wookiebender's 100 challenge for 2009

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wookiebender's 100 challenge for 2009

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1wookiebender
Jun. 8, 2009, 8:15am

Starting a bit late, I guess... :)

I do generally read about 100 books a year, but this year might fall short of that goal, due to an increased work load. So, in order to keep my priorities right (1. reading books; 2. buying books; 3. chatting about books; 4. parenting duties; 5. sleep; 6. paid work; 7. housework; 8. other sundry items), I thought I might just pop myself in here.

I'll be including graphic novels, and chapter books read to the kids; but won't include the picture books.

Starting with the ones already read (I'll try and post details on the ones I read in the future):

1. The Lion in the Valley, Elizabeth Peters.
2. Fingersmith, Sarah Waters.
3. The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo (read to Mr Bear).
4. The Clothes on Their Backs, Linda Grant.
5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: and Six Other Stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

6. The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability, Javier Grillo-Marxuach.
7. All The Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy.
8. Pere Goriot, Honore Balzac.
9. The Memory Room, Christopher Koch.
10. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston.

11. Touch Me, I'm Sick: The 52 Creepiest Love Songs You've Ever Heard, Tom Reynolds.
12. The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga.
13. La's Orchestra Saves The World, Alexander McCall Smith.
14. P is for Peril, Sue Grafton.
15. Obscure Destinies, Willa Cather.

16. The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
17. The Leopard, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa.
18. The Butler Did It, Kasey Michaels.
19. The Lambing Flat, Nerida Newton.
20. A Child's Book of True Crime, Chloe Hooper.

21. His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik.
22. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy.
23. Selected Stories and Poems, Edgar Allen Poe.
24. Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby?, Allyson Beatrice.
25. Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch.

26. Q is for Quarry, Sue Grafton.
27. The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas.
28. The Diary of a Nobody, George & Weedon Grossmith.
29. Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh.
30. Summer Knight, Jim Butcher.

31. The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks.
32. Someone Knows My Name, Lawrence Hill.
33. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!, Jane Austen and Seth Graham-Smith.
34. The Sittaford Mystery, Agatha Christie.
35. Julie and Julia, Julie Powell.

36. The Unscratchables, Anthony O'Neill.
37. Tomaree, Debbie Robson.
38. The Honorary Consul, Graham Greene.
39. Novel About My Wife, Emily Perkins.
40. Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier.

41. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons.
42. Wolves at the Walls, Joss Whedon.
43. Better Days, Joss Whedon.

2wookiebender
Jun. 8, 2009, 8:24am

Standouts from that previous list include Fingersmith, All the Pretty Horses, The Yellow Wallpaper, The Leopard, The Slap, The Player of Games, Rebecca and Cold Comfort Farm. They were the ones I had to convince myself to not give 5 stars to, as I do have a tendency to over-rate books, and I'm trying to shave 1/2 a star off my ratings this year in the interest of not rating everything 4+.

(They all really deserved 5 stars, though.)

3teelgee
Bearbeitet: Jun. 8, 2009, 12:16pm

Great to see your list, wookie! And I just finished my 43rd book!!! So we are even.

I started All the Pretty Horses a couple months ago and gave up on it pretty quickly -- convince me to go back to it?

ET fix typo

4lauralkeet
Jun. 8, 2009, 2:13pm

Amazing list, wookie! We have similar taste in books and I've "starred" your thread so I can follow your reading.

5wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Jun. 8, 2009, 8:20pm

teelgee, All the Pretty Horses doesn't suddenly turn a corner and change or anything. If you were struggling at the start, you'll be struggling all the way. I just found it very powerful, almost hypnotic in its language - I was in from the start and wasn't let off until the end. Here's my review from when I first read it:

"An absolutely magnificent novel. Once I got past the shock of no apostrophes or quotation marks and minimal punctuation (and I *like* my punctuation), and the fact that I was reading a western, I could barely put this one down. It felt as if the lack of punctuation (and long sentences that ran on quite a bit, much like stream-of-consciousness at times) just kept on pulling me along, making me read faster and faster. Quite a head trip!

The story itself was incredibly compelling as well, I just had to know what was going to happen to all the characters. I can't say I understood their motivation all the time (apart from John Grady: he was always going to do the right thing; which made his violence in the last part - while completely understandable and within character - even more powerful), especially when they spoke in Spanish (I might be getting a quick glossary from my Spanish speaking workmate on Monday!).

I'm sorry, I'm rambling. I had the same reaction after reading The Road as well! Incredibly emotionally powerful writing, but it does make me quite unable to express myself clearly. (Paradox? Ironic?)"

lindsacl, I'll go and find your list now! Love finding people with similar reading tastes, although it does make the wishlist rather unmanageable at times. :)

ETA: lindsacl, you don't have a list! Oh well. I did like your review of Gail Jones' Sorry, I agree that it was a very powerful read, but I had a (minor) plot quibble that took it down from a 5 star for me. Maybe I'm just overly tough on my compatriots' books!!

6lauralkeet
Jun. 9, 2009, 8:03am

Wookie, I'm not worthy of the 100-book challenge! I'm doing 75, and you can find me (and my list) here.

7wookiebender
Jun. 12, 2009, 8:50am

44. Silas Marner by George Eliot



I do have to say that Ms Eliot tends to disagree with me, and as such, I find her very hard to read. (Turns out that giving up on Middlemarch wasn't a one-off disagreement.) For some reason, I have to re-read sentences, I have to think about what she's trying, and it's never an easy read. Why this slim volume (a mere 186 pages) took nearly a month to read, I think!

For example, the bit that I read over and over again (and still don't quite understand) was actually quoted again in the afterword (argh! I had enough trouble with it the first time around!):

"Favourable Chance... is the god of all men who follow their own devices instead of obeying a law they believe in... The evil principle deprecated in that religion is the orderly sequence by which the seed brings forth a crop after its kind."

Translations into plain English are appreciated.

While Silas's experiences were interesting, he wasn't a terribly likable character or a very interesting person. I suppose I should have considered myself lucky that he wasn't really around for most of the book, which was really about other people while he was the catalyst for the plot. Then when you add in the squire and his badly behaved sons, we've got another bunch of unlikable people to read about.

It wasn't until the rather sweet (if a bit too sweet at times, she might give other readers diabetes) Nancy turned up that I finally started to enjoy this book. And she doesn't turn up until half way through! And then cheeky little Eppie appeared, and I got suckered in.

Mum told me that her Aunty Pat (who looked after her for many years) loved this book, which is what kept me going. (And Dad's recently discovered Ms Eliot, and enjoys her books, so that was a second incentive to got give up.) Aunty Pat apparently loved the coal hole scene, and I must say I did too. In lesser hands it could have been mawkish and sentimental, but I was giggling. Ms Eliot knows her cheeky children, and this characterisation was pretty spot on.

I do have to say that the positives outweighed the negatives - the second half was interesting, the pages just raced past, the characters were believable - but the sluggish first half really slowed me down, even though it had its moments (the descriptions of the Squire and his family, plus the whole village, were very well done; particular mention to the scene in the pub where a number of villagers get into a discussion and argument they've obviously gone over and over and over again on many a night).

8judylou
Jun. 13, 2009, 10:15pm

Hi wookiebender, great books so far this year. Your list is starred!

9bonniebooks
Jun. 14, 2009, 1:29pm

I couldn't tackle Middlemarch until my kids were grown up (too many interruptions or too tired), but then I loved it. You do have to slow waaaaay down on those sentences and have time to spend getting to know her characters, but then it felt a lot like reading Jane Austen--which is "comfort food" to me. Anyway, came by to say I've starred you and am looking forward to following your thread. I envy all the good children's books you have an excuse to read too. Thank goodness I have students to share my favorite picture books with, otherwise I'd be suffering withdrawal pains.

10wookiebender
Jun. 18, 2009, 6:51am

45. The Fern Tattoo by David Brooks



Am of two minds about this book. When I liked it, I really really liked it (the haunting ghost stories; the whole concept of interwoven stories that tell our narrator about his unknown family; the incredibly well drawn and fascinating characters; the stories themselves), but there were sections that just drove me nuts at the same time (his sentences run on worse than mine do and possibly have more asides which made for some bloody difficult reading at times; the snippets of stories that I never quite worked out what or who they were about; the sudden jumping about just as I thought I was getting a handle on it). I'm torn, the good bits were so good, and the annoying bits were extremely annoying because they got in the way of the good bits!

I'd like to sit down and re-read it right again, right now. But I don't have the time. I'm also toying with putting together a chart of all the characters and how they are all related to try and help me work out how it all fits together, but time is again in short supply.

***1/2

11wookiebender
Jun. 18, 2009, 6:53am

Hi Judylou & bonniebooks! Welcome!

I only tried Middlemarch as a teenager, and couldn't get into it then. I was hoping it was just an age thing, but unfortunately Silas Marner may have proved that one wrong. I'm just not very good at slow reading, I have this need to turn pages and find out what happens next right now.

12bonniebooks
Jun. 18, 2009, 10:46am

I think it might be an age thing, but also a "What-are-you-in-the-mood-for?" kind of thing as well. I was reminded of Middlemarch when I had to read Oscar and Lucinda for the third time for a new bookgroup last month. I enjoyed it the first time and even the second, but with this third reading I just wanted to remind myself of the basic facts and sequence of events. I tried skimming and just couldn't do it! OAL is fabulous writing, and a great story, but not when you're skimming and Middlemarch is much the same way.

