) with no hint, as yet, of any underlying structure. There’s also not much explanation of how things like magic, ghosts and vampires can exist without everyone knowing they exist (although there are some nods to a cover up). I just hope it doesn’t go the way of the Dresden files and introduce an awful mish mash of all possible supernatural creatures (something hinted at early in the book). Anyway interested enough to read the next in the series.
Overall – entertaining new series and a good example of urban fantasy
@208 - try the library at night which is the best of his I've read so far although I do have A history of reading on the shelf to get to this year
@209 - good to know the sequel stands up, will track that down when I'm allowed to buy some more books (must reduce the TBR a bit first)
210 - I would have thought The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories would be right up your street too and were you tempted by In the cities of coin and spice ?
got to admit I'm more interested in the later part of the book thats more "new weird" related but have been impressed with the gothic weird stories at the beginning
The author sets out to find out as much as possible about the gulf stream and answer the question – is it responsible for Northern Europe’s pleasant climate?
Orsenna is one of the 40 “immortals” of the Academie Francaise where he holds the seat formerly held by Jaques Cousteau and, he explains, “collects” currents being a keen sailor. This book is a real delight blending science, travelogue and history. In a book only 180 pages long you get meteorology, oceanography, glaciology and an explanation of the Coriolis force including a short biography of Gaspard Gustave Coriolis. It’s an investigation into climate change and the movements of nuclear submarines, it’s a discussion on Greek and Hindu mythology, it’s a travelogue of when he visits Norway to see the Maelstrom and Scotland to visit the Corryvreckan, it’s being distracted by Orwell’s 1984 (Orwell wrote the book on the isle of Jura which is next to the Corryvreckan), it’s an explanation on the lifecycle of eels and how to cook pibales, how iodine was made before modern chemistry and antiseptics made it mostly obsolete and so much more for you to discover. It’s a fascinating, often poetic and all too brief book but one that deals with its subjects with just the right amount of brevity – enough to spark the imagination but not too much to bore.
from the epilogue – What is an Oceanographer? Speaking of his friend Arago, Alexander von Humboldt said that he had “a natural disposition for considering, in their mutual connections , a great number of things at once” Orsenna obviously shares that disposition.
Overall – scientific, informative and poetic, part travelogue part paen to the great ocean currents
what a great present - my favourite bookshop gets to choose me a book a month for the rest of the year
Just catching up on the threads now! Jealous that you are reading your way through THe Walking Dead, how are you liking the series? I keep wavering between ordering a compilation and slapping my hand and telling me to finish reading some of mount TBR first :P
Also, great review of 2013, that made me laugh. New-agey stuff passed off as 'science' never fails to get my goat up.
Anyway, starred this thread so I can follow it more closely now! :)
ETA: And the wrapping is gorgeous!
I'm very lucky to get such a cool present :-) I had to fill in a questionnaire in order for them to gather what my reading likes and dislikes are, and some of he questions re a bit left field e.g. "if you were to write an autobiography what would the title be?"
Wow. Well, it doesn't look like the book and film have too much in common other than the overall idea, but the film is bizarre and odd and absolutely hilarious!! Loads of "what the ... just happened?!"-moments.
@226 I think I'll stick it on the list at Lovefilm then
the people of the pit - A. Merritt - Average - the most Lovecraftian of the tales so far, explorers in the far North of the American continent come across a man who has escaped from "the people of the pit"
The Hell screen - Ryunosuke Akutagawa -Very Good - using he trope of an artist painting a picture of something horrific, very chilling denouement
Unseen-Unfeared - Francis Stevens -Very Good- victorian feeling short mystery tale about weird photography
in the penal colony - Franz Kafka -Very Good - A traveller visits a penal colony and is present as justice is carried out on "a remarkable apparatus"
Not read much Kafka and always wonder if I should read The trial and The castle may get round to them one day, enjoyed this more than The metamorphosis so maybe...
Dystopian novel set after “the Blast” where Moscow has been turned into a village
he knew that a book is a delicate friend, a white bird, an exquisite being, afraid of water. Darling things! Afraid of water, of fire, they shiver in the wind. Clumsy, crude human fingers leave bruises on them that will never fade! Never! Some people touch books without washing their hands! Some underline things in ink! Some even tear pages out...
