MsMoto's 2009 literary ambitions
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1. Nation by Terry Pratchett, which I loved.
2. Q and A by Vikas Swarup. I read this in anticipation of seeing the film Slumdog Millionaire. I enjoyed it so much I'm now anxious about what Danny Boyle may have done to it.
4. Something Invisible by Siobhan Parkinson. Parkinson is one of Ireland's most successful writers for young adults, and this book is her best-received to date internationally.
5. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry. How beautiful a novel! I'm far from the first to say nice things about this book, but reading it was such an involved experience. From the prose style to the evocation of place, everything drew me in. The night I started it, I had to put it down as Roseanne's voice was so real to me that it was almost as if she was talking over my shoulder and whispering her secrets into my ear. I don't often find new favourites, but this one is going on the list.
6. What I Was by Meg Rosoff. I enjoyed reading this book and I enjoyed thinking about it afterwards.
I was at the bookstore last weekend because I knew there was a book I wanted to buy but I couldnt remember what it was. i figured if I walked around the bookstore it would come to me. It didn't, but htanks for you post, because now I remember what book I wanted to buy; Q & A.
Thanks for the reply.
p.s. I think I am going to try and find the closing sequence on the net right now, just to see it again. ;-)
Work pressures have been considerable for a while now, so academic reading has been taking priority over all the fun stuff and I haven't had time to update here for a bit, but I have been reading...
7. Eggs by Jerry Spinelli. I wasn't hugely won over by this book and I came away thinking I didn't particularly enjoy it or like the two central characters. But then I realised that feeling is probably a sign of how well Spinelli constructs this story. David and Primrose aren't at their best, they're unhappy and unpleasant and unco-operative, especially for the reader who wants them to move this way or that to make this book more predictable. And their stories aren't happy ones, so why should it be an enjoyable reading experience? Eggs is a funny, multi-layered narrative, it just took me a while to appreciate it.
8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I, like everyone else I know who has read it, love this book. Superb plotting, careful pace, well-constructed characters and an incredible control over it all by Collins. I can't wait til September for Catching Fire.
9. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I thought The Hunger Games would have spoilt me for a while, new favourites are usually few and far between. But this is up there too. Manchee is at the top of my list of favourite fictional characters. The thought of a May release date for the next book, The Ask and the Answer, is making the wait for Catching Fire a little easier.
11. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. When I was considering my college options, Kazuo Ishiguro was one of a small number of writers who convinced me that English was where my future lay. Of course, my dad, who wielded considerably more power to influence than Ishiguro, convinced me that more sensible options abounded and off I went to study Computer Science. It took a few years to fix that, but everytime I even see the name Kazuo Ishiguro it makes me think of being young and having everything to play for. Imagine then my disappointment that I didn't enjoy reading Never Let Me Go. It took me an age, I just wasn't motivated to pick it up. But then the last 80 or so pages saved everything and I still haven't met an Ishiguro novel that hasn't left me in awe. On a related note, filming details about the upcoming adaptation of this are being released at the moment - Keira Knightley?! I'm not sure this is going to end as well as the novel did!
12. Twins and what they tell us about who we are by Lawrence Wright. This book is a development of a piece that Wright wrote for The New Yorker. Unfortunately, it reads like a literature review and I got the sense that all the interesting stories lie elsewhere. It did work well as a summary of twin studies to date though.
13. Reading Otherways by Lissa Paul. This is a book that I read for the first time a number of years ago. It's a critical application of feminist theory to a number of children's literature texts, but it's oh so readerly and oh so reassuring in its simplicity that I come back to it every now and then as leisure reading. I recommend it for anyone who might be interested in having a look at children's books in another light.
15. Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith. A contemporary vampire YA tale, this one works hard to invoke connections to Stoker's creation. I wasn't impressed by it, the pace was inconsistent and, in my mind, Quincy was an unconvincing narrator. I will probably read Eternal, Leitich Smith's next offering, but have a feeling I'll be able to wait til it appears in paperback.
I enjoyed both The Hunger Games and The Knife of Never Letting Go too.
I've just started reading Nancy Werlin's Impossible which might interest you - it's based on the Scarborough Fair song - I'm not far enough in to get a good idea of it yet.
edited for spelling
17. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey. This is the first Mercedes Lackey title I've read. The second book in this trilogy appeared on a list of best teen books on a blog that I follow, so I thought I should start at the beginning. I haven't made it to Arrow's Flight yet, so I'm going to reserve judgement on this one until I've finished the trilogy. I have a sinking suspicion that telepathic horses might not be my thing!
18. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. This is another series that I haven't yet followed. I was impressed by the extent to which the book engaged with Greek mythology, but Percy doesn't yet ring true for me as a character. I think maybe the book tried a little too hard, but, again, the dynamics of series construction may be throwing me here and I'll wait til I read a little more before making my mind up.