Re: The Fern Tatoo. Some people didn't like Special Topics in Calamity Physics because of all the asides, but I loved it! That's how my mind works--though not so cleverly as hers. Have you read that book? (I guess I could just go look at your library, huh?) **She goes trotting off to snoop**

13wookiebender
Jun. 18, 2009, 7:48pm

Bonniebooks, I did love Oscar and Lucinda but I haven't read it since it first came out. (I was on a train that summer headed for Perth - overland across the Nullabor - with a bunch of other Uni students and about half of us were reading O&L!) I seem to be a more impatient reader as I get older - I could get through some fairly difficult stuff as a teenager/young adult, but now I tend to want a plot and some pageturning action! (My life is a lot busier now, I guess. Maybe when the kids are older I'll be able to be more comtemplative with my reading again!)

And, no, I haven't read Special Topics in Calamity Physics, but I do love the title. :)

I should have given a precis of The Fern Tattoo above: our narrator has no family (his father died in the Korean War, his mother died relatively recently in a car crash), and gets a mysterious letter from an old woman, who wants to give him some things of his mother's. He puts it off for some years, but finally goes, forms a friendship with Mrs Darling, and listens to all these stories that seem to have no link, but are in fact telling him about his family. It's a great device, full of puzzles as you try to piece it all together, but for me, as soon as I got a handle on it (X came from a convent! Y's child was adopted to a convent! ahah!), we'd jump characters and settings and I'd have to start puzzling out another link and then I'd forgotten the names of the previous characters, etc. And then some of the stories were incomplete, just snatches of ideas.

When I was reading it, it was completely compelling. I think if I'd been able to sit down and read it all in one hit, I would have simply adored it. (With the exception of the unfinished stories, quite possibly.)

14bonniebooks
Jun. 19, 2009, 2:07am

Well that's how I usually read--non-stop--so I'll probably like it.

15Berly
Jun. 19, 2009, 3:46pm

Wookie--Glad you started a thread! Have you starred. ;) And special kudos for getting your priorities straight!!

16pamelad
Jun. 21, 2009, 5:14am

Hi Wookiebender, a good mixture of books you've got there. Starred you.

Don't mind George Eliot at all, but not when life is speedy. Glad to find another person who forgets the names of the characters. I've thought of making lists, but that would be giving in.

17judylou
Jun. 21, 2009, 5:46am

wookie and bonnie, I really did like Special Toics in Calamity Physics when I read it last year. I don't mind a quirky read every now and then.

I've had my eye on The Fern Tattoo for a while now. Even though you were frustrated by parts of it, it still sounds good!

18wookiebender
Jun. 21, 2009, 7:09am

Judylou, I'd definitely recommend The Fern Tattoo more than I'd mis-recommend it (if that makes sense). The good bits were very good and the concept was great.

Pamelad, the best bit of my edition of Anna Karenina (which I read in bits and starts over the first three months of this year) was an excellent character guide at the beginning of the book. Gave the occasional spoiler, but helped keep all the relationships in order in my mind! And it also had great notes, worthwhile popping into, not at all like other notes that explain things I already know. It was the Penguin edition with the new translation by Pevyear and um, er, someone whose name starts with V... (And I mispelt Mr Pevyear's name too, I know it!)

19teelgee
Jun. 22, 2009, 1:14pm

fyi: Pevear and Volokhonsky - they're a husband-wife team and have a very good rep for translation. The new War and Peace with their translation got rave reviews.

20wookiebender
Jun. 22, 2009, 8:04pm

teelgee, they deserve their reputation! It was an excellent read. I've tried Tolstoy before (War and Peace) but just couldn't get into it, so this was a revelation. (And the notes! So good!)

21wookiebender
Jul. 1, 2009, 8:54am

46. The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia



Set in the near future, our protagonist is a repossession man for a company that sells artificial organs. Default on your new liver/stomach/lungs/kidneys/etc payments, he'll come and take your liver/stomach/lungs/kidneys/etc back. And he's not at all worried if you die during repossession, that's your problem, not his.

It's a great concept, and tightly written. The plot loops around, written in flashback by our biorepo man, and as the book progresses we find out more about his distant past and his recent past, and how he got to where he is now. It's very well done, apart from a slightly obvious ending (okay, it was only obvious to me in retrospect, others will probably pick up on it sooner).

Recommended if you like your humour black (so black even the white bits were black, to quote Eric Olthwaite) and you don't mind a lot of splattering blood. (He does repossess livers for a living.) While reading, I thought it might make a good movie, then read the afterword and it was written first as a short story, then as a book, then as a movie, then re-written as a book. (Phew!) And the movie is due to come out this year. It's a great story (caveats about blackness of humour and violence levels), so I'll be looking forward to the movie.

****1/2

22wookiebender
Jul. 1, 2009, 9:10am

47. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.



This book was lent to me by a workmate, and it's the first book I've heard the 2009 Booker Prize buzz about. (I told my workmate that and she looked shocked. "But it's readable!" she protested. The Booker Prize's reputation proceeds itself...)

Back in the 1950s, Eilis emigrates from Ireland to America with the encouragement of her older, more sophisticated sister and an Irish priest who helps her get a job and a place to live in Brooklyn. She has been studying book-keeping in Ireland, but even so jobs are still nowhere to be found. In Brooklyn, although she desperately misses her family at first, she does make her own life.

Deceptively simple, this is one of those books where the big ideas (it's all about life, love, death, and family, some of my favourite concepts!) don't come out and hit you over the head with a sledgehammer, but instead are gently suggested. Eilis's struggles with homesickness and trying to create a new life for herself away from everyone and everything she knows were beautifully written, heart-rending yet not sentimental.

And the small details of her life were impeccable. The boredom of working in a department store in Brooklyn, the bitchiness and manipulations of her fellow Irish boarders at Mrs Kehoe's house, her understanding of the many levels of obligation sometimes thrust on her, the cleverness of her sister dealing with poverty yet still keeping her head proudly above water... I could go on! While Eilis makes some wrong choices (and some right ones), they were all perfectly human and believable choices. And as readers, we get to make up our own minds about what the right choice would have been.

Wonderful, readable, great stuff. Maybe the Booker Prize judges will get it right this year. ;)

****1/2

23teelgee
Jul. 1, 2009, 11:03am

That's funny, re: your workmate! I have to agree, partially!

I'm looking forward to this book, it's on my definitely read soon list.

24twinkley
Jul. 1, 2009, 11:49am

I love your list :-) I'm intrigued by The Repossession Mambo and will put that on my to be read list.

So how long did Anna Karenina take you? It's been on my tbr pile forever.

25wookiebender
Jul. 1, 2009, 6:59pm

twinkley, thank you. You've got a pretty good list yourself! Anna Karenina was a three month project. It was my bedtime book (because it was just too big to lug around on the bus and in my backpack) and sometimes got bumped every now and then, so it's not like it was a solid three months! Over at bookcrossing.com some energetic reader organises a "set it yourself" reading challenge for each quarter. And that was my challenge! (I made that one, but failed the last quarter. This quarter I'm taking it easy on myself and just reading 25 books, any genre, no restrictions.)

26wookiebender
Jul. 7, 2009, 6:51am

48. Gilgamesh by Joan London



I'm finding it hard putting what I thought about this book into words! I read it knowing nothing about it apart from accolades, and I really enjoyed reading it without any pre-conceived plot notions. It starts off in England, where an Australian serviceman meets an English woman, Ada while convalescing from a wound received during the Great War. They marry, and go to live in Australia in a tiny settlement on the southern coast of Western Australia where they raise their two daughters and try to carve out a life for themselves by clearing the bush and farming. Frank has no luck, and Ada "couldn't take the life".

But that's just the scene setting for the story of their daughter, Edith, who ends up travelling through Europe during World War 2, looking for the man she loves. And that's the end of my plot summary, I don't want to give too much away.

The book spans decades and continents and generations; covers all my favourite big themes: death, life, family, love; is filled with well developed characters that may only flit past briefly; has a good plot; and is well written.

What more can one want from a book?

****1/5

27wookiebender
Jul. 7, 2009, 6:56am

49. One Foot Wrong by Sofie Laguna



Deeply disturbing plot, but amazingly written and a compelling read. It's from the point of view of a young girl, Hester who obviously has serious mental issues (schizophrenia, at an educated guess) and who is abused by her parents who also have mental issues of their own. (Not to mention an unhealthy religiosity.) So, a very unhappy and disturbing topic. But the imagery was marvellous, as our protagonist seems stuck in this child-like state, talking to her friends tree, spoon, handle, etc; drawing the most amazingly described pictures; linked by invisible ropes to her friends, etc.

It also got me thinking about nature vs. nurture, an old quandary I'm very familiar with from my years as an undergraduate Psychology student. What about our behaviour and personality is biological and genetic, and what is learnt? (It is usually, of course, a bit of both. I used to lean on the side of learned behaviour, but after having kids and seeing their ingrained personalities from the start, I'm rather leaning towards genetics.) Hester is a complex case: is she mad because of her abusive upbringing, or is she mad regardless? (And, believe me, she is mad.)

In some ways, it reminded me of fellow Australian Nick Cave's And The Ass Saw the Angel, which I read many years ago. I remember disliking the book intensely at the time (I found out later it was supposed to be funny, but I missed the humour), but the crazy imagery and the dysfunctional family triggered my memories and feelings of similarity.

*** SPOILERS FOLLOW ***

Towards the end, I was worried about where the book was going: I could see no happy end in sight, without sacrificing some semblance of reality. I almost put the book down because I didn't want to go where I thought it was going, but took a deep breath and ploughed on regardless. And I'm glad I did. The ending did sacrifice some reality, but it was a good place to end, and I'll just ignore my niggling quibbles of "yeah, that's never going to happen".