From the first paragraph where the narrator mentions the rabbits flitting from tree top to tree top we know that the world of the book is very different to our own. Hundreds of years ago was “the blast” and from that everyone has “consequences” maybe extra fingers, cockscombs or extra ears. One of the most interesting is that “Oldeners” from the time of the Blast have the consequence of never growing older. There is a great leader - Fyodor Kuzmich, Glorybe and Saniturions who guard against “freethinking”, the economy is built around mice (as is the diet) and in the wilderness is the legendary Slynx.
I’ve never read anything quite like this book before and it had a certain style that took a little getting used to, but once you’re used to it the writing is hypnotic. Lots of food for thought here too – the ambiguous nature of knowledge, the exercise of power, interpretive beauty and the role of discrimination in society to name a few.
Overall – A weighty but not overlong dystopic vision
Classic dystopian novel
Humity is a virtue, pride a vice; WE comes from God, I from the Devil
D-503 is the builder of the INTEGRAL a spaceship that will take the word of the OneState to the other planets and he is writing a journal to place within addressed to the Venusians and Uranians who he thinks will read it, this is the book we have in our hands. In the 200 years war all but 0.2% of the world population is wiped out, what is left build OneState. This is built around mathematical laws and “Taylor exercises” (a reference to Frederick Winslow Taylor’s “Time and motion studies”) and is a communal society where We is much more important than I. D-503 meets I-330, a woman like no other he’s met before and has the usual existensial crisis we see in many dystopian novels. Many of the classic dystopian tropes are contained within but We is cited as being probably the progenitor of the genre. Orwell wrote 1984 a few months after reading and reviewing We and there are a lot of parallels –the benefactor is a big brother like character, everyone is a number etc although 1984 I feel is better it obviously owes a debt to Zamyatin. It’s a very quick (200ish pages) read and well written although slightly dated.
Overall – well worth reading as its influence can be seen in most dystopian novels that have followed.
The history of the Chicago world’s fair and the life of H.H. Holmes one of America’s first serial killers
The Chicago world fair (or Columbian Exposition) of 1893 coincided with the 200th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery. The people of Chicago were determined to make it bigger and better than the Paris world fair which had as its highlight a new wonder of engineering - a tower created by a Mr Eiffel. Having a limited amount of time the architects of the Chicago fair need to turn an unappealing piece of waste ground into a marvel of the age. Linked to this story is a parallel story of H.H. Holmes who created a hotel for the world’s fair which had some unusual features – gas chamber rooms, a crematorium, secret passageways etc. Larson does a fine job of creating an intertwining narrative from the history. I would have liked to have seen more photographs in the book and Homes’s exploits after leaving Chicago were seen through the eyes of a detective and therefore different to the early part of the book so it felt a bit jarring.
Overall – fascinating history brought to life
One woman’s memoir of her husband’s spiral into mental illness and suicide
Robyn and Stuart are, happily married (she thinks) with two children so when he says he is in love with another woman her life falls apart. Worse though is the fact that Stuart leaves his family but the woman he loves doesn’t join him and Stuart becomes suicidal. Robyn tries everything she can possibly think of to try to save him from self destruction as she still loves him and she still wants him in the children’s life. One tactic was to create a woman, Leila Summers, to try and connect to Stuart through a joint love of music and literature. This memoir is written in the form of a letter to Stuart after he is gone and includes a number of letters and e-mails. Knowing that this is a true story makes it a powerful one but although a lot is revealed you are left with many questions. The main question being that why, if Stuart is so incredibly and nastily selfish (albeit with obvious mental health issues), does Robyn continue to love him so much and refuse to be angry with him? A short novel I read in one sitting with excellent prose. Robyn states at the end that everyone may have their opinion about what she should have done but this is a memoir of what she actually did.
Overall – poignant memoir of love, loss and recovery
ps- Great Kafka airport video, made me laugh :P I and enjoyed The Metamorphosis and should add more to my wishlist. :)
Collection of essays on the history of reading and therefore books
Manguel covers the history of writing of course but mainly this collection of essays are meditations on “the reader”. He covers reading out loud, interpretation, translation, the author as reader and much more. Manguel is, as ever, frighteningly well read and erudite. There are interesting facts from history and some great illustrations and photographs. Always interesting but sometimes repetitive and occasional re-use of ideas from his other works. Manguel was employed by Borges when Borges went blind to read to him and the part of the book where he covers this was very interesting as reading out loud and getting comments from Borges changed and expanded his view on the texts. His chapter on translation was also very good.