What was so wonderful for me was the way these old tales we've heard for years were refreshed and twisted on their ears. I liked the thrill of recognizing a myth or character before the novel got around to fleshing it out. You'll definitely notice a distinct formula in the rest of the series, but again, it was the freshness of the mythology that kept me coming back for more.
19. The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde. Intertextuality makes me giggle. Therefore, I love Jasper Fforde.
20. Skellig by David Almond. Having passed this over several times, I finally read it in preparation for the film adaptation that was broadcast here on tv on Easter Sunday. It turned out that Easter Sunday was far too sunny a day to spend inside, so I missed the broadcast. I did enjoy the book though and have a few more Almond titles lined up.
21. Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson. I gave up a morning to read this straight through. I loved Hattie's voice and her no-nonsense attitude and would fully recommend it as a modern classic.
22. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. I'd read so much about this series in various places that I had rather high expectations. I'm not sure I read it in the right frame of mind. While I enjoyed the plot twists and turns, when it was progressing in a traditional manner I'll admit to being bored. Gen didn't grow on me as a character, but I'll read the next two in the series and see how he shapes up!
23. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness. This is the second book in the Chaos Walking series and begins right after The Knife of Never Letting Go, which I read a few months ago. It's an exercise in plotting and narrative tension and I couldn't put it down. I have a suspicion that Patrick Ness might be a genius. He's scheduled to appear at a conference I'll be attending later this month, so I'll be able to look for empirical evidence.
25. Attention all shipping by Charlie Connelly. I have always loved the shipping forecast, I think it's hard not to live by the coast and not have some affinity for the moods of sea weather. The regularity, order and predictability of the late night sea-area forecast always reassures me that all is well. As such, I'm sure Charlie Connelly had readers just like me in mind when he wrote this book. It's unfortunate then that he didn't take into consideration my lack of patience with waffle, self-serving egotism and stating the obvious. There is honestly no pun that is too blatant for this man. And he pauses repeatedly to let you chuckle away before continuing. It's the kind of book that should come accompanied by canned laughter. I will say that by the end of the book it didn't bother me as much as it once had, but I'm not sure whether this is because the final chapters were better written or whether I'd just been worn down by the experience. I'm frightened to reread and find out. This book could have been a wonder, for me it was just hard work.
27. Memorial by Gary Crew, illustrated by Shaun Tan
28. The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
29. The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
30. The Rabbits by John Marsden, illustrated by Shaun Tan
31. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
32. Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
I was lucky enough to interview Shaun Tan recently, which was an incredible experience. Of course, it meant that I had to spend hours going over his books, which, to be honest, seldom go without being looked at long enough to gather dust in my house. I think he has an amazing talent and The Rabbits is a very special book to me.
33. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. I don't often read mysteries or detective fiction, but I really enjoyed this first entry in the Flavia de Luce series. I loved the sense of place, it seemed very authentic to me, considering it was created somewhere in British Columbia. I enjoyed the tone, though I have read reviews that have problems with it. I even enjoyed the science, which is an admission I haven't made since I was eleven. I'll be waiting for Tied up with Strings, the next installment.
34. Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley. I read and loved Beauty years ago, and the original folk tale has over the years fascinated me in its many permutations. I didn't enjoy Rose Daughter though, it seemed over-written to me and Beauty a wishy-washy protagonist.
I'm currently working my way through my beautiful hardback edition of The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet. It's redefining my reading experience, there's so much on each page that I have no idea where to start!
35. Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers.
36. Wuthering Heights by Deepak Verma. Based of course on the Bronte novel, this is a Bollywood-inspired adaptation for stage. I saw this staged in Harrowgate and it was an interesting experience to say the least. Some of the songs were suprisingly upbeat for Wuthering Heights, but great Bollywood fun. Reading it after helped me with much of the Hindi I'd had trouble with following on stage.
37. Breath by Tim Winton. Superb. I'm not even a strong swimmer and I was there for every minute in the water. I enjoyed reading this so much.
38. Duck and Swan by John Quinn. This is a gentle Irish children's book and one of the first produced here to feature a bi-racial protagonist.
39. Going too far by Jennifer Echols. This was the first book I've read under the MTV imprint and I probably should have left my prejudices at the door. It was well written and an engaging read with reasonably credible characters.
40. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. This is my book of the year so far and the most beautiful piece I've read in an age. Studying maths in university killed the joy of the subject for me but this book brought it all back. As a consideration of memory, connection and our place in the lives of others it is incredibly moving. Last year What was lost by Catherine O'Flynn was the book that several of my friends got random copies of in the post, this year they'll all be getting The Housekeeper and the Professor.
41. Staying fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher. I had seen this well written of in a few places and thought it was worth a look. So many young adult titles from the States don't make it over here but this seems to have been well received in the US. I thought the style of writing was convincing but it packed in one too many issues to be truly affecting.