***1/2

28cushlareads
Jul. 8, 2009, 5:23am

Just found you here! Will be back to read properly tomorrow, but for now I'm just going to star you. Have to go and plant lettuce seeds now.

29bonniebooks
Jul. 8, 2009, 6:20pm

Enjoyed your review of One Foot Wrong. And I enjoy thinking about the same questions, so I might just read it too. Or maybe I'll just go read ScienceDaily. :-)

30wookiebender
Jul. 8, 2009, 6:49pm

#28> Hi Cushla! I found your thread too, consider yourself reciprically* starred. :)

#29> Oh, it was quite a fascinating book. I read it for a book group, and it was a good choice, I think we're going to have a lot to talk about over this one! Although ScienceDaily sounds pretty good fun too...

* Dammit, I've lost my spellchecker on FF and can't reinstall it. I depended on that!! Recipricolly? Recipricly? Recipricollallay? I give up.

31cushlareads
Jul. 8, 2009, 7:23pm

I knew what you meant! I didn't know it had a spell checker.

32wookiebender
Jul. 8, 2009, 7:33pm

FF3 came with a spell checker built-in. Or so I thought. I was recently upgraded at work, and my old FF3 worked fine prior to the OS upgrade, but this new one has no spellcheck, no little red wiggles under obviously misspelt words. I chose "Add Dictionary" from my trusty right-click menu, but once I clicked through everything it reckons the downloads were corrupted. Harrumph. And I can't seem to find any option to turn it on/off... I'll do a Google when I get the chance.

So, for the time being, I'm having to rely on my dodgy memory of how to spell! Ack!

33teelgee
Jul. 9, 2009, 12:34am

Oh well, it could be good for a few laughs, as in above.

34cataluna
Jul. 9, 2009, 1:39am

I'm looking forward to P & P & Zombies, hopefully I've not built it up too much in my head, although I'm assuming that it's the original with a few extra bits, I'll have to read the original again for comparison. There are two others by John Ajvide Lindqvist that are in the same genre: Let the Right One In (vampire) & Handling the Dead (zombies), which I'm also looking forward to reading. The vampire one has been made into a movie as well. Looking forward to seeing what else you read, you've got some good ones so far.

35wookiebender
Jul. 9, 2009, 5:15am

#34> cataluna, the best bits of P&P&Z were the bits written by Jane Austen, and it mostly reminded me how great the original was as the new bits weren't really up to scratch. I thought it was a fabulous concept (we've workshopped various concepts, and we think Wuthering Heights was just made for werewolves), and some of the new bits were funny. But if you're a serious fan of the original, and not into anything genre, do leave it alone.

I'm being seriously tempted by Let The Right One In at the bookshop, but have always had a more urgent book to buy...

36cataluna
Jul. 14, 2009, 8:15am

Diese Nachricht wurde vom Autor gelöscht.

37cataluna
Jul. 14, 2009, 8:15am

Good thing I'm not a purist! I love the illustrations, but I think because it's not supposed to be a serious reimagining of it, I'll be fine. I know what you mean about the book buying, I was browsing the other day and had to talk myself out of quite a few. I did the next best thing and got work to buy them though :)

38wookiebender
Jul. 14, 2009, 10:13pm

Well, there have been "serious" reimaginings of Pride and Prejudice, and frankly they don't excite me. (There was a sequel, Pemberley, and Mr Darcy's Diary, plus unknown others, I'm sure.) Zombies running (er, shambling) wild around Merington, well, that got me giggling from the start.

I wish work would buy me a few books! :)

39Berly
Jul. 15, 2009, 1:01am

This whole genre is new to me, but I think I am simply going to have to check it out! I have been grinning reading your thread.

40wookiebender
Jul. 15, 2009, 1:53am

Hi Berly, and welcome! I do admit I'm lurking over on your thread. :)

I'm a bit nervous about recommending Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - I mentioned it on the Australian bookcrossing group here, and two people went out and bought it, and neither could get past page 40. So, it is only tentatively recommended. I'd hate anyone to dislike it and think "oh, that dreadful wookiebender recommended it". ;)

41Berly
Jul. 15, 2009, 2:23pm

Dear Wookie, I promise that if I don't like PPZ I will still give your other recommendations another chance. And please don't back down on your enthusiasm just because the book didn't grab someone else's interest. Diversity is good.

Please do come lurk some more on my thread. You might even feel so bold as to leave a message! LOL. (I have neglected it awfully as of late, but will post there again soon.)

:)

42wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Jul. 25, 2009, 4:28am

50. What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt



A marvelous read, complex, dense, and intricate. It's the story of two New York intellectual couples, who (in the absence of a more traditional family structure) make their own family together, and cope with the ups and downs of each others' lives.

It's also a meditation on art, on psychology, on fame, on family, on life, on living, and on death, bereavement, grief, and guilt. Ah, some of my favourite topics!

I finished this some time ago (I'm a bit behind on catching up here!) so I can't quite remember why I shaved off half a star from a full rating. I think I was just trying to stop myself from rating everything five stars. :)

****1/2

ETA: Read as part of "Orange July", this book was longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2003.

43wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Jul. 25, 2009, 4:41am

51. Small Island by Andrea Levy



Another wonderful read. Set in England and Jamaica, this tells the story of Jamaican immigrants to London, having first spent some time fighting in the Royal Air Force during World War 2. The characters were wonderful, the plot intricate with its slow reveal, and the detail of the world was fascinating.

The best part of this book was that it was written with great humour and skill, so while there were scenes of heartbreaking racism, it never came across as hectoring or a harangue. Gilbert's teasing of some redneck US army soldiers while treating Queenie Bligh (a white woman) to tea was brilliant, although I was scared for Gilbert and his audacity. And Gilbert's wife, Hortense, was wonderfully more British than the British themselves.

Gilbert's disdain for some of his fellow Jamaicans as being from "small islands" is then put into perspective when he realises he's from a "small island" himself when he returns to Jamaica following the war. And, being from Australia, I can only assume that England itself is a "small" island, given the size of the island I live on. ;)

*****

This was also read as part of "Orange July". It won the Orange Prize in 2004, and is considered "The Orange of the Oranges" (dunno who decides that one, though!).

44wookiebender
Jul. 25, 2009, 4:48am

52. The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox



And, finally, my Orange Prize luck runs out. This one was a complete dud, I got up to fifty pages, just didn't care about it at all, and was quite happy to put it aside (permanently, it's now bookcrossed and will be released into the wild for someone else who may prefer it).

I didn't like the protagonist, I didn't like that angels and heaven were real (sometimes I do like my angels real, but only when they're brandishing flaming swords or owning second hand bookshops), there were far too many ordinary sex scenes (so shoot me, I'm a prude), and the language was seriously convoluted and hard to get a handle on.

For a while there, I thought maybe it just wasn't fair to it to follow on from Small Island, but, no, it failed the fifty page test in its own right.

While many people on LibraryThing rated this five stars, I've brought its average down with my: *

This was longlisted for the Orange Prize in 1999.

45pamelad
Jul. 28, 2009, 6:15pm

Small Island sounds excellent - have added it to the wishlist.

46wookiebender
Jul. 28, 2009, 8:06pm

pamelad, you won't be disappointed. It was just such a great read.

47Berly
Jul. 28, 2009, 10:43pm

Hey Wookie! I like the sound of What I Loved. Thanks for posting your reads. :)

48wookiebender
Jul. 28, 2009, 11:50pm

Hi Berly, I do recommend What I Loved with the proviso that it is a very dense read. Which is precisely the sort of book I do like. I have no objections with reading with a browser pointed to Wikipedia and my dictionary by my side. (Yay for a mobile phone with a web browser!)

I've got a few more books to add to this list! Hopefully tonight I'll be able to get those reviews written. (I keep on hoping to find a nice block of quiet time, and then when I do find time, I've forgotten 90% of what I wanted to say. Stupid memory!)

49bonniebooks
Jul. 28, 2009, 11:56pm

then when I do find time, I've forgotten 90% of what I wanted to say. Stupid memory!

Me too! I wish I had post-its for my brain.

50teelgee
Bearbeitet: Jul. 29, 2009, 12:04am

>48 wookiebender::Dense is right! I just finished it yesterday and almost gave up on it 1/3 of the way in because of the denseness and what felt at first like a total lack of plot. I like your review, wookie. May I shamelessly plagiarize it??

51wookiebender
Jul. 29, 2009, 12:11am

Plagiarize away! Personally, I think I'm going to borrow bonniebook's brilliant comment about post-its for the brain. :)

52bonniebooks
Jul. 29, 2009, 12:31am

Brilliant? Pshaw! Glad you appreciated my little visual. I was thinking it wouldn't make sense to anybody else, but I was remembering how brain surgeons prod and then tag parts of the brains with little tiny pieces of paper (really miniature post-its!) before they do surgery, so was laughing, thinking about my brain tagged with my own little post-its. Some day...

53teelgee
Jul. 29, 2009, 1:22am

I'm just trying to figure out how to add more RAM to my brain.

54pamelad
Bearbeitet: Jul. 29, 2009, 5:22am

Terri, after you sort that out can you work on the retrieval system please? I think my brain needs a defrag.

fixed inevitable typo

55wookiebender
Jul. 29, 2009, 8:39am

Getting (slightly) back on track. (I wanna defrag my brain too!)

53. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz.



