avatiakh aims for 100+ in 2009
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1) Sebastian Walker - a kind of Prospero (1995), which is a concise biography of the founder of Walker Books, the very successful children's publishing house in the UK. His life was cut short by Aids and this book was written by his sister, a noted biographer. I enjoyed reading about how Walker Books came to be established and Walker's vision for his company. Establishing Candlewick Press in the US was one of his last actions.
2) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2008) by Steig Larsson is a really good thriller set in Sweden - I stayed up most of the night reading this, which I usually do when I'm reading crime fiction as good as this. A discredited journalist is hired by a powerful industrialist to look into a 40 year old murder/disappearance mystery and ends up taking on a very unconventional research assistant. Now looking forward to the publication of the next 2 books in the trilogy.
4) Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson (1985). I didn't like this as much as I expected to, though I'm pleased to have read it.
#5 - well worth making time for and I've heard that the second book is even better.
6} The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery - excellent
7) Moribito Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi - YA, a Japanese fantasy story.
8) Magician of Hoad by Margaret Mahy - her latest book, a YA fantasy.
9) We are on our own by Miriam Katin - outstanding graphic novel depicting the writer's experience of World War 2 as a very young Jewish girl escaping the Nazis in Hungary with her mother.
10) Palestine by Joe Sacco - graphic novel of a journalist's tour through West Bank towns and Gaza. Not sure about this book, it's a bit dated now and while he shows the plight of Palestinians, at times it feels almost exploitive as he was only there long enough to talk to a few people and get the photos and notes to create his book.
11) Maus: a survivors tale by Art Spiegelman - graphic novel that tells the story of his father's experience of the Holocaust in Poland as well as the present day relationship between father and son.
12) Maus 2: and here my troubles began by Art Speigelman
13) A Bridge of Children's Books by Jella Lepman
14) The Tomorrow Code by Brian Falkner - escapist YA fiction
15) The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong
16) A Sound of Chariots by Mollie Hunter
17) See Under: Love by David Grossman
I'll be posting about these on my 75book challenge & 999 book challenge. I'm so pleased to have finished See Under: Love, it has been a tough but rewarding read. I've been reading some children's books alongside it.
22) Bloodtide by Melvin Burgess - YA, based on the Icelandic Volsunga Saga and set in a dystopian London where two Warlord families fight for control of the city. Will a marriage bring peace or betrayal? Nordic gods, shapeshifters, halfhumans - this is powerful reading. I loved it.
Both books are part of my 999 challenge.
This is an enjoyable read. Klause's first book, a teen vampire novel. The story switches between the perspectives of Zoe, a 16yr old girl and Simon, a 300 year old youth. Zoe feels isolated from life, her mother is dying, her father is totally distracted and her best friend is moving away. Simon is a lonely vampire hunting a killer. The story doesn't dwell on romantic issues, and the ending is quite inspired. I read her Blood and Chocolate a couple of years ago and liked it, I prefer both these books over the Twilight novels.
This memoir covers CS Lewis' childhood, his schooling and how he developed his beliefs. I picked up this book after listening to a fascinating podcast lecture about CS Lewis' life at Oxford and how he came to Christianity after being an atheist for many years. I've picked up, put down and misplaced this book so often over the past few weeks that I can't really offer a decent review of it. Of most interest to me were the descriptions of the books that Lewis devoured as a young boy and how he developed his early beliefs towards atheism.
Book 2 and another great read, I just couldn't put this thriller down. Yes, it's better than the first book in that we learn much more about Lisbeth.
I wanted to like this book, but by the time I got to within the last 80 pages I started to skim as there didn't seem to be much of a climax to the plot and I couldn't be bothered continuing to read with utter diligence. Considered by some to be Moscow's answer to London's Neverwhere which I really enjoyed - well it just didn't do it for me, the characters were not interesting enough. I watched the movie Nightwatch as I was finishing up this book and I will be looking out for that trilogy.
27) The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark - utterly charming book. I loved it.
30) The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Really enjoyed this. I found it through reading reviews on a blog somewhere. It's about an abandoned orphan named Ren, who only has one hand. He's plucked from the orphanage by a travelling conman, who says he is his long lost brother. Not for the squeamish, the book is packed with adventure and loads of eccentric characters.
My library has it catalogued in adult fiction but I think it would appeal to teens.
32) The Adoration of Jenna Fox - an intriging teen scifi. Jenna has been in a coma for 12 months and when she finally wakes up she can't remember anything about her former life. No one will talk about the accident and Jenna must now try to uncover her lost memories and come to terms with her new life. More than at first meets the eye - this book raises questions on ethics, biomedical research and implementation of future discoveries. Another book that has been popular on the many blogs I have been following.
A YA novel set in 1970's Argentina. The chapters play alternatively between Eduardo, a university student who has been snatched from his home and is being tortured by the military and his younger sister Silvia, who hatches an ill-thought through plot to rescue him by dating the son of the colonel in charge. I think that it deals a little too lightly with the subject of the disappeared young people of Argentina. I'm not sure how many books there are for young people on this subject though, and it definitely whets the appetite for more reading about Argentina during this era.
36) The disreputable history of Frankie LandauBanks by E. Lockhart
Another YA that I really liked and read in one sitting. Frankie is in her second year at an elite co-ed boarding school. Without closely exploring her motivations, she decides to go one better than the boys currently in an all male secret society that has been part of the school for the past 50-odd years. Entertaining and thought provoking on lots of interesting issues. I loved Lockhart's approach to the reader - it was slightly off centre and challenging.