Overall – Manguel loves reading and thoroughly explores the act of reading through the ages.
Coming of age tale set in the time of WW1
I bought this on the strength of loving Embers and was sadly disappointed. This tale covers a gang of 4 school friends coming up to graduation who are the rebels of the title, the brother of one of the school friends who is back from the front having lost an arm and a much older actor. The school friends start stealing as an act of rebellion, mainly from their own families but as a method of getting back at “the enemy”, the enemy being adults in general. The tale is set during WW1 and it’s a given that once graduated the school friends will go to the front. This was headed for an even worse review as up to the middle of the book the plot is just turgid, although with beautifully crafted sentences. However the last couple of chapters did pick it up and the denouement was interesting enough to add a star and throw a new light on what has gone before.
Overall – nowhere near as good as Embers not recommended
What are you reading now?
(Bruce's evil twin :-))
# books read 35
# fiction 23
# non-fiction 13
# male writers 27
# female writers 8
# Unfinished 0
# Poor 0
# Average 5
# Very Good 18
# Brilliant 11
1 uncategorized (walking dead as its part of a long series)
categories so far
12 days of christmas = 11
12 Angry men = 3
12 stars in the flag of Europe = 3
12 Olympian gods = 3
Doomsday clock = 2
1912 = 1
Baker's Dozen = 9
for some reason my categories dont match the number of books I've read so have failed to catalogue some, ah well...
The story of one man’s experiences in WW2
Beautifully drawn in black and white Guibert tells the story of Alan Cope who he met and formed a friendship with and who span his tales of WW2. Cope is an engaging narrator whose experiences in the war are almost peripheral but nethertheless compelling reading. Cope is a regular American soldier who recounts his experiences, friendships and personal development through joining up and being demobbed. Guibert’s art is sometimes drawn from reference photographs and there are some photographs in the back of the book which add depth to what you have read. Its not a war story in the sense of adventurous combat but rather a biography set at the same time as the war and the post war years.
Overall – Highly recommended to lovers of graphic novels
Cosmology book – the tagline reads “The most important scientific discovery of all time and why you need to know about it”
Simon Singh covers the history of cosmology from the earliest myths, through the Greek philosophers who measured the circumference of the Earth, the early astronomers such as Copernicus and Galileo and on to the ever improving telescopes and advances in science that led to the Big Bang theory. Blending mini biographies with succinct readable clearly explained science Singh has created a thoroughly interesting book. I have a couple of minor gripes though, the “why you need to know about it” part of the tagline wasn’t really explored all that thoroughly. Also the WMAP and COBE satellite maps were produced in black and white which made it difficult to envisage exactly what they were showing and finally there was very little discussion of the controversy of dark matter and dark energy however as Singh states in the “PS” section the book was originally over 1000 pages long and he cut it down to a little over 400 so obviously something had to give.
Overall – very enjoyable popularisation of cosomology
Harkaways second book is a mix of SF, steampunk and crime caper
"Destiny" is the state of perfect mechanical causation in which everything is the consequence of everything else
Joe has a famous criminal as a father and a grandfather who repaired clocks, he prefers to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. However when he is commissioned to repair a strange device by an old lady he is drawn into an adventure which is mixed up with his family history. Harkaway doesn’t disappoint with this book which is no mean feat after setting such expectations with the gone away world which was one of the reading highlights of my 11/11. The history bit has some great steampunk bits including a steam locomotive called the Ada Lovelace and a religious order based on the teachings of John Ruskin. It’s a blend again of different genres in a magical London which will no doubt draw comparisons to Gaiman’s Neverwhere (although Harkaway is by no means derivative), Joe is even pursued by a pair of government agents with some similarities to Croup and Vandermar (although as China Mieville says this is a very British trope – two overly polite but sinister gentlemen goes back even to Rosencratz and Gildenstein). This is yet another brilliant mixed genre book from Mr. Harkaway who has jumped into “one of my favourite authors” category and I will be reading everything else he writes, including his forthcoming non-fiction Blind giant
Overall – Brilliant adventure novel, get a copy if you can.
Also, Angelmaker sounds very good. My local bookstore has recently started a steampunk book club, so I've been exploring the genre.
Medic!..... we need a medic here!