This is the graphic novelisation of the movie adaptation of the novel. (Phew, try saying that one three times fast!)

We picked this up at the library the other day, thinking it might be suitable for Mr Bear. Unfortunately, it'll be a few years before he'll be old enough to enjoy this one (there were a few close calls for young Alex that I don't think Mr Bear is quite mature enough to deal with, plus a death or two).

Fortunately, I thought it was pretty darned spiffing. Nice manga art, a good plot, plenty of action. I'll be suggesting the series to him in about 5 years or so (unless it's totally passe by then).

****

56wookiebender
Jul. 29, 2009, 8:47am

54. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin



I picked this one up because of the raves I've seen around LibraryThing about this book. And because it did sound truly great: a forensic whodunnit, set in the 12th century, with a woman as the main character. (Gwan, what's not to love?)

Unfortunately, I had a low-level irritation with the first half of this book. While the raves often focussed on the historical detail, I felt continually jarred by small wrong notes (c'mon, passports are a 20th century invention, even I know that), and the whole forensic side of the mystery just did not fit (it was like an episode of "Bones" - silly the-art-director-did-the-computer-graphics and all). And while I was hoping for a tea-and-crumpets style murder mystery, the murder was actually quite brutal and (of course, she says with a sigh) sexually related. But the characters were fascinating, and the social historical details felt spot on, so I soldiered on. (There must have been something to all the raves, after all!)

But then, I dunno. There was a twist in the plot I didn't see coming (well, I did, but it was well foreshadowed about 10 pages before it happened, so it hardly counted as a poorly written plot twist, rather a tension-filled 10 pages of me screaming 'nooooo!' at the book). And then I was completely gripped. The irritations had vanished into thin air.

Rather interesting (maybe only to me, who doesn't read that many thrilleresque whodunnits) was the fact that there were a lot of suspects, but they weren't really the focus of the story. The story was about Adelia (our "Mistress of Death"), her friends and friendships, and the solving of the crime. At first I was slightly irritated because I couldn't keep all the suspects straight, but once I got into the rest of the book it didn't really matter that they all blurred a bit.

Another major moment of "nooooo!" occurred at the very end, when the killer is (literally) unmasked but it takes several action-filled pages before our heroine utters his name. I almost flicked ahead to see who it was before returning to the action, but I somehow managed to restrain myself.

So, while I was considering even just giving up on the book at about the halfway mark, the second half was unputtdownable and would have to be one of the best half thriller/whodunnit novels I've ever read.

This somehow averaged out to: ****

And I will be looking for the sequel asap...

57nancyewhite
Jul. 30, 2009, 2:10pm

>>>54 pamelad: The second in the series is only okay, but the third is great so don't give up after the sophomore slump.

58wookiebender
Jul. 30, 2009, 9:20pm

nancyewhite, thanks for the advice. Those second books can be so difficult for writers!

I did go looking for book #2 this morning (couldn't find it; or Colin Cotterill's The Coroner's Lunch, dagnabbit). But I shall save all my hopes for book #3 now. :)

59teelgee
Jul. 31, 2009, 2:05am

Don't you wish you could skip the second one and go right to the third? Like having grandkids first, cuz it's so much more fun!

60wookiebender
Jul. 31, 2009, 3:03am

I'm sure people less fussy than me could skip book #2. I can't. I have to read it all in order, or it'll all just be wrong. Damned anal retentivity.

I'm yet to find out the joys of grandkids, although Mr Bear has decided he wants to be a Daddy when he grows up. Apparently the education prerequisites (ie, none) are just what he's looking for. We did have a very giggly conversation once discussing what coursework would be appropriate for Daddy School. (Tickling, Being Silly, Building Lego, Cooking Chicken Nuggets, Holding Children Upsidedown By One Ankle...)

But I think he's also keen on teaching. There's some serious worshipping going on with his Year One teacher!

61Berly
Aug. 5, 2009, 12:35pm

Okay..that's it! I can't take it anymore. Everyone is reading Mistress and I don't want to be left out. Finally added it to my TBR tower. :)

62wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Aug. 10, 2009, 8:44am

55. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon



This one has been gathering dust on the shelves for far too long. For some reason I just never quite got around to picking this one up, even though I've really enjoyed everything Michael Chabon ever wrote. I finally got around to it for the "Reading Globally" challenge, as it's set in Alaska and July's theme was polar regions. (Everyone else seemed to be reading histories of polar explorers, I did feel a little left field!)

Picture if you will, an alternative reality: the nation of Israel failed, leaving the Jewish people still scattered across the globe in their diaspora. In Sitka, Alaska, there is a Jewish community but they are about to be scattered again as their 60 year lease is up and Sitka is about to be re-integrated into the rest of Alaska. Our protagonist, Meyer Landsman, is a recently divorced cop who is called in when one of the neighbours in his seedy hotel is murdered. While the pressure is on to just rubber-stamp all outstanding crimes before re-integration, Meyer is compelled to find out the truth in this case.

And I found it a complete page-turning, rip-snorting, funny, hard-boiled, dry-humoured masterpiece. I can't believe that he could think such a reality up, and then make it so believable.

It's about family, friendships, Judaism, politics, gangsters, murder, dispossession, life, drugs, chess. And it's written as a page-turning hard-boiled whodunnit. And it has Yiddish puns in it. (Oy vey. And he doesn't use "oy vey" until page 168. I was amazed by his restraint, because I started using that phrase as soon as I hit the first Yiddish word in the book.)

It's really quite marvelous, and I love this author for his audacity and talent and ability to pull this one off.

I gave this one: ****1/2.

63wookiebender
Aug. 10, 2009, 9:01am

56. The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen



Another one that has been languishing on Mt TBR for far too long, bought after I read and enjoyed The Corrections. I was worried it might be Angry Young Man angst after the snarkiness of The Corrections, but turns out he's about 50, so although he's still allowed to be an Angry Middle-Aged Man, he's surprisingly cheerful and normal. Or at any rate, his upbringing and adolescence (what this book is about) was very normal, if almost scarily so.

He was brought up slap-bang in the middle of America, in Webster Groves, MO, in a town so normal that even though the Vietnam War protests and Kent State were rocking the rest of the country, Webster Groves was a paradise of comfortable middle class values.

The essays range all over the place, and tend to wander off the track all the time, and by the time I've forgotten what they were originally about, brings it all back together and ties it all up very neatly.

Very well written, very true. Recommended.

****

64wookiebender
Aug. 10, 2009, 9:17am

57. Affinity by Sarah Waters



A library book I happened across, with much glee. She's very popular, so it's a rare occasion to actually find one of her books at the library.

Another of Waters' Victorian pastiches, this one is from the diary of a young woman, Margaret Prior, who is recovering from an unspecified illness and takes up the job of being a Lady Visitor to Millbank Prison to show the inmates the error of their ways through her refined lady-like behaviour.

I love the Victorians. So repressed, so much emotional mileage to be had from said repression.

We also get the occasional note from Selina Dawes, a medium who has been sent to the prison after something went wrong. And as the book progresses, Margaret becomes obsessed with Selina and her case.

The historical detail is simply marvelous, as one would expect of Waters' books. For example, I have no idea of whether lady visitors to the female prisoners actually existed, but I truly believe they did now because of this book.

The book slowly and tantalisingly gives us clues as to what happened previously, and builds up the tension until the final pages. I didn't actually see the ending coming, and it wasn't what I was hoping for, but I did love it.

A fabulous story, wonderfully told, highly recommended.

****1/5

65cushlareads
Bearbeitet: Aug. 10, 2009, 2:31pm

Wow you're motoring through the books! I have Affinity, sent from a very generous LT member (norht4me), but haven't read it yet. Or any Sarah Waters...

And thanks for the review of the Yiddish Policeman's Union Now I want to read it! I've seen it many many times in bookshops but have always put it back.

Edited to remove excessive !!! !

66wookiebender
Aug. 10, 2009, 6:56pm

Cushla, one can never have too many exclamation marks. :)

I recommend all of Sarah Waters' books (although I'm yet to read The Little Stranger), especially her earlier ones, I'm a sucker for a Victorian pastiche.

And I'm not powering through the reading, I'm finally just getting caught up on the reviews! There's another 4-5 to go! Ack! (Or, rather, ack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

67bonniebooks
Aug. 12, 2009, 5:58pm

LOL! I just can't write without my exclamation marks. The words just don't sound like me without them. (Oh, wait a minute, I did without them for two whole sentences. Yeah!!!!!!...oops!) Anyway, just want to say you did a great job of introducing the general outline of The Yiddish Policemen's Union! Looking forward to the next few, and if it will make you feel any better, I'm about 15 commentaries behind! Ditto on the "ack!!!!!!..."

68Berly
Aug. 12, 2009, 9:58pm

ratsafratsa mutter mutter...Wookie, that's it. I just can't read your thread anymore. My TBR guilt is just growing by leaps and bounds! :) Thanks.

69wookiebender
Aug. 13, 2009, 1:15am

That's okay Berly, I've got a few indifferent books coming up soon. :)

I must admit, I look at my ratings sometimes and think "c'mon, they can't all be that good!" but I really can't see where I can trim down 1/2 or 1 star sometimes.

70wookiebender
Aug. 14, 2009, 5:07am

58. Houdini: The Handcuff King, Jason Lutes



I confessed some weeks ago to a childhood adoration of the great Harry Houdini. Mr TQD remembered this when he was trawling through the graphic novel collection of the local library one day (without kids! without me!) and came across this graphic novel.