This book was recommended on the blogs of YA writers Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier
Yet another YA, this one is also a light read. I thought it might be interesting as it is based on the charge of plagiarism however that just kickstarts the action. Ruby Cane, a 16 yr old writing sensation and lover of books, her first book has just been published, and now she's one of the most popular girls in her New York school. But in the full glare of tv cameras she is accused of copying another writer's work almost word for word - 30% of her new novel and she has no excuse. She escapes public scrutiny and shame by taking on a new persona - Georgie O'Dell, moving to live incognito with her aunt in a small town.
Enjoyable light romantic reading full of lovely quotes from classic literature & poetry.
38) The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley, 1966. illustrated by Edward Ardizzone.
A children's classic about the adventures of Prince Abu Ali, the son of Aladdin, and how he wins the hand of the beautiful Silver Bud of Samarkand. Fun with lots of banter between the characters, and also featuring a bumbling boy genie, a resourceful mouse and two hilariously villainous princes - also suitors for Silver Bud's hand. I really enjoyed this and am so glad I finally got round to reading it, after hearing several people mention it as a childhood favourite.
I really enjoyed this fabulous collection of folktales. I've been dipping in and out of the book since the start of the year.
my swordhand is singing
41) My swordhand is singing by Marcus Sedgwick
A YA tale based on vampire folklore of Eastern Europe. Set in winter, in 17th century Poland, Peter and his father have settled on the outskirts of a small village after many years of nomadic lifestyle. Unexplained deaths of several local villagers culminates in a death wedding for Peter's friend Agnes - where she must be the bride of a newly killed bachelor and then spend 40 days in solitary at the edge of the village as per local customs. A very enjoyable read, this book had spent some time on my tbr pile and is the first book I've read by this writer. I'll definitely be reading his The Book of Dead Days.
I'll review these in more detail on my 999 challenge http://www.librarything.com/topic/49981
After reading The Hours last year I was keen to read this. I struggled in places - my own fault as I was reading it alongside several other books and didn't give it my full attention. I feel I should read it again.
43) End of the Alphabet by Fleur Beale
Another enjoyable YA novel from Fleur. She read the first chapter aloud at a seminar I attended last year so I was keen to read this once it finally came out. 14 yr old Ruby Yarrow has a reading/writing disorder and is constantly losing out at home to her smarter, manipulative brother, Max. When Ruby has to share her smaller room with her two very young half-brothers so Max has a quiet zone for study - her best friend Tia tells her she needs to get a backbone. When Ruby finally starts standing up for herself, the family dynamics end up in turmoil. Ruby's journey to be respected and appreciated and not to be judged only by her disorder is made all the harder by her spoilt brother's arrogant, selfish attitude and her mother's favouritism.
44) Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (2008) 699pgs
I just had to read the final book in the Inkheart trilogy, especially with the upcoming movie which I think has a great cast. The idea of reading people/characters in and out of books is so fantastic, I enjoyed it with Thursday Next and it works really well here too. I love the world that Funke has created, especially her so so villainous villains. This is an exciting story with lots of threads to follow, resolutions to tieup and characters to meet up with and enjoy once again. I liked that while Funke tied up the important parts of the story she left other threads a little loose at the end - allowing the reader to continue to build their own stories in the Inkheart world. This was definitely Mo's story, his persona as the Bluejay and his own true self as a bookbinder came together at the centre of the story.
I enjoyed the quotations at the start of each chapter - lots of them quite contemporary and I'll be following up on the ones that aren't familiar. Brief chapters with lots of action, villains galore, perilous adventures - young readers should love this.
Children's scifi thriller set in a future where everyone lives behind the Wall which protects them from the animal plague that ruined the planet 40 years ago. Most live in squalor, eating food derived from mould, but there is an elite and an upper echelon of government who have kept themselves alive these 40 years by popping Everlife pills. It's been 12 years since the ban on having children was lifted and several of this new generation of children are mutants. Mika's twin sister is missing, presumed dead but he feels deep inside that she is still alive and he is right.
A new organisation the Youth Development Foundation appears and their Fit for Life programme is adopted in schools and their drink Fit Mix is compulsory for all children. YDF open arcades where children can play a fantastic podfighter simulation game and Mika is one of the top players. YDF announce a competition based on the game with fantastic prizes but their ultimate plan based on the Secret is quite different.This is quite an enthralling scifi adventure and I'm sure that children 10-12yrs will like it.
Sort of an Ender's Game for youngsters.
46) The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri
First in a crime series featuring Inspector Montalbano of Sicily. I really enjoyed reading this, though my impressions aren't too valid as I came to the book from the TV series so I already knew the plot. I liked Camilleri's writing style and will be reading all the books in the series when I get time.
47) Henderson's Boys: The Escape by Robert Muchamore
This is the first book in a new series by the author of the highly popular YA CHERUB series. An exciting mix of spies, Nazis and children caught up in the German invasion of France during World War II. The story alternates between Marc, a 12 yr old orphan and Paul & Rosie Clarke, who are leaving Paris with their father.Don Clarke is carrying important documents which he wants to pass onto Paris-based intelligence officer Charles Henderson. Typically fast-paced with lots of action, this new series is about how CHERUB came into being. Great reading especially for younger teen boys.
48) A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti (2005) English ed (2008)
I really liked this YA book built around an unlikely correspondence between a teenage Israeli girl and a young man from Gaza. Shaken by news of a bomb blast at Cafe Hillel, her favourite haunt and the death of a young woman the night before her wedding, Tal looks back over the past ten years of the peace process and then decides to try to make contact with the enemy. She gives her brother, who is stationed in Gaza, a letter in a bottle to throw in the sea there. And so begins the emails between Bakbouk (bottle) and Gazaman. Very honest and refreshing.
I read Zenatti's first YA book When I was a Soldier which is about her service in the IDF and was glad to see another of her books was available. Zenatti is French and spent her formative years in Israel before moving back to France, where she now lives.
Wow, this is brilliant writing. Continuing on from Vol I The Pox Party, Octavian Nothing enlists in Lord Dunmore's Royal Ethiopian Regiment during the American Revolution and this book chronicles his wretched experiences of war.