43. Carrie's War by Nina Bawden, adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves. This version of Carrie's War has just finished up in London's West End. I'm always interested in how children's books make it on the stage and this was one of the success stories. It was a fantastic adaptation of the book and really came to life on the stage. I'll be going to see this again when possible, til then the text of the play will keep me company.
44. The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson. I thought the premise of this sounded wonderful but the book failed to deliver. I wasn't convinced by the relationships and the pacing of it all failed to pull me in. Unfortunately forgettable.
45. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. This is the second book in The Hunger Games series. I had absolutely loved the first book and had been waiting for this for months. I stayed up all night reading it at a time when I should have been focused on several other things and it was absolutely worth the red eyes the next day. Bring on book three!
I've only read The Other Side of You before and I didn't really enjoy that either, so maybe it's just a me and Salley Vickers problem. I was much more interested in the narrative of the apocrypha than in Miss Garnet's story, but the gender politics at play overall in the book frustrated me. I think maybe I've read one too many stories about how repressed English spinsterhood (representing so many forms of female life-styles and life-choices really) is cured by encounters with the naked form of Italian art. It was the kind of book I talked back to and, for me, that's usually a very bad sign!
Did you enjoy your sessions at the Edinburgh festival? Any sightings of Patrick Ness?!
Edinburgh was FAB - posted at (way too much) length about it on my thread - but no Patrick Ness - decided that staying the extra two days would just be too difficult. Serendipitously, he's speaking in Cambridge in October! I was so cross at missing out that I emailed him (yay - I love the current orthodoxy of "All Authors Must Have a Website"). He'll be at the Festival of Ideas on 24 October (my festival programme's coming off the printer as I type - the Festival people have seen fit to provide a Facebook page and a newsletter, but then not bothered to update either of those channels on the programme's existence... I found out by pure chance!)
Are you focusing on any authors in particular for your Ph.D. or is it more widely ranging?
46. The Sin Eaters by Brian Minchin.
47. Torchwood: Asylum by Anita Sullivan.
48. Torchwood: Lost Souls by Joseph Lidster.
49. Torchwood: The Dead Line by Phil Ford.
50. Torchwood: Trace Memory by David Llewellyn.
51. Torchwood: Pack Animals by Peter Anghelides.
52. Torchwood: Risk Assessment by James Goss.
I read and/or listened to these as part of a side-project I spent some time researching for. The novel series seem to be poorly written, for the most part, and generally in need of good editing, but I did enjoy the audio books and radio plays, their production values seemed to be quite high. Also for the project, I read...
53. Anything Goes by John Barrowman.
54. I am what I am by John Barrowman.
I had never read a celebrity autobiography. These were quite the introduction to the genre. It's not a field I shall be returning to anytime soon.
56. Free? Stories celebrating human rights. This is a collection of contributions by various children's writers to celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There's an impressive line-up, but my personal favourite was After the Hurricane by Rita Williams-Garcia - wonderful!
57. Horses and Tortoises edited by Siobhan Parkinson. This is a collection of African folk and fairytales, retold and illustrated by The African Women's Network in Ireland, for children living in multicultural Ireland. Seriously flawed.
58. The Truth about these Strange Times by Adam Foulds. I had this book on the go for several weeks, which, for me, is usually a sign that I'm not enjoying a book. With this, however, I enjoyed each of my short reading sessions but I couldn't handle too much at a time. I appreciated Fould's way with words, but my reaction to the book was almost entirely a visceral one. I don't think I'll ever read it again, I don't know if I'd feel comfortable giving it to someone, but, for some reason I can't explain, I liked this book.
59. The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. I really enjoyed this YA novel. The style, especially the other-worldly layering, kept me off-kilter and kept the story from becoming mundane or predictable. Excellent!
61. Alego by Ningeokuluk Teevee. This is a beautiful children's book from Nunavut. A bilingual English/Inuktitut edition, it was recently nominated for a Governor General's Award in Canada. It's just gorgeous, warm and eerily familiar for a book that was written 4000km away from my home.
62. The Earth Hums in B flat by Mari Strachan. This was quite a similar read to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which I read earlier in the year, but, unlike others, I found Flavia a much more convincing narrator than Gwen. I expected to get a much stronger sense of place and found much of the narrative repetitive. There were moments of stunning writing though and some flashes of sheer beauty.
Your #55 The year of magical thinking - I have to say I've started this a few times and never managed to get past the first few pages. One of those books I feel I should read as everyone I know rates it so highly, but probably won't. I did read her Slouching towards Bethlehem this year and it was ok.
#60 - I liked most of Darren Shan's Cirque du Freak series and want to read his adult novels. I did not get the Irish feel, but when I started the series I probably assumed he was English. I'm reading through his Demonata series at present, not my thing at all, but I do want to know what's in them as my son likes them so much.