It's one for kids, and is a very straightforward retelling of Houdini's plunge into an icy river in Boston, handcuffed and shackled. And, of course, his escape from said handcuffs and shackles, in the nick of time. (Well, probably in plenty of time, but Houdini was nothing if not a showman who knew the meaning of timing.)

The historical detail (covered in some interesting notes at the end) was lovely, the black and white art was simple but effective, and it was a quick and easy read.

***1/2

71wookiebender
Aug. 14, 2009, 5:16am

59. Point Blank: The Graphic Novel, Anthony Horowitz



Back at book number 53 up above, I read the first of this series (vetting them for Mr Boo, who is too young I think), and I did enjoy it. And Mr TQD found this, the second in the Alex Rider series, while ferreting in the graphic novels section of the local library.

Another spiffing, dare-devilling, great romp of an action novel for young adults. With fab gadgets. It's all about the gadgets.

****

72Berly
Aug. 14, 2009, 11:41am

Wookie--

I have the same problem rating books. If you look at my list I have way more 5-stars than 1-stars, so either I am not very discerning or I only read well-recommended, great books!

73wookiebender
Aug. 18, 2009, 7:41am

60. The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader", C.S. Lewis



I've been very slowly reading the Narnia books out loud to Mr Bear. He's probably a bit too young for them still (I get lots of questions, which I do actually like, unless they're about PlayStation Lego games), so I think it's probably just pure self-indulgence on my part, as they are childhood favourites of mine.

This one has the two youngest Pevensies, Lucy and Edmund, returning to Narnia with their strangely-brought up cousin, Eustace. Eustace doesn't read adventure books, so has no idea what is to become of him! They land in the sea next to the 'Dawn Treader', a ship sailed by King Caspian (Prince Caspian, last book around), get hauled on board and set sail to the far east of Narnia, possibly towards Aslan's Land.

There are all sorts of delightful adventures on the way. I particularly liked revisiting the Dufflepuds, a bizarre race who are insistent that they've been "uglified" by a wizard. I liked them as a kid, I still like them as an adult.

The final chapter, however, as they approach Aslan's Land and the human children return home, laid on the religious metaphors with a trowel. Next time I read this out (to Miss Boo, maybe), I'll just summarise that last chapter, I think.

***1/2

74wookiebender
Aug. 18, 2009, 7:45am

#72> Berly, we definitely just have excellent taste in books, and/or hang out with people with excellent taste in books and wonderful recommendations!

75lauralkeet
Aug. 18, 2009, 8:12am

>73 wookiebender:: I'll just summarise that last chapter, I think. Oh, I remember doing that! There were one or two books we had when my daughters were little where some parts were a bit disturbing (sometimes for the same reasons you cited, sometimes other reasons). I don't know which book it was, or what was disturbing about it, but I distinctly remember a book where we systematically skipped pages and made up a transition to cover it up.

Then, of course, they learned to read. ;-)

76Berly
Aug. 18, 2009, 10:41am

Wookie-- I knew I liked you. ;)
And I have summarized my way through books, too. It's much easier to do when you have already read the book though!

77wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Aug. 23, 2009, 7:06am

61. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion



I've had this one kicking around for a while. And it's also the second copy to have passed through my hands, the first one unread. I was obviously reluctant to read it, given its subject matter. Joan Didion, an American journalist and writer, describing her year of grief - and inability to think, behave, or act one hundred percent rationally - following the sudden death of her much loved husband. Whoa, barrel of laughs there.

Of course, it wasn't a barrel of laughs at all (spot on the money there), and I was reduced to tears on a number of occasions (picture if you will, me sitting on the sofa, saying "and... and... and... *sob* she kept his shoes because he might... might... might... *hiccup* need them when he came back, and he's never coming back... *wail*" etc).

But, while it was obviously an exercise in coming to terms with her deep grief at such a loss (and at a time when her entire life seemed to be going pear-shaped around her), it was also a paean to her husband, to their long marriage and life together. She didn't flinch from the hiccups that occur in any long-term relationship, but it was a wonderful marriage and a wonderful description of what I hope many people get to experience in their life.

Being a bit of a data-freak myself (and coming from a science background), I enjoyed her "research" side of things, when she got waylaid by facts and scientific papers about grief and mourning.

Being the sister of a doctor, I will never lend this to my sister, as she would loathe Didion's need to control everything in the hospital, and her positive smugness when she "won" the minor battles. While it was good reading about it (from the point of view of having been a patient myself, and dealing with the occasional doctor who treats you as if you have the IQ of a retarded amoeba), overall I had more sympathy with the medical profession in this case.

Finally, I thought this was a positively necessary book, given our modern society's need to sanitise death and to be rather embarrassed by other people's grief. I'm still embarrassed by other people's grief (it'll take more than one book to undo that bit of my anal buttoned-down personality), but I hope in the future I will not be mortified by my own grief, should I ever have to go through what Didion did.

****

78Berly
Aug. 23, 2009, 1:06pm

Wookie! Great review. Still don't think I am in a place to read that just now, but I will hang on to my copy.

79bonniebooks
Aug. 23, 2009, 4:58pm

That shoe story is one that grabs pretty much everyone I think. Her thinking was illogical (she knew he was dead, he wasn't coming back and therefore had no need for his shoes) and yet her feelings made perfect sense. If he did come back--again, she knew he wasn't coming back--he would need shoes. She loved him! She couldn't bear to think about him having to walk around the cold, rainy, even snowy streets of NYC without shoes! I could totally relate to the love, the sadness and the guilt, and the need to protect the ones you love, as well as the unrealness of her recent loss, that was a part of her not being ready to get rid of his shoes. I could understand that by casting away his shoes, it felt like she was throwing away her love and caring for him... I could go on and on, but oops! It's not my thread is it? ;-)

80lauralkeet
Aug. 23, 2009, 6:40pm

Excellent review, Wookie. The shoe story had a huge impact on me as well -- I agree with Bonnie, it's one of the more emotional aspects of the book. And I like your phrase, "it was also a paean to her husband, to their long marriage and life together." I couldn't agree with you more! This book made me think about my own marriage in a different way.

81teelgee
Aug. 23, 2009, 9:41pm

Great review, wookie. That was a powerful book.

I have one question for you -- how is it that you work full time and have two small children but you read almost as many books as I do and I'm retired?????

82chrine
Aug. 24, 2009, 2:24am

Hola Wookie. Just finished reading your thread after coming upon it in Hot Topics. It's added a few books to my wishlist. Your reviews are wonderful to read. I can easily tell if I might want to read a book or not, based on the summary and opinions.

83wookiebender
Aug. 24, 2009, 4:20am

What the??? I'm in Hot Topics? Whoa.

Thanks everyone for your comments - I've spent the day in bed with an incredibly nasty headcold (head feels full of cotton wool), so it was nice hopping online this evening to read everyone's thoughts.

teelgee, the answer is: public transport. :) I commute about an hour or so each way to work, so that's up to (and sometimes more than, depending on traffic) two hours of reading time a day. My husband is also *fabulous* at pulling his weight with housework and child wrangling, so that gives me time at home, too. And I don't have much of a social life at the moment (too tired, and do you know how much babysitters cost??).

84wookiebender
Sept. 3, 2009, 6:48am

62. Fables: Storybook Love, Bill Willingham



Another of Mr TQD's finds at the library. (I promise to not whinge about how he gets time to look at books at the library, while I spend my time reading to the kids - which can be fairly dire, depending on what has caught their eye. Whoops, I think I just fell into whinge mode...)

This is volume three of an ongoing graphic novel series, that has been highly recommended by both freelunch here on LibraryThing, and by one of Mr TQD's mates. So it was a no-brainer for him to pick it up, but I think I startled him by pouncing on it with much glee.

Imagine a world where fairy tale characters actually live. But for some reason (covered, no doubt, in volumes one and two) they have fled their country which has been invaded by the mysterious Adversary, and are living in New York (as you do). The fairytale creatures that can pass for human live in New York City, while the ones that can't (the three little pigs, Thumbelina, etc) live on a farm somewhere rural.

Prince Charming is a complete cad and a bounder, but not quite as caddish as Bluebeard; there's a full complement of fairytale princesses (Briar Rose, Snow White, etc); the Big Bad Wolf is currently known as Bigby and isn't allowed anywhere near the farm so passes as a very hairy man in New York City; and Old King Cole is the nominal head of them all.

This is a collection of various stories, revolving mostly around a loose theme of love. Some work wonderfully - those revolving around Bigby and Snow White in particular; others are less good. But it's a great world with some wonderful ideas, and I'm going to be delving further into it in the future.

***1/2

85wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Sept. 3, 2009, 6:56am

63. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi



A simply marvelous book, recommended to all. If you've never read a graphic novel in your life, and can't see why you would ever want to, then you should still read this book. It's not your standard graphic novel, but it is such a beautiful story and so well done, you will be won over to the dark side.

I'd seen the movie when it came out, and absolutely loved it. While my memory of it is a bit hazy now, this seemed a remarkably faithful adaptation.

I found the plight of the family incredibly moving: their lives, work and family are all in Iran, but they can see this isn't a good place for Marjane to grow up. But to send their only daughter to Europe on her own was just heartbreaking. I did shed a tear or two while I read some of her adventures. And her honesty in retelling what she went through made this an exceptional book.

I am always affected by people who end up "between" countries. In Europe, she was an Iranian. But when she returns to Iran, she's seen as a decadent westerner.

And everyone deserves a Grandma like her Grandma. She rocked, and is now my role model for my twilight years.