This is historical fiction at its best for teen readers, I highly recommend both books.
A YA vampire novel which was fun to read. I'm reading Anderson's books as he is coming to the Auckland Writers Festival in May along with YA writer Mal Peet and I hope to attend their sessions.
The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin, illustrated by Rosana Faria
I just want to mention this amazing picturebook that I happened on. By taking out the visual impact of colour the creators want children to make use of their sense of touch and hearing. Words as imagery of colour and touch to feel the shapes. Includes writing in Braille and gives children an idea of what it is to be blind.
51) Big Fish Little Fish by Melanie Drewery Reed 2008
I really loved this junior novel about Jeremy, a young boy who enters a fishing contest, he is keen to win a proper fishing rod and reel. While his friends all head out to sea in speedboats, Jeremy goes out on the harbour with his Grandfather in their old rowboat and learns some family history involving whales.The book is illustrated by Drewery and has a great information section on tools and techniques of becoming a good fisherman. A lot packed into 70 pages. The book is based on the true story of the Perano whalers of the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand.
For generations the Scarborough girls have been under a curse and now it's Lucinda's turn though she's unaware of it. She is about to go to the Prom and her future looks bright but now her birth mother has turned up, she's a mad, baglady and she keeps singing an unfamiliar version of an old folksong - Scarborough Fair. I got swept into this story of true love overcoming an ancient curse and wasn't disappointed. I've always loved the Simon and Garfunkel song and this story gets you thinking about the truth in the lyrics.
A quite creepy premise in this YA book, unruly teens signed away by their parents for unwinding - which means being harvested for their body parts. Connor runs from home when he discovers that he is about to join the ranks of the unwound. The story starts off quite strongly with a lot of tension, interesting characters, exciting plot etc but sort of unravels a bit halfway through. I didn't like the constant changes in perspective from Connor, Risa and the others to a neutral narrator. Fairly grisly chapter near the end.
Similar books would be Nancy Farmer's The house of the Scorpion and MAry Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox
54) Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer: A Golden Treasury of Classic Treats by Jane Brocket 2008
This is a fabulous gem of a book. Dipping in and out of classic children's stories and reminiscing on the delectable spreads, wholesome homebaking, special treats, kitchen antics, and splendiferous picnics all found within the pages. From the healthy appetites of the Famous Five, the hunger of Sarah Crewe, the inspired zaniness of Pippi Longstocking in the kitchen and at a tea party to the simple pleasure of reading and eating an apple in Little Women or Milly Molly Mandy's fried onions this is a glorification of the art of eating as found in children's books. Recipes of all the classic food are included from Anne of Green Gables' raspberry cordial and Swallows and Amazons' scrambled eggs to Matilda's Bruce Bogtrotter's Heroic Chocolate Cake and My Naughty Little Sister's birthday trifle.
A friend recommended this book to me and I recommend it to anyone who grew up on a diet of classic children's books.
'No matter how often it is drunk in literature, the mere mention of cocoa never fails to make everything better'.
I was also interested to see the Melanie Drewery title. I picked up her picturebook Papa's Island the last time I was in New Zealand. It's about the internment of enemy aliens in Wellington during World War 2. It's one of my areas of research, but very little has been written about it in New Zealand. Drewery's book is one of the few I've found and it's certainly worth a look.
Thanks to MsMoto for reading this and reviewing it on her thread which reminded me to grap it off my tbr pile for my holiday in Buenos Aires. The tango takes centre stage in this novel about lost and unrequited love that travels across time from Buenos Aires to New Zealand and Sydney.
These following books are mostly from my 999 challenge list.
56) Hiding from the light by Barbara Erskine
I quite enjoyed Lady of Hay so thought I'd try another of Erskine's books. An evil power, long submerged, is stirred by the presence of a tv camera crew looking for ghosts from the 17th century witchhunt period in an east coast English village. Fairly gory climax involving possession is perhaps a little overdone but this is entertaining reading of past and present witches, supernatural powers and the role of the Christian church.
57) Daylight by Elizabeth Knox
Following up my reading of Knox's Dreamhunter duet with her vampire novel Daylight. Set on the French/Italian Riviera the story revolves around a nest of vampires, their current obsessions and history. Brian (Bad) becomes involved when he helps recover a body from a seacave while Jesuit priest Daniel is investigating the miracles performed by a nun during World War 2. Recommended reading.
58) The View from Saturday by EL Konigsburg - very good children's book
59) Dracula by Bram Stoker
A classic gothic adventure story that is thoroughly entertaining and not for the fainthearted.
60) The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
This is an outstanding novel - a depiction of poverty and civil rights in the southern states during the depression years. Story revolves round four diverse lonely characters living in a small town who all find relief confiding their dreams and frustrations to the local deafmute. I much preferred this to Mistry's A Fine Balance.
61) The Secret History by Donna Tartt
This felt familiar when I started reading it, so maybe I read it when it first came out. Like Engleby and The Talented Mr Ripley, there is a sense of forboding that creates the plot tension - set by the prologue. It's a great story though hard to have sympathy for any of the characters.
62) Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
A children's classic.
63) Potiki by Patricia Grace - an excellent New Zealand novel
64) My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey - smart but not my cup of tea
65) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry - full of despair and life without hope.
66) The Silver Wolf by Alice Borchardt - Roman werewolf fantasy
After reading Interview with a vampire last year I was interested to find out more about Lestat's story. I wasn't that captivated with this, I think I've read too many vampire books lately and only continued to read this one due to a 13 hour flight preceded by a 10 hour delay stranded at the airport in the middle of the night with only this book for entertainment.
Finally putting a few thoughts together on my April reading:
62) Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, 1929
From my children's classics category.