Pete's thread can be dangerous to visit.... I think we should all be issued flak jackets.... just a thought ......;-P
I was intrigued enough to search out some of Ruskins writings, not got round to reading what I downloaded yet
Had a very busy non-reading week last week and am only about half way through the company of the dead but hope to finish it in the next couple of days
That Kafka airport video was great! My favorite was the security form - pause there and read it! "We believe that you have lied to us. Does it matter whether you have truly lied to us? Y/N" :D
The name Nick Harkaway has been shot into my chest in lead calligraphy enough times for me to have gotten the message by now. That bullet still smarted though!
I just realised that the book I'm reading, company of the dead, has a publication date of March 2012 guess the shop I got it from got an advance copy, although its about alternative history and time travel so perhaps it fell through a wormhole? Hope to finish it tonight anyway, feels like I've been reading it a long time not helped by chunky nature and lack of reading time last week...
Time travelling, alternative history adventure yarn
This is a first book by this author. This fits my 1912 category as the time travel part revolves around the sinking of the Titanic. Kowalski hits the alternative history buttons in a slightly different way –the first world war has been won by the Germans and the Americans were not involved, instead the States had a second civil war and is split into confederate and union. Playing Russia to Germany’s “USA” is Japan who are the other superpower and have occupied the Union (Samurai in New York). A whole bunch of stuff hasn’t been invented and so we get to see biplanes and airships as well as “Stratolites” (giant dirigible cities). So instead of the usual “what if the other side won the civil war” or “what if Hitler won WW2” we get an earlier divergence. Why is the Titanic a key to the alternative history? Well you’ll just have to read the book to find out. On the plus side the setting is very well thought out, the adventure yarn has some interesting twists and turns and there are some great set pieces. On the down side its 750 pages long and feels like around 200 pages could have been dropped without harming either the atmosphere or the story – a good editor required I reckon. Additionally it took me a long time to care about the characters who seemed quite flat.
Overall – Good adventure tale recommended to those who like alt history
Coming of age tale in graphic format
Well drawn and frank portrayal of growing up in rural Wisconsin in a very intense religious atmosphere, including bible camp and all the rest of it. All the usual growing up themes are there – the intensity of first love, what to do when leaving school/college, how relationships with friends and families change etc. Some of the experiences are familiar some not so much but I’m not sure if it says anything particularly new.
Overall – Enjoyable story with nice art
A writer who has problems writing researches other writers that have stopped writing
The narrator that cannot write any more writes a series of footnotes to an imaginary text exploring other writers that have stopped writing. Using both real and fictitious writers and referencing lots of literary history Vila-Matas has some great turns of imagination and has obviously done a lot of the research that his narrator would have done. There are glimpses of a biographical story of the narrator who seems to have been unlucky in love and have a physical deformity (a hump). What lets the book down is that it abandons narrative for the footnote style and obviously his imagined text is not accessible. This could have been a great novel and one I really looked forward to but having no flow failed to grab me at all.
Overall - Interesting metafiction premise sadly let down by the implementation
Collection of Adams articles, essays and shorts as well as his last unfinished novel
Douglas Adams sadly died at the age of 49 and when he died was working on another novel tentatively titled “The salmon of doubt”. His editor was given his hard drive and with a number of the authors friends and family chose their favourite short writings to go into a collection to include the unfinished novel. I didn’t read the unfinished novel part of this book (which is about 50% of the page count) as its not something I thought I would enjoy – I’d prefer not to know really. I read it for the articles from the letter a 12 year old Douglas Adams sent to Eagle comic (his first published work) to interviews with the American Atheist society to articles on Apple computers to speeches on the four ages of sand (telescopes, microscopes, silicon chips & the internet). Douglas Adams had a sideways perspective on the world and spoke intelligently on many different topics and as expected this eclectic collection is a joy to read, Joy tinged with sadness that he died at such a young age. Douglas Adams was one of those writers that can spark your imagination and filled his work with a combination of wit and deep philosophy that was unique. Adams is, of course, best known for the Hitchhikers series but this is best enjoyed in the original radio format and Adams was a very reluctant novelist but that does not mean that he was by any means a bad writer as this collection (and the long dark teatime of the soul his most polished novel) shows. The collection also includes a brilliant introduction by Stephen Fry and a sad afterword by Richard Dawkins both of whom added a different perspective. Really looking forward to a re-read of long dark teatime for the group read now & probably going to add last chance to see to my 42 category.