*****

86wookiebender
Sept. 3, 2009, 7:19am

64. Faceless Killers, Henning Mankell



Picked this one up on the strength of some very good buzz here on LibraryThing. (And, yes, if you all jumped off a cliff, I'd probably follow you all happily, especially if you were recommending books on your way down.) This is the first Inspector Kurt Wallander mystery.

One bleak January morning in a rural area of Sweden, an elderly farmer and his wife are brutally beaten, leaving him dead, while she dies in hospital a short while later, muttering one word: foreign.

Cue one helluva lot of racial tension in what I'd always seen as a very nice, gentle, peaceful country. Goes to show what I know. (And am I the only one who thinks that Henning Mankell must be simply loathed by the Swedish Tourism Board, or their equivalent?)

On a number of levels, this reminded me of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Brutal murders, racism, Swedish, bizarre level of details. I always thought maybe it was something about the translation with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but now I think it's something intrinsic to Swedish crime. I'm not complaining, however, both have been excellent reads.

The crime is brutal; our "hero" is a policeman who has managed to ruin his relationship with his father, his daughter, and his wife and is sliding into ruin and alcoholism; politics plays a major role in the police force; and far too much junk food is consumed.

I'm sure it's all cliched, but I lapped it all up, whinged when I was dragged away from it, and was left wanting more at the end. (I have book two - The Dogs of Riga - perched upstairs on Mt TBR as I type.)

****

87teelgee
Sept. 3, 2009, 10:03am

I loved Persepolis as well. Graphic novels are new to me and I'm just loving the genre! Lovely review. I have yet to see that movie, but it's on my list.

88bonniebooks
Sept. 3, 2009, 11:59am

And, yes, if you all jumped off a cliff, I'd probably follow you all happily, especially if you were recommending books on your way down.

L-O-L! But would you jump off a bridge? ;-) (That's what my parents always asked me.)

I swore off crime fiction/murder mysteries a long time ago, but then Mark sent me The Coroner's Lunch and some other LT-er got me to read The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and I loved them both, so all your "whinging" is tempting me!

89wookiebender
Sept. 3, 2009, 7:45pm

#87> I don't get out to the movies much any more (hence all the reading time!), but I made a special effort for "Persepolis" and loved it. Like the book, it's quite unlike anything I'd seen on the big screen before, but, like the book, it was simply marvelous. It's pretty much an exact adaptation, so it's just like having the book read to you. :)

#88> The Coroner's Lunch is on my wishlist too - highly recommended by a non-LT friend some time ago, and then it too got a good buzz from reading the discussions on LT. But I'm only allowed to order in one book at a time from my local bookshop (my rules, not theirs!) and that's currently taken up with the second "Mistress of the Art of Death" series, another book I only found out about through LT buzz. (I do love you all, but you're wreaking havoc with my budget!) Once The Serpent's Tale is in and bought, I can then ask them to order in The Coroner's Lunch.

90wookiebender
Sept. 5, 2009, 7:12am

Actually an addendum to discussion about the movie adaptation of Persepolis - we got it out last night because Mr TQD hadn't seen it and we were in the mood for a movie. It actually really cuts out an awful lot - the book is terribly dense story-wise (meaning to say: there's a helluva lot of plot in there), so everything was a lot briefer, with mini-plot lines being shrunk down to a minute or so of screen time. Mr TQD reckoned it didn't have the emotional impact of the book, but I still needed a tissue on occasion. And I still think it's a beautiful movie. (But, possibly, the book is better.)

91wookiebender
Sept. 5, 2009, 7:20am

65. The Twits, Roald Dahl



This is one I read out to Mr Bear. I'd previously had a copy foisted on me by the lovely bookcrossing (and occasionally LibraryThinging) jubby, who was shocked and appalled that I'd never read it as a child. So I read it a few years ago to myself, and wasn't so impressed.

What a difference reading it to a six-year old makes! Mr Bear made appropriate disgusted noises at all the tricks the Twits play on each other (and guessed a few tricks as well, so he felt awfully chuffed), and was entertained, amused, and fascinated. I can see we're going to be reading more Roald Dahl in the future.

****

92bonniebooks
Sept. 5, 2009, 12:35pm

My oldest loved James and the Giant Peach. There was one disgusting poem in it that he could recite by heart. I love The BFG for all the words it added to my vocabulary like "snozzcumbers."

93cushlareads
Sept. 5, 2009, 3:47pm

You've reminded me to try reading it to Fletch (5) - and James and the Giant Peach. I tried too soon as well... the perils of a bookie mother! (as opposed to a wookie mother.)

94wookiebender
Sept. 9, 2009, 7:58am

66. The Household Guide to Dying, Debra Adelaide



Delia Bennett is dying. She's the author of a series of "Household Guides" (to cooking, to laundry, to gardening, etc) and so has the brainwave - in between writing a list of what needs to be done for a potential future wedding for her eight year old daughter and endlessly leaving notes for her husband so he can manage the house to her exacting standards - to write a "Household Guide" to dying, encompassing everything a totally anal person needs to know to make their passing easier for themselves and their family. (Choosing a coffin, wills and wishes, the funeral, etc.)

As a totally anal person, I appreciated this. (I didn't quite take notes, however some points were filed away for future reference.)

There's a lovely sense of humour in this book: I loved the idea of laundry being sexy (although it so patently isn't); so many moments were spot on (yes, some of us enjoy mowing because it's a space of completely child-free time); and it was hard for me not to smile in self-awareness at her detailed list making.

However, I took away 1/2 a star for making me blubber pathetically. I left my copy on a workmate's desk, with a post-it note at the start of Chapter 42, with "don't read this chapter" on it.

When I was questioned elsewhere about why blubbering pathetically made me take away 1/2 a star, not add 1/2 a star, it's because I get all mean when I feel emotionally manipulated to that extent. This was more subtle than a Spielberg movie, but I still resented being pushed that far emotionally. (I pay Spielberg back by not crying during his movies, and by eternally calling him "Senor Spielbergo", a Simpsons reference.)

Plus, it left me with piggy red eyes, and I've got a very shallow streak.

****

95wookiebender
Sept. 9, 2009, 8:00am

Oooh, James and the Giant Peach! I like the movie, but have never read the book. Must rectify that!

96wookiebender
Sept. 9, 2009, 8:20am

67. Throne of Jade, Naomi Novik



SPOILER ALERT FOR BOOK ONE OF THE SERIES

The second in the Temeraire series, this starts off with Captain Laurence stuck in London, dealing with bureaucrats and diplomats over his dragon, Temeraire who was discovered to be a Chinese Celestial dragon at the end of book one (His Majesty's Dragon). And the Chinese are rather peeved that Temeraire is being used as a weapon against the dastardly French.

Almost immediately, Laurence and Temeraire fly off to help battle the dastardly French in the air, and then almost immediately again, they're shipped off to China to deal with the political ramifications of having a Celestial on English soil.

While voyaging, they have many adventures. And all of a sudden I realised that was about all this book was: one thrilling dash from one adventure to another. And while the adventures were exciting and action-packed (I particularly liked the sea serpent), sometimes one does crave a bit more something to a book. Maybe plot?

It does all eventually resolve quite satisfactorily in the end, but the pacing could have been a lot more even.

I shall be buying (and reading) book three in the series, but I do hope she's discovered some plot for the next one.

***

97wookiebender
Sept. 9, 2009, 8:46am

68. Dewey: The Small-Town Cat Who Touched the World, Vicki Myron



Yes, I am a cat lover. Who else would pick up a book like this?

One wintry January morning, in a small town in Ohio, the librarian discovered a small, bedraggled, and very cold kitten in the returns chute. He survives (and thrives), gets dubbed "Dewey" and becomes a focal point for the town, during the financial crises that hit the American mid-west in the 1990s.

I found the background to the agricultural financial crisis very interesting - while I lived through the era and remember it happening, I never realised what started it in the first place.

However, reading about another cat lover's cat isn't as much fun as hanging out with your own cats. (Yes, Dewey is wonderful with kids. Has Ms Myron met my Jimbo? Yes, Dewey is a special cat. What about my Little Jim? Yes, Dewey is spoilt rotten. Just like my Stumpy. Although I never slipped down the cat worshipping slope far enough to think that Jimbo was part Persian. Just like Dewey, he's got good alley cat genes.)

And what is with the throwaway line about library cats having a well-established tradition? I needed to know more about that! They even have their own publication, society, and organisation (if Google is anything to go by), yet there's no history provided on this wonderful institution. (And why doesn't the City of Sydney provide a cat or two to each of their branches, hmmm?)

Finally, the upbeat style of the book wearied me. Ms Myron has been through hell and back in her personal life, but she's just so positively cheerful that it all got a bit much after a while.

But Dewey was a wonderful cat (if a whisker short of Jimbo level perfection). I hope he inspires many more libraries to have library cats of their own!

***

98lauralkeet
Bearbeitet: Sept. 10, 2009, 8:33am

>97 wookiebender:: Great review, wookie. I've wondered about this book as it's been so popular. But I think I'll give it a pass. Not up for cat-worshipping cheerfulness! (and I do like cats ... have 3 of my own)

ETA: Ooh! It's a "hot review" as well! Congratulations; I just added my thumbs up.

99rainpebble
Sept. 10, 2009, 12:56pm

Congrats wookiebender on your Hot Review!~!
Very well done!~!
belva

100bonniebooks
Sept. 10, 2009, 1:56pm

I've got to pay more attention to getting "hot" reviews, but I'm not surprised about wookiebee getting one--she's funny and articulate! Congrats!