A timeless classic that I never read as a child, my father and older brother were into sailing so I had enough of it in my own life to be bothered reading about it as well. Memories of endless Sunday afternoons stranded on the sides of remote lakes surrounded by keen yachties make up most of my childhood years. I was not keen to sail in the races. I remember Swallows and Amazons being on tv as well.
I was delighted to finally catch up on this missed classic adventure story - both the eagerness and the caution of the children shine through. I had already come across the wholesome campfire food prepared by the capable Susan in Jane Brocket's Cherry Cake and Gingerbeer: a golden treasury of classic treats.
Set in England's Lake District,two brothers and two sisters are finally allowed to sail to a small lake island and camp on their own for the rest of their holiday - their boat is the 'Swallow'. Two sisters from across the lake turn up in their boat 'Amazon'. They parlay and create a treaty of offense and defense, becoming friendly rivals. There is adventure and mystery alongside bravery, independence and initiative.
Ransome stacks the book with loads of practical details - it is almost a how-to handbook - though of course the locals are just a short sail or row away on the shoreline. Mother provides endless cake and the children get milk, eggs and other supplies from the neighbouring farm each morning.
63) Potiki by Patricia Grace
I adored this moving novel that perfectly evokes the spiritual world of New Zealand's Maori people. Addressing the clash between the progress-oriented modern world and timeless Maori values, in a remote seaside location a Maori family living a subsistent lifestyle on ancestral land come up against a developer who wants to build a resort. Firstly Grace builds the story of the family, their dreams and commitment to their lifestyle and ancestors. It is these relationships between the people and their culture which shine so brightly in her writing. I will be reading a lot more of her work, this is one of my favourite reads of the year.
64) My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey
One from my New Encounters category, I hadn't read Peter Carey before. I'll probably read another of his but I didn't really fall for this cautionary tale at all. Another book where none of the characters engaged me, though I did pick up a soft spot for the poisoner. The story travels from London to Malaysia and back in time to Australia. In a chaotic Kuala Lumpur hotel, a poetry editor listens to the 'confessions' of a down and out Australian poet. It's a bit of a tall tale where fact and fiction intertwine and like the editor, the reader has no idea what is true, and who the 'poet' really is.
65) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
From my Good Intentions category, I've had this on my tbr pile for a long time. I had read a spoiler a couple of years ago and wanted some distance from that. I''m glad I've read it finally, it is full of unredeeming despair - the poverty and powerlessness of the main characters was heartbreaking. Not one of my personal favourites, just too bleak for me, the balance between hope and despair came down too firmly on the side of despair.
66) The Silver Wolf by Alice Borchardt
From my Bloodlust category. I was surprised that this was about werewolves, I had thought it a shapeshifter sort of thing. The setting of Rome in the years after its fall and the politics of the various factions seeking power is interesting. Regeane's moneygrubbing uncle has arranged her marriage to a barbarian with a strategic mountain stronghold in the Alps. Regeane has inherited her betrayed father's Celtic werewolf heritage and she must protect herself and all those she comes to love from the bitter plots against them all. The wolf segments were really well done and I liked the play or blend between wolf and girl - the wolf's memories go back through generations.
I'll probably read another in this series.
Interesting to note that Borchardt is Anne Rice's sister.
67) The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
see previous post
68) A curse dark as gold by Elizabeth Bunce (2008)
A wonderful YA fairytale retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin story. Charlotte Miller is determined to make a go of the family woollen mill despite crippling debt and what appears to be a curse on the family.
69) About Griffen's Heart by Tina Shaw (2009)
James Griffen is 17 and needs open heart surgery, he's a bit of a nerd and has to take life much more slowly and carefully than those around him. Then he comes across the spunky Roxy. This is Tina Shaw's first YA novel. I loved the LOTR references, I'm sure that teens will aprreciate them too.
From my Books in Translation category. This Israeli novel is about a group of soldiers stationed at Beaufort, an Israeli outpost in Southern Lebanon and the events in the year leading up to the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon.
I've been wanting to read this since seeing the movie which was very raw and powerful. The book does not disappoint. Leshem has done a superb job of getting to the heart of life under constant fire, the bond that builds between the young men, and dealing inevitably with death. Another outstanding read for the year.
From my Favourite Writers category of my 999 challenge. I enjoy everything I read by Amos Oz and this book is no exception. Set in the 1970s this epistolary novel begins with Ilana writing to her first husband seeking help for their wayward teenage son. Through the course of the book the story of their marriage slowly evolves alongside the changes in their lives and those they love due to this contact.
72) Ingo by Helen Dunmore (2005)
This is the first in a set of 4 books based on Cornish folklore. Sapphire and her brother Conor are convinced that their father hasn't abandoned them and been lost at sea. Ingo, the world of the sea holds many secrets and their family has always been drawn to the sea, surely there is something in the tales he used to tell them. Haunting and magical, Dunmore sets the standard story of family turmoil, resentment towards their mother's new partner and adds in the enchanting fantasy world of Ingo, the people of mer, and the danger of forgetting which world you truly belong in.
I'll be reading the rest of the series as well as Dunmore's adult fiction.
73) Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein (2009)
I discovered the Alexander Cooper series a couple of years ago when I read The Bone Vault, I quickly read my way through all the books and I'm still enjoying each new publication though the format is starting to lose its charm.
This time the murders lead Cooper and her sidekicks to the New York Public Library and the magnificent bequests donated by rich trustees in previous years.
I was reading on a YA scifi/science theme recently and this book came to my attention so I was keen to read it. I'd also quite enjoyed Werlin's Impossible which I'd read a few weeks ago. Eli decides to take a gap year before starting college, he has always had this urge to hold himself back, not play sport or achieve academically to his full potential. He is offered a job at a Transgenics lab by the famous Dr Wyatt and starts working there much to his father's extreme disapproval. His mother is dying from Huntington's Disease and somehow there seems to be a past link to Dr Wyatt.