Overall – A thoughtful and inspiring set of writings
@280 I have read mostly harmless but remember nothing about it, by then the laws of diminishing returns had really kicked in. Hitchhikers should really be enjoyed by listening to the radio show because that's the medium it was written for, the tv show and books are adaptations and I don't really rate the books very much (Adams was not a great novelist although the Dirk Gently books are superior to the Hitchhikers) and especially the later books where he had to come up with new material rather than adapting the radio show
The white Wyrak by Stefan Grabinski
A monster tale, quite good but dated as the protagonists are chimney sweeps
The night wire H F Arnold
Creepy tale which although using obsolete technology for us manages to convey a nice sense of horror -recommended
The Dunwich horror H.P. Lovecraft
One of Lovecrafts longer and better tales, a good place to start if you've never read him, considered a key text in the Chthulu mythos
The book Margaret Irwin
Good supernatural chiller about an evil book
The Mainz Psalter Jean Ray
Lovecraftian type tale about a ship's voyage into another world
# books read 42 (read half the number of books from 12th of Feb to 12th March than I did 12th Jan to 12th Feb - combination of larger/more difficult books and less time to read)
# fiction 28
# non-fiction 14
# male writers 33
# female writers 9
# Unfinished 0
# Poor 0
# Average 6
# Very Good 23
# Brilliant 13
1 uncategorized (walking dead as its part of a long series)
categories so far
12 days of christmas = 13
12 Angry men = 4
12 stars in the flag of Europe = 4
12 Olympian gods = 3
Doomsday clock = 2
1912 = 3
Baker's Dozen = 10
Life, the Universe and Everything = 1
I've decided that Baker's dozen can go over 12 but only due to the fact that its where graphic novels will live...
nice to see that if i wanted to I can "stick" on several categories now...
Crime and racism in WW2
Himes sets his story in WW2 where Bob Jones works as a “Leaderman” for a group of ship builders. After a build up of institutional racism and casual racism on the street Bob loses his temper with a white woman in work who calls him the N word and he cusses her out. From this small incident Bob’s life is soon spiralling out of control. Jones is an angry man and through his eyes we see the unfairness of the oppression that African Americans (and others – most notably the Japanese who are interned at the time the book is set) really is. Jones is not willing to take it lying down and Himes explores the way others react to this including Jones’s girlfriend who, being fair skinned, is more accepted and therefore advises Jones to be more placid. This is a gritty and compelling read in which you share the main character’s frustration.
Overall – highly recommended for thriller fans
Historical novel based on early Australia set in a Tasmanian penal colony
It may be worth saying that this book was over-hyped some years ago, although the hype passed me by and I hadn’t heard of it until it turned up on my doorstep as part of my brilliant reading year present. Therefore, as with all over-hyped books, some people must have read it only because it was hyped and it wasn’t the book for them hence the fact that there are a lot of 1 and 2 star reviews (imho). Saying that though this book is not an easy read even if the writing is deceptively simple it is written like a 19th Century novel and does have some challenging aspects. Despite that I would recommend it to all but especially to lovers of the weird.
A found manuscript sets the scene for a rather strange reading experience. Our first narrator finds a very odd book of paintings of fish, with text written in all possible blank spaces, in a chest in an antique shop and becomes slightly obsessed by it and reproduces it for us as a standard(?) novel. The rest of the book is the memoirs of Billy Gould, a criminal transported to Australia and via a series of real or mistaken crimes ends up at Sarah Island (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macquarie_Harbour_Penal_Station) where his artistic skills (learnt as a forger) lead him to aid the camp surgeon’s attempt at joining the Royal Society by painting the fish the surgeon is cataloguing. He starts by hating the fish, slowly comes to love them and then eventually you cannot tell where the fish stop and the man starts. This basic summary does not give any indication of the strangeness of the book, occasional changes from 1st person to 3rd person, a cast of odd characters and situations and the extremely grim conditions lovingly painted in words. It’s a complexly simple historically inaccurate yet illustrative book. There is a man in a golden mask, a very aggressive pig an unreliable narrator narrating the writings of an unreliable narrator from memory and a grindingly grim penal setting. Reading this book is like being beaten around the head by a very literary fish, which is probably what the author intended.
Overall – Utterly strange and destined for a re-read
I have been able to dodge so book bullets here lately but will have to take the one for Richard Flanagan's Gould's Book of Fish. I read his book Wanting back in 2009 and was really impressed with his writing style and the details of Australian history he presented. I have been meaning to read more of Flanagan's works but his name kind of fell off my radar screen. Thanks for putting it back there!
Nice book haul!