101wookiebender
Sept. 10, 2009, 8:44pm

Aw shucks, thanks everyone! (Woot! A hot review! I think that's my first too!)

102Berly
Sept. 11, 2009, 1:28am

Congrats Wookie!! How exciting. You should bask in it as long as possible and then you'll just have to go out and write a new one! (No pressure though.) ;) And I agree about the book. Just a little too syrupy for me.

103wookiebender
Sept. 11, 2009, 2:50am

Berly, is it sad that I keep on popping over to the home page to see if it's still "hot" and hasn't slipped into "lukewarm" or even "tepid" as yet? I'll put it down to first time nerves, methinks. ;)

104Berly
Sept. 11, 2009, 7:47pm

I'll go vote for it, that should keep you in for a little while longer!

105bonniebooks
Sept. 11, 2009, 10:58pm

I went and voted for it too, but because you deserve it, not because you're whinging about it! ;-) (You're not really whining, but I just love your use of that word, plus I finally heard someone on the BBC pronouncing it as /whinjing/ the other day!) Anyway, I'm thumbing your review because you made a lot of good points about why you did/didn't like it! Good going, Wookiebee!

106womansheart
Bearbeitet: Sept. 14, 2009, 9:18am

Dear wookiebender-

You are the first LT member in the 100 Book Challenge that I have starred.

I am here as a result of reading your post on Richard's 75/2009 Thread about Murder with Peacocks. He gave many of us the same idea, I believe. I am very nearly finished with reading it (at page 261, St Martin's Paperback edition). Enjoying it immensely and don't want it to end, although I realized that there are more books to follow this one. What fun, lots of laughs and great characters in every meaning of the word "characters."

I see many other LT friends have already begun following your thread. Wonderful.

Are you coming on to Spring in Australia? Is it beautiful where you are with lots of flowers blooming?

Nice to make your acquaintance here on LT.

womansheart/Ruth

107wookiebender
Sept. 14, 2009, 8:40pm

#106> Lovely to have you on board, Ruth! Yes, we are getting into Spring - had a positively balmy weekend with the kids splashing in water, and our veggie patch (which I only just planted!) sprouting happily. The neighbour's jasmine is also flowering like mad and smelling delicious.

And I'm about to start reading Murder with Puffins... :)

Ack! Six reviews behind! I'd better get a move on!

108wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Sept. 23, 2009, 6:58pm

69. Jasper Jones: A Novel, Craig Silvey



Set in a small Australian mining town, Corrigan, one hot summer in the mid-1960s, young aboriginal Australian Jasper Jones is the local town ne'er-do-well, secretly admired by all the other young folk and used as a generic scapegoat when anything goes wrong. He's cheeky, smart, likeable, courageous, and indomitable. He knows he's the bottom of the heap, and he just doesn't care. One night he knocks on the window of our young bookish narrator, Charlie Bucktin, asking for his help. Charlie has recently been introduced to the literature of the American deep south (Faulkner - unsuccessfully - Twain and, most importantly, Harper Lee) and sees the rest of the plot unfolding in a Mockingbird-like manner.

But the book is less about Jasper (even though he has the starring role in the title) and more about small town attitudes, and blind prejudice. There is also a Vietnamese family - Jeffrey Lu is Charlie's best friend - and there are parallels between what happens to the Lu family, as well as what happens to Jasper.

One interesting aspect to Jasper's treatment by the town is he is the star football player (this would be VFL - Victorian Football League, now AFL - Australian Football League; and I'm not sure if it really resembles any other football code in the world). He is reviled, distrusted, and generally hated by the adults, until he takes the field. Then he is liked and cheered on by everyone, until the end of the game when he takes his jersey off and just becomes Jasper again.

I think it might just be the best book I've read this year. It was simply wonderful - sad, funny, beautiful, all at the same time.

So what are you doing, sitting here reading this review? Go out and buy a copy (and support Aussie literature!) right now!

*****

109wookiebender
Sept. 23, 2009, 8:10am

70. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain



Following on from the giddy heights of Jasper Jones, I didn't want to let go of the buzz, so I moved straight on to one of its obvious influences: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I had tried to read this once before, as a child, after enjoying the fun romp of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer very much. However, the language and phonetic spelling put me off until many (many!) years later.

Mea culpa.

(The language still stumped me at times. Jim's "shet de do'" only just made sense this evening - shut the door - after puzzling over it several weeks ago, on and off.)

But it was a wonderful adventure story, with Huck and Jim lazily fibbing their way down the Mississippi (and sometimes not so lazily), gently whiling away their time. Jim, of course, is heading for freedom from slavery, while Huck is heading for freedom from society.

I loved Twain's opening comments: Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished, persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

And at times, yes, there was no real plot, just a jumping from one peril to another adventure via a scrape or two, and I craved a bit of structure or over-arching plot. But at the risk of being prosecuted/banished/shot, I do have to say that Jim & Huck's friendship was a wonderful thing, allowing an escaped black slave to be seen as a human being, capable of love and deserving of respect.

Although possibly not deserving of a rescue planned by Tom Sawyer. I don't think anyone's quite deserving of that.

Highly recommended.

****

110wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Sept. 23, 2009, 8:30am

71. To Say Nothing of the Dog; or, How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last, Connie Willis



In the future, we will have invented time travel. But since it is impossible to use this technology to exploit the past, it has ended up as a tool for historians, to investigate at first hand important events in history. Or, to be bullied by ladies of the realm into making excessive trips into the past, trying to ascertain minute details about Coventry Cathedral before its destruction during the bombing of Britain in World War 2, so that said lady of the realm can have everything exactly perfect for the dedication of the rebuilding of the cathedral. In particular, whether a Victorian atrocity known as the "bishop's bird stump" was in the cathedral when it was bombed.

Suffering from time-lag (my favourite symptom was excessive sentimentality), our historian Ned Henry gets sent back to Victorian times to escape Lady Schrapnell's demands and to get some rest. And to help fix a potential rip in the space-time continuum, only he was so time-lagged he has no idea what he's supposed to be doing in the 19th century.

Cue boating down the river in Oxford, rescuing eccentric dons who would drown each other over opinions, meeting the most beautiful woman he's ever seen, being introduced to Victorian morals, rigging seances, meeting the inventor of the jumble sale, and trying to rescue Princess Arjumand, a very cat-like cat.

Another delightful adventure from the mistress of time-travelling tales, Connie Willis.

****

111bonniebooks
Bearbeitet: Sept. 23, 2009, 11:05am

All great reviews, Wookiebee! I'm glad you're catching up, as I'm having so much fun reading them. I just have a question for all your fans who also love high school football (BJ comes to mind). I know you loved Jasper Jones, so the story must have all held together, but do you think it's possible that a character could be loved/adored (and so important) on the football field, but then hated/reviled off of it? I can't imagine that. Just read some research about scapegoats in school, as a matter of fact, and it started me thinking about those kids. A football quarterback would never get put into that category, I'm thinking.

112wookiebender
Sept. 23, 2009, 6:57pm

Thanks, bonniebooks! I've still got five more reviews to go, *gulp*.

And about football heroes & scapegoats: yes, absolutely. How can I put it... I think it's probably a cultural thing for one. Although Australians do have a habit of putting our sporting heroes on pedestals, it's a fairly laid-back sort of pedestal. I think key to this is that Jasper is first and foremost the Bad Boy of the town, and they grudgingly accept his talent on the field - and, being Australians, enjoy watching him on the field - but they're not willing to like him as a person, just as the occasional football player.

I didn't discuss it much in the review (was trying to minimise spoilers!), but key to this is also the similar treatment meted out to Jeffrey Lu: he's the best cricket player by far in the town, but can't even get on the team because he's asian. The overwhelming racism means that Jasper & Jeffrey will *never* be accepted, regardless of how brilliant they are on the field.

Oh, dear, I just realised I didn't actually point out that Jasper was an aboriginal australian! D'oh! *slaps forehead* This is what happens when you write reviews late at night!! I might have to do some rejigging there...

113womansheart
Sept. 23, 2009, 8:48pm

>112 wookiebender: -

Hi, Dear "Wookie da Bookie" Bender - affectionate nickname I just made up...

Regarding you pointing out and identifying Jasper in your review, you actually did introduce him as a young aboriginal Australian in the first sentence. That is what caught my eye and piqued my interest in reading the whole review.

Good reviews. I believe that I will add two of the three to my TBR cyber stack.

That said, I am really stopping by to see that you are your family are doing okay in the face of the horrendous dust storm. Has it affected the part of Australia where you and your family live? One of our national news television programs (NBC) had some video footage and it was quite apocalyptic looking. It was pretty awful and scary. Looked like the whole country was aflame. I know that is NOT true ... the sky was golden and reddish in colour, it looked dark as the sun could not shine through.

I would be so happy to hear how you and your family are doing.

With love,

Ruth/womansheart

114wookiebender
Sept. 23, 2009, 9:03pm

Hi Ruth. (Wookie da Bookie. I like it!) And you're reading that JJ is aboriginal, because I quickly went back and edited my review once I realised my oversight. :) The original gist of the review was taken from my comments about the book on the Global Reads group, and it was obvious it was about an aboriginal character because that was the theme for the month. And taken out of context, it was far less obvious.

We survived the dust storm. It was black as night in the west of the state where the storm started, but over in Sydney we just woke to red skies, howling winds, and poor visibility. (I did think initially it might be nuclear armegeddon, or a bushfire very early in the season...) By the time we were all up and out the door, it was just a horrid yellow haze and you couldn't really see *that* far, but it was fine to drive. It all cleared up about lunchtime. (Or rather, the dust storm made its merry way up the coast towards Brisbane.) Everything's still covered with a fine layer of dust, so we all look rather scruffy, but it'll clear up in time.