Quite a good mystery based on genetics and DNA but not great.
I remember reading Frameshift by Robert Sawyer many years ago and that is a memorable scifi thriller based on the genome code research and Huntingtons Disease.
75) Lewis Carroll in Numberland: His fantastical Mathematical Logical Life by Robin Wilson
This is one of many books I've noted down from kiwidoc's 2009 reading and I really enjoyed it as well. Wilson is an esteemed professor of mathmatics and here he presents a highly readable, concise overview of Lewis Carroll's academic career and his love of logic problems. With examples and explanations of the many problems that Carroll loved to play with, all explained in layman's terms. Wilson includes many examples of the tricks and trickery hidden in the pages of Carroll's works for children.
76) The Boy in the dress by David Walliams (2008)
for children about 9+
I enjoyed the tv series Little Britain and so had to read Walliams' book. It's a delightfully soulful read illustrated by Quentin Blake about Dennis, a sensitive young boy who is good at football (soccer) and dealing with the breakup of his parents' marriage. His Mum has disappeared and Dad is not dealing with it that well, his older brother isn't helpful and Dennis is really in need of a few hugs and some love. A fun read.
77) A Life's Music by Andrei Makine (2001) 106pgs
Makine is Russian but writes in French. I read the English translation of this novella. I picked this book up at the library after reading the blurbs on the cover.
"Makine's genius, made more evident with each strange and compelling novel that appears in English, is in his ability to tune narrative to the underlying harmonies in the cacophony of displaced and mutilated lives", Änderi Makine has been compared to Nabakov, Chekov, Proust. Far from flattering him, such plaudits barely begin to do him justice."
A fascinating piece of writing, the narrator stranded at a railway station in the eastern Soviet Union comes across an old man playing the piano. Later they share a compartment on the train ride to Moscow and the old man tells his story.
78) Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (2006)
I'm slowly reading my way through all of Gaiman's work and this is a collection of some of his previously published short stories and poems from a variety of sources. Favourites for me were Bitter Grounds - a New Orleans zombie tale, October in the Chair, Other People, Goliath - a Matrix movie tribute, Sunbird and The Monarch of the Glen.
Overall I'd say this was good but not great.
This is the sequel to My swordhand is singing and set in Venice about 100 years later. Venice itself is one of the stars of this book - providing misty canals, eerie small islands, masked villians, crumbling grand palazzos and stray dogs. Marco has come from Piran to find his father. Sorrel is trying to understand her father's deathly illness, while Peter finally catches up with the Shadow Queen.
"Death comes in many forms, but in Venice death comes by water..."
80) Slouching towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (1993)
I chose this as I have tried a couple of times to read her The year of magical thinking and couldn't get started and felt I should get familiar with her earlier work before I tried again.
This essay collection is from her journalistic work in the 1960s and makes interesting reading. She captures a mood for the time that is off centre and revealing, some of the pieces are personal. I'm now interested enough to try more of her work.
"My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out"
A rough recap of my reading so far: 80 books
Books I own: 45
YA & children's lit: 36
New Zealand: 8
#47 magemanda: I've just read the sequel to My swordhand is singing and it was good too.
Currently making my way through The Savage Detectives, The Gargoyle and Graceling.
528pgs and about 5kgs
This immense book is a photo essay of a day in the life of the famed elBulli Restaurant. The sparse text gives a marvellous insight into the creative food philosophy of the head chef Ferran Adria and his team. The restaurant is small, by the sea in a remote location a few hours drive north of Barcelona, only open six months each year, and is considered the top restaurant in the world. Each year they get over 2 million requests for reservations and only about 8,000 of these are successful - 50 guests daily through the season.
The creative team of chefs prepare a brand new menu each year looking for totally innovative and new ways of preparing food. There are several recipes in the book, but the techniques for preparing much of the food is probably beyond most home cooks like myself and involve resources such as liquid nitrogen.
I got this from the library along with several other Spanish & Latin cookbooks to followup recent trips to both Spain and Buenos Aires.
82) Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2008)
Finally got round to reading this after reading all the great reviews on various blogs last year and it has also had lots of great reviews on the various challenge threads here on LT too.
I enjoyed it, the heroine Katsa is a strong fighting character like Balsa in Moribito Guardian of the Spirit. Cashore has created an interesting medieval world of seven kingdoms where people born with an exceptional skill, or Grace, can be chosen to serve their king. Katsa's Grace is the skill of killing and she has become her king's henchman.
edit: forgot touchstones
I really enjoyed Morality Play so thought I'd try another of Unsworth's books. This is set in 1914 just before World War One. John Somerville, head of an archaeological dig in the midst of Mesopotamia, hopes to make his name with a big discovery. Nearby Germans are building a railway to Bagdhad. British and French interests in the dying Ottoman Empire are being safeguarded by industrialists, ambassadors, the military and bankers. Americans are also starting to show interest in the region's promise as an oil reserve. Great characters, exciting plot - what a great read about a pivotal point in Iraq's history.
84) The Serial Garden: The complete Armitage Family Stories By Joan Aiken
Aiken wrote these delightful and magical stories about the Armitage family back in the 40s and 50s.
85) The Music of Chance by Paul Auster (1990)
I've been a fan of Paul Auster's writing style since reading his The Book of Illusions, and am slowly working my way through his books. Jim Nash has taken to the open road. After a failed marriage and a sudden inheritance he's given up his job, his young daughter and his home for random road trips across the US. By chance he picks up Jack Pozzi, a beatenup penniless young man, a card player and finds himself warming to the idea of staking him in an ultimate poker game.
86) The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano (1998) translated ed (2007)
What a monster, I'm so glad to have finished this as it is a big rambling story held together by a small but intriging plot with evasive characters that you almost get your head around but not quite!