Nice. :) Excellent haul from Bath as well!!
I did some research on the trilobites of Wyoming in grad school ... fascinating fossils to locate and identify.
If you were lucky you found rocks like this (the fossils in front are not trilobites, but are ammonites ... and are exceedingly cool in their own right):
which you then had to painstakingly remove the matrix (the rock in between the fossils) and then collect and sort and identify.
This image is, of course, a museum piece which wouldn't be broken down, but I had a number of smaller chunks that put together would have made something similar.
Sorry about the rave... it's been a while and looking at Fortey's books brings back the memories...
thats an amazing trilobite/ammonite picture
@308 As with most kids I was into fossils and dinosaurs. I remember getting very muddy and happy in the mud of the river Severn or horribly sandy in Lyme Regis looking for fossils. I never found anything that cool and my coolest possession was a sharks tooth my uncle gave me. Anyway since I didn't follow my childish dream of becoming a geologist any rock/fossil porn is fine by me! So thanks for the photos :)
Scott’s journals of the expedition to reach the South Pole in 1912
What lots and lots I could tell you of this journey. How much better it has been than lounging in too great comfort at home....But what a price to pay
Scott made the pole but was beaten to it by Amundsen and died on his way back. These journals cover the time from leaving New Zealand right up to the Southern journey and the last march. Also included are extensive notes, a biography by J.M. Barrie and a list of the changes that were made to the journals for publication (from when they were first published). Having also read the worst journey in the world a lot here was familiar and I would recommend Cherry Garrard’s book and the chapters from these journals that cover the journey to the pole itself. Scott became a controversial figure in the 2nd half of the 20th century especially after Roland Huntsford’s Scott and Amundsen there’s no doubt that he made a few bad decisions which ultimately led to the deaths of himself and four others but I do not feel he deserves the vilification he received. There’s a vast wealth of detail in the journals showing that there was extensive planning for the journey and as it was an early endeavour into this sort of journey mistakes were made but since Scott went later in the season than Amundsen he suffered worse weather and this was his downfall. Take this for what it is, a set of journals detailing life at the Antarctic with discussions on clothing, food, skis, sledges, dogs, ponies etc. etc. One important difference between Scott and Amundsen was that Scott was there mainly for scientific reasons with the visit to the pole just part of the programme. Much of this scientific work is discussed and is in itself quite interesting as these are the first forays into the geology and biology of the Southern continent. This weekend I’m hoping to go and see the pictures taken by Herbert Ponting of this Antarctic journey that are currently on display in London.
Overall – A must read for those interested in the heroic age of arctic exploration
Going to review the entire series so far instead of book by book to save time –they’re all brilliant so far anyway. We follow Tom Taylor who is the son of a famous reclusive/missing author who wrote a series of best selling books about a boy wizard named Tommy Taylor. When Tom is confronted with some difficult questions at a “Tommycon” he is thrust into a series of adventures. This is a story about stories and how they contribute to reality.
Without a story there is no meaning
And the nature of the meaning depends on the nature of the story
To understand this is to understand the power of stories
And so, to control the stories, to be the one doing the telling....
Well now, wouldn't that be quite a thing?
The art is quite good showing different styles for different stories, we have a parody(? I've not read Harry Potter so for all I know it is that cheesy) of a certain boy wizard, we have a choose your own adventure for one of the stories, we have the mother of all “in the belly of the whale” stories, we have a story about propaganda and much more.
Overall – highly recommended for all lovers of story graphic novel fans or not
Busiek aims to tell stories set in a world of superheroes that seek to explore what it would be like to visit their world rather than the big dramas concentrating on the heroes. This works so well in short story format rather than using an overarching plot and I look forward to reading some more. This is not just for fans of superheroes as the stories are about so much more than that.
Overall – recommended to all comics lovers
I read this out of order as it fits the TIOLI “12/12 has 12 months”. If you’ve read any Flashman novels you’ll know what to expect here as the cowardly cad gets involved in the Abyssinian war. This was the last published Flashman and with another 11 books out there is filled with many sentences that ran “and I also did this in (such and such) adventure” or "if you remember (so and so name) from a previous adventure" which I ended up skipping over having not read the previous adventures he's speaking about.
The short campaign performed by the British in Abyssinia was not something I was familiar with and the Flashman stories are very good at bringing the history and setting to life. I will get round to reading all of them but would not advise you start with this one.
Overall – Good faux historical novel but don’t start here