In three parts - first is the 1975 diary of a young visceral realist poet in Mexico City ending on New Year's Eve when four people (3 poets and a young prostitute) take off on a road trip to the north with guys with guns in pursuit. Exciting and can't wait to find out what happens but then comes part two where we follow the travels of two of the poets through extended interviews with numerous people whose lives have intercepted theirs over the years from 1974 through 1994. And then on to part three and back to the diary where we finally find out what happened up north.
Epic and ultimately satisfying - I look forward to reading his 2666 in the future.
This was the Regional winner (Canada & Caribbean) of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book last year.
A short read but poetic and endearing. Ambrose Zephyr is told that he only has a few weeks left to live, so he decides to embark with his wife Zappora Ashkenazi on a journey through an alphabet of places he always thought of visiting or revisiting, but this becomes a journey of love and a revisiting of their first meeting, their courtship, marriage and their life together. Beautiful.
88) The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (2008)
Enduring love, a love strong enough to last over centuries. This story built around themes from Dante's Inferno which I haven't read is very enjoyable.
There are stories within stories here which are romantic and compelling. The story starts with a fiery car crash and the badly burnt survivor, in hospital and barely human, being visited by a strange woman.
89) Nina of the Dark by Ken Catran (2009)
I'm a fan of Ken Catran's work. I especially love his war novels such as Jacko Moran, Sniper and Letters from the coffin-trenches. He also writes good thrillers, great historical novels and is a dabhand at scifi so it was disappointing that Nina turned out to be such a flawed read. Maybe an additional 100 pages might have helped gel out the characters a bit more and given the underlying scifi twist more credibility.
Nina is the chosen one, she goes on a quest into the Dark Mountains to seek legendary items - Brightsong, a sword and Lightskin, chainmail as well as ultimate knowledge. Her sidekicks are Aren, a thief and Brod, a giant. She must lead her people to battle to stop the Rut hordes from overrunning the land. Danger in the Dark mountains includes the threat of dragons, giant killer spiders, rock beetles and goblins.
90) Dinosaur Knights by Michael Gereard Bauer (2009)
children's action adventure
Shades of Michael Crichton's Timeline meeting Jurassic Park in this thoroughly enjoyable scifi adventure romp. A scientist using time stretch technology in an attempt to bring a predatory dinosaur into the present. The experiment fails leaving the predator stranded sometime in the Middle Ages in the English countryside. Two boys must face the 'dragon monster' in an attempt to save their father from an undeserved hanging at the hands of the castle's unscrupulous steward. The story is told from three perspectives - the confused and hungry therapod blundering in the woods, the scientist working furiously in the lab to realise his dream and the two boys - Roland who is so desperate to be a knight and Oswald, his twin brother.
91) Tribal Ash Chronicles of Stone Book 3 by Vince Ford (2009)
The last in the exciting Chronicles of Stone series which is set in prehistoric North America.
I've enjoyed all of Vince's books and this trilogy is no exception. Trei and his sister have trekked north to the tribe of the Northmen, a warmongering tribe called Manhunters by their neighbours. Trei wants to find out more about their superior weaponry which they use to hunt bison and mammoth. His tribe, the People of the Canyons, are facing famine and this could be their salvation. While his sister Souk, a shaman in training, has had visions calling her to the north. This final book covers their continuing adventures and Trei's return to his people.
92) Th1rteen R3asons why by Jay Asher (2007)
While I found this a very readable book that I couldn't put down, I also feel that the subject matter of suicide needs to be dealt with very carefully and I'm still thinking about how that was dealt with here. This book could be an important talking point for teens and it does highlight the snowball effect of seemingly harmless interactions between teens and how gossip or rumours spread and the serious consequences these can have on at risk individuals.
Hannah, a victim of spiralling rumours, has taken her own life. Beforehand, she has recorded tapes describing the thirteen reasons (people) that have contributed to her decision. The tapes are to be passed from each of the thirteen (mailed anonymously). The book follows Cal as he listens to the tapes on a walkman and journeys around town to significant places on Hannah's map, and his almost unbearable wait to find his part in her story.
The book is gripping, full of tension and dealing with the vulnerability of youth and the social implications of simply being in high school.
Another gritty read that deals with similar tragedy in a less melodramatic way is Adam Rapp's Under the wolf, under the dog.
93) Saving Sam by Susan Brocker (2009)
I really liked this. Two brothers are forced to relocate to Auckland and live with their Uncle and Aunt when their solo dad is once again in trouble and serving time in jail. Ben, the younger brother, quickly finds a soulmate in the German Shepherd that his Uncle has acquired but is considering getting put down as her temperament has been destroyed and she is terribly frightened of people. Naming her Layla, Ben slowly gains her confidence and together they make some unlikely friends. Sam, meanwhile gets in with a bad element at their new school.
Deals with dog fighting, working dogs, dog obedience training, at risk youth, the world of 'P' addiction.
94) Salt River by Liz Hegarty (2009)
An historical 1930s coming of age story based on the true story of Tom Pook, a 14 year old boy left to care for his 7 younger siblings when his parents leave their remote Kaipara Harbour home for a few days to finally get married. The family live in a one room shack, rely on fishing for a livelihood, and are an unruly bunch of children finding mischief everywhere. Tom's father is a hard taskmaster and treats Tom harshly, finding fault where others would praise poor Tom. Despite being illiterate, Tom has grown to be a decent and capable young man and proves himself heroic and brave. A great New Zealand book for older children.
95) Q and A by Vikas Swarup (2005)
I enjoyed this a lot. The plot is quite different from the film which I had seen before realising it was based on a book. I am very much a 'read the book before seeing the movie' sort of person so was pleased that the book inspired the film rather than much else.
96) Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (1893)
classic adventure for children
Young David Balfour's adventures in the year 1751, after the death of his father, make for exciting reading from his arrival to his uncle Ebeneazer's murky mansion, his kidnapping and then shipwreck to being a wanted outlaw in the Scottish highlands alongside his Jacobite companion, Alan Breck. I read Treasure Island for the first time a few years ago and this joins it as another timeless classic for older children.
Another great fantasy from Jonathan Stroud.
98) Say you're one of them by Uwern Akpan
short stories collection
I heard Akpan talk at our recent Auckland Writers and Readers Festival where the Commonwealth Writers' Prize was announced, he was one of the finalists being the winner of the African region's best first book. A gracious man, he read an extract from 'My parent's bedroom' and so I just had to read his work.
A selection of short stories about African children caught up in conflict and daily survival. Akpan writes from the child's perspective and these stories are heartbreaking.
#53 Yes, quite exciting, though I do read a lot of YA & children's fiction so I knew that I'd easily make this goal. My real challenge is the 999 one where I've just past the halfway point. Finding time to read and comment on the other threads is also a challenge.
edit: touchstones & add last sentence
100) WWW: Wake by Robert Sawyer (2009)
sci fi - Canada
This was a really interesting read as Sawyer brings lots of scientific and mathematical concepts to life in this novel about emerging consciousness, perception and awareness in this first book in a trilogy on the World Wide Web. I couldn't put it down in the end and had to put aside all my other reading till I finished it.
Caitlin, almost 16 has been blind since birth due to a rare malfunction in her optic nerve. She is highly intelligent, excelling at math and highly skilled at using the internet. When a Japanese researcher offers the chance at a new procedure which might enable her to see Caitlin and her parents are quick to agree. Alternating with this main storyline are two other minor contributing ones.
Sawyer himself is quite interesting - he has been online since 1983, was a system operator for CompuServe, has one of the world's oldest blogs and was the first science fiction writer to have a website. sfwriter.com
translated from French
I've read and enjoyed a few of Halter's biblical novels and I was drawn to this one as it's about the legendary Caucasian kingdom of the Khazars, a warrior nation that converted to Judaism in the 8th century, a fascinating piece of history that I know little about. Halter weaves a fictional account of the last years of the kingdom alongside a contemporary storyline involving politics and a terrorist group calling itself 'The New Khazars'.
He bases the story around a letter written by a great rabbi of Cordoba to the Khagan Joseph in the tenth century and a love story that echoes in the present day. The 10th century kingdom is facing threats on all sides, from the Christian Byzantium Empire, Russian barbarians and the growing Islamic kingdom from the south. In the present day, oil interests and the legacy of years of Soviet suppression in the region play out.
Mark Sofer, a Parisian novelist, is drawn to research the history after an encounter with the mysterious Caucasian, Yakubov, who gives him an ancient coin and talks of a synagogue long hidden in caves in Georgia.
Overall a fascinating read that makes me want to explore the history of the Khazars and their legacy.
YA scifi Book 2 in Chaos Walking trilogy
The Knife of Never Letting Go was one of my exceptional reads last year in the YA arena. The only problem was the cliffhanger ending, now many months later I was able to dive back into this great story for the next instalment of Todd and Viola's adventures. Needless to say their troubles are not at an end. Can't wait for book 3.
103) Wandering Star by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio (1992)
translated from French (2004) by C. Dickson
Another from my 999 challenge reading, I wanted to try something by this French writer as he won the Nobel prize for Literature in 2008. The plot sounded interesting - it follows two girls - Esther, a Jewish girl through World War 2, her arrival in Israel, and Nejima, a Palestinian girl who becomes a refugee. Esther is an interesting character, traumatised by war and the loss of her father - she wants and seeks to be alone and takes long and sometimes risky walks - here is where Le Clezio excels, describing her solitude, her reaction to the various landscapes etc. Overall though Esther seems to be a person who life happens to, she doesn't seem able to rise above this. The parallel storyline of Nejima doesn't get the chance to expand and we only share a short part of her journey. These are young people who are victims of conflict, without understanding the 'why', but slowly coming to terms with their new lives and situation. Overall a good read but not outstanding.
104) The thing around your neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)
I heard Adichie speak at our recent Writers and Readers Festival so I was keen to read some of her writing. I slowly warmed to this collection of short stories which are mostly about Nigerian women and their experiences both in the US and at home on the African continent. Quite illuminating and almost haunting, the stories are subtle realistic glimpses of what it is to be an immigrant wife. Looked up to at home as living a life of dreams versus the cold, lonely reality of living in an unwelcoming urban environment. Recommended.
I've read about this a few times on various LT threads and so picked it up. Orwell describes his experiences of living in poverty both in London and Paris and reflects on how society treats those down on their luck. An absorbing read.
link to Orwell article http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblo...
106) The Tide Knot by Helen Dunmore (2006)
Second in the quartet of Ingo novels about Sapphire and her brother Conor who are able to visit Ingo - the underwater world of the Mer people. Sapphire finds out that the land of earth and air is threatened by the unravelling of the Tide Knot.
A great satisfying read and I'll continue on to the next book The Deep.
107) The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer (2007)
children's fantasy - audiobook
This is the sequel to Farmer's The Sea of Trolls which I really loved. Both books are epic adventures and would really appeal to keen child readers from about 10yrs. Farmer manages to blend both early Christian values with old Celtic pagan beliefs in this quest that takes Jack, a boy bard-in-training, and his companions into the world of hobgoblins, kelpies and elves. Think of it as a Lord of the Rings for younger readers. Lucy, Jack's selfish but pretty younger sister, insists on wearing a silver necklace to their village's 'Need-Fire' Ceremony even though metal has been banned by the bard. Her place in the ceremony is taken by Pega, the ugly slave girl with a heart of gold, but the damage has already been done to Jack's family - now plagued by bad luck and ill temper they need to take Lucy north to a monastery where miracles have been known to occur.
108) The Kindly Ones by Anthony Powell (1962)
Book 6 of 12 in the Dance to the Music of Time series
Part of my 999 challenge.
I'm really enjoying reading this series though it takes time to track down the books. I got the first three in an omnibus at a bookstall on London's South Bank last year and raced through it, the next three books were harder to find. The storyline follows Nick Jenkins, his friends and acquaintances as they journey through life from the 1920s through World War II and beyond. In this book Nick is in his early thirties and WWII is about to begin. Powell starts with a lengthy intro with Nick recalling a particular day in his childhood when two sets of visitors came to their home, the cook gave his notice and the maid appeared naked in the parlour. I really enjoy the way people come into and out of his life and keep turning up unexpectedly and in unexpected company. Muchly recommended reading..
I'll be finishing the series once my 999 challenge is complete.
109) Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon (2007)
fiction, part of my 999 challenge
This was a fun read. Set in the Khazarian Kingdom we follow the fortunes of two 'gentlemen' - the strong giant African, Amran, and his travelling companion, the thin and weedy Frank, Zelikman. Both are Jewish and skilled swordsmen who travel and live the life of the road. Not like anything Chabon usually writes but entertaining and quite hilarious, an adventure to savour.
110) Double Cross by Malorie Blackman (2008)
Book 4 of the Noughts and Crosses quartet & part of my 999 challenge
Another series I've really enjoyed comes to an end. Set in a society that is racially divided between the underclass Noughts (whites) and the upperclass Crosses (blacks), Blackman has created a powerful story of love, betrayal, terrorism, gang wars and death all mixed with the racial tension of the haves and the havenots.
I was looking forward to reading this as I noticed that it was an IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Honour Book last year and I hadn't read anything by Siobhan Parkinson, an Irish writer. It is a good story dealing with tough issues that a lot of current fiction for young people tends to do nowadays. Jake, 11yrs, is coming to terms with having a newborn half-sister, and that he is no longer an only child. He knows a lot of facts as he is an avid reader of encyclopedias, but doesn't know that much about life except that he wants to paint fish when he grows up. Well written and deserving of a wide readership but overall I'm getting tired with how so many children's books use death as a subject matter.
112) The Terracotta Dog by Andrea Camilleri (2002)
Italian crime fiction (1996)
My second Inspector Montalbano book and I love reading these. Montalbano is far cooler than Ian Rankin's Rebus and I'm savouring every bit of these stories. I came to the books after watching Luca Zingaretti play Montalbano on the tv series so I already know the outcome, but Camilleri's descriptions are not to be missed - he brings the sunsoaked towns of southern Sicily, and Montalbano's craving for good local cuisine to life, not to mention such an interesting assortment of characters with long memories of love and vendetta and I just love it.
113) The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (2008)
children's fiction - Newbery Honour Book
This will be going down as one of my top reads for the year. Good literature rises above its genre and this is a very fine book that does just that. Appelt evokes the most enchanting, soulful setting in the Chaddo area of the bayous on the border of Louisana and Texas. Here an abandoned calico cat finds friendship with an old hunting hound underneath a ramshackle shack and gives birth to two fine kittens. They are safe in the Underneath because in the house lives the meanest man that ever walked, who dreams of catching the king of all alligators. Appelt weaves in a magical, mythical story based on native folklore, and uses the trees to whisper and watch over the inhabitants of the forest as the story works towards the inevitable end. Her use of language is magic in itself.
114) Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot (2007)
This was suggested to me by petermc as a possible followup to Lewis Carroll in Numberland: His fantastical Mathematical Logical Life which I read a few weeks ago. I'm so glad that he recommended this to me as it has been an absolute joy to read. A graphic novel of ambitious breadth and scope that chronicles the ties of the Sunderland region to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass it is also a full and entertaining story of the history and heritage of the region. Stunning.
115) Kiwi Companeros: New Zealand and the Spanish Civil War edited by Mark Derby (2009)
A very interesting look at New Zealand's role in the Spanish Civil War. This is the first book that not only gathers the stories of the individuals who went to Spain, both combatants and noncombatants but also covers local politics of the event; from fundraising by the New Zealand communists & trade unions to New Zealand's Labour Government's political stance which had to tread between supporting the right to democracy in Spain without upsetting the Conservative British government's non-interference policy (New Zealand as part of the British Commonwealth followed British policy in those times).
I'm always keen to read about the Civil War and my followup to this will be Greville Texidor's fiction based on her time as a militia woman. Texidor was English born, but came to New Zealand in 1940 for eight years where all her work was written and published.
116) The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith (2009)
Sequel to Child 44 which I had enjoyed inspite of the unconvincing ending. What I enjoy most with these novels is the setting -1950s Russia with unrelenting snow, sinister agendas and an appealing protagonist. There are still flaws but overall a satisfying read and I'll continue to read the series.
117) Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes (1857)
classic fiction, 999 Challenge
Only for those who enjoy reading the classics as the language is fairly stuffy. We follow the growth of young Tom from boyhood to man and his life at Rugby School in the mid 19th century. Tom gets up to lots of escapades with his friends but also through careful intervention by the head matures into a thoughtful young Christian gentleman. He also turns into a mighty fine cricketer. Based on the writer's own experiences at the school. This is one of the first school stories published, and many more have come after. I went to boarding school for 4 years so have always been interested in reading these books. My favourite would be The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson which is set in 1880s Melbourne.
118) The Snack Thief by Andrea Camilleri (2006)
Italian crime fiction (1996)
These books are very addictive and after thoroughly enjoying reading how Inspector Montalbano avoids promotion again I really must leave them alone for a couple of weeks and start looking for a Sicilian cookbook.