Mr Bear was quite confused. "It's morning... but it's dark???"

Thanks for popping by!

115womansheart
Sept. 23, 2009, 9:10pm

> 114 - Wookie da Bookie, it is then ...

Is Mr Bear one of your cats or your one and only hubby? Just wondering ...

Glad to read that you and yours are fine now. Cannot imagine, really. You are going to need a good dusting down.

With love,
Ruth

116wookiebender
Sept. 23, 2009, 10:35pm

Mr Bear is my one and only son (almost seven years old). Miss Boo is my one and only daughter (four-and-a-half years old). Mr TQD is my husband/partner, as "tqd" is another nickname I use often on the web, and I'm not sure I want to type "Mr Wookiebender" all the time. :)

The cats are (*takes deep breath*): Stumpy, Porchie, Little Jim and Jimbo. Stumpy is our old cat, and is on her last few months, I think (she's suddenly gotten very skinny, although doesn't seem to be in distress). Porchie was the cat who adopted us via the front porch last year. And Little Jim & Jimbo are her boys, about one year old now. (Along with Coco, who was adopted out. And we almost took Little Jim to Animal Welfare since we were only going to keep *one* kitten, but it was just before Xmas and he'd wormed his way into our hearts and wallets by then.)

And Porchie has since been fixed, and there will be no more kittens! We adopted her when she was probably about one week pregnant, and if we'd known... well, we probably would have adopted her anyway.

117womansheart
Sept. 24, 2009, 10:03pm

> Thanks for the sweet post from you. Your family of humans and cat people sounds wonderful. I think that it might be morning there in Sydney so I am going to say "Good Morning, have a good day, and then, I will say 'Good Night, from the US of A, Florida to be specific'."

Later, Dear Wookie da Bookie ...

your friend, Ruth

118judylou
Sept. 25, 2009, 6:59am

Wookie, Jasper Jones sounds like something I might like. I think I will add it to my list!

119Berly
Sept. 27, 2009, 12:01pm

Hi Wookie! *waves hi*

120pamelad
Sept. 29, 2009, 5:16am

Hi Wookie, also adding Jasper Jones to the wish list. Great review. Have just received To Say Nothing of the Dog from the Book Depository, so will have to read that review later on.

121wookiebender
Sept. 29, 2009, 7:00am

Oooh, I'm glad lots of people are picking up Jasper Jones! I really enjoyed it, I even went out and bought Craig Silvey's first book (Rhubarb), but am yet to read it, of course. (I really must stop buying faster than I can read...)

122wookiebender
Sept. 29, 2009, 7:28am

72. Murder, With Peacocks, Donna Andrews



The first of the Meg Langslow mysteries, this kicks off with Meg, a blacksmith, packing up for the summer so she can go home to Virginia and help out with the three weddings she is maid of honour for: her best friend, Eileen, who is terminally vague and is currently considering a Native American herbal purification ceremony; her sister-in-law-to-be, Samantha, who is highly demanding and currently requiring peacocks to be sourced for her wedding; and her mother, who is marrying her new beau after an amicable divorce that was positively cheerful and who still has Meg's father pottering around, gardening.

Cue a whirlwind of far too much wedding planning (but it was fun, because you know it's all going to be a disaster), peacock wrangling, dodging dodgy wannabe-beaus, endless garden parties, deliciously described food, the drop-dead-gorgeous but probably gay Michael, and one dead body and what looks like a serial murder trying to bump Meg and/or her family off. And, believe me, there's a lot of family to bump off.

And therein lies the charm of this series (well, the first book, at any rate). Meg's family are charmingly, dottily, scattily, eccentric. Meg's father is a retired doctor with an obsession over crime and poisonous plants. Meg's mother is part of the local royalty and is a perfumed bulldozer who gets her own way just by expecting it. The smaller roles are delightful too, I really liked the aunts and uncles playing croquet during a garden party, and yelling "duck!" whenever a ball gets too close to the other guests. Croquet is obviously not quite as genteel as one would have expected. And Meg is terribly good fun too, with a good blend of niceness, ability, intelligence, and sass. (Sass has to be my favourite thing in literary female detectives.)

It's rather nice to have the Evil Person in a murder mystery just being unpleasant - she's mightily unpleasant, of course, but the worst thing she seems to do to Meg & her family is blatantly out one of Meg's aunts as wearing a wig.

This was also a well-plotted whodunnit, which kept me guessing until the end.

This series was originally recommended to me by my mate Miss FiFi Trixibelle (well, no, that's not really her name, but we like to torture her by calling her that), and it only just got rejigged in my memory when RichardDerus highly recommended it over on his thread. So, thank you both! It may have taken me a while to get around to it, but it was worth the wait.

***1/2

123Berly
Sept. 29, 2009, 10:39am

Hi Wookie! I shall have to find a copy at my library. Have a great day.

124wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Okt. 7, 2009, 6:52am

73. The Other Hand, Chris Cleave



This was beautifully written, with some genuinely funny bits, but it's about refugees, and they've escaped from torture and death and at times it all got a Bit Too Much and I had to put it down and read something fluffy for a while.

Little Bee is a refugee from Nigeria and currently dwelling in a detention centre in England, before she is mistakenly released along with a handful of other women. At the same time, we are also introduced to Sarah, an English journalist who is mourning the death of her husband, and who has met Little Bee before. Slowly their two stories come together and we find out their history.

I particularly enjoyed Little Bee's character, and some of the things she said were quite wonderful - scars being beautiful because they show you've survived, but then she has to turn away from the girl in the yellow sari because one can have too much beauty. (Although I felt slightly sucker-punched by that second bit.) At times it reminded me of the great Small Island with the fish-out-of-water humour with the refugees/immigrants to England.

And I think the fate of those three other refugees released with Little Bee were probably the most fascinating bit of the book for me, although we never returned to them - were they returned to the detention centre? Were they taken back to their countries? What happened to them??

And I would have liked more sympathy from the English characters. Sarah is obviously sympathetic towards Little Bee, but Lawrence and the whole Home Office that, even though he despises it, he's so obviously part of the system, and the system is definitely not in favour of Little Bee. And none of the minor characters showed much sympathy towards her plight, they too were all working within the system and were unable to see beyond that to any basic humanity for the refugees.

I found the ending a bit disappointing - I had the feeling that he'd painted himself into a corner plot-wise, and there were a number of annoying inconsistencies and fudging to get it to "work". But overall it was an interesting look at a emotionally charged topic (refugees) with some very funny bits. And some bleak bits, as befits the topic.

This was read for the ANZLitLovers group. ***1/2

125wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Okt. 7, 2009, 7:04am

74. Frenchman's Creek, Daphne du Maurier



Young Lady Dona, fleeing with her two children a debauched lifestyle in 17th century London which has left her ashamed of her behaviour and disenchanted with her life, returns to a relatively small house in Cornwall, and settles in to rethink her life, only to discover pirates (arrrr) are in the vicinity. She stumbles across said pirates, and they give her back her sense of adventure and spirit, and a love of life again.

In some ways, this is a fairly standard spiffingly fun adventure romance (with pirates, arrrr), only our heroine is already married and so is embarking on an affair which is certainly not standard to the genre. My copy rather sniffily says on the back that Dona is a character that we would all love, despite her somewhat "questionable" behaviour.

I think that the reviewer who wrote those lines never got stuck in a miserable marriage, and quite possibly Dona is a character many women love because of her behaviour. (Not that I'm in a miserable marriage, but looking back at some previous relationships, I am incredibly grateful for living in an era when one isn't bound irrevocably to one man. I made some choices that would never have lasted happily, although they were fun at the time.)

Read for the "Monthly Author Reads" (September was Dame Daphne). ***1/2.

126wookiebender
Okt. 7, 2009, 7:19am

75. Murder with Puffins, Donna Andrews



The second in the Meg Langslow mysteries (Murder with Peacocks was the first; and I do hope Donna Andrews writes a Murder with Penguins as well, they're such delightful birds), this takes off pretty much where the first stopped. Meg and Michael are trying to get away from her family and have a romantic weekend together by visiting her aunt's small cottage on the tiny island Monhegan off the coast of Maine. Only to discover that it's bird watching season on the island (known for its puffin colony) and that half of her family is already in residence in said aunt's small cottage.

Cue the (what I assume is standard) amusingly dotty Langslow family, a small island filled with bird obsessives, and a dead body. Of course, everyone disliked the dead body (even when he was alive) so there's a multitude of suspects to choose from, including Meg's beloved father.

It's an amusing romp, but the plot was stretched wafer thin at times. The charm of Murder with Peacocks (I will keep on typing Penguins!) was that it was cozy crime, but had an excellent plot underneath it all, keeping it all delightfully readable and interesting and afloat and bubbling along, giving some structure to the whole madness. This one just doesn't.

Still, I'm putting the flaws down to being a "difficult" second novel, and have the third in the series awaiting me on Mt TBR upstairs.

***

127womansheart
Okt. 7, 2009, 8:06am

My Dear Friend, Wookie the Bookie -

Good books, good reviews. I read Little Bee which is the same book you read, but, with a different title for publication in the USA (don't know about Canada, though).

I loved this book. I think that Cleve is a wonderful writer and had great compassion for the main character. I also liked the way that Little Bee was wise beyond her years and took the initiative in difficult situations quite often.

I haven't read Frenchman's Creek that I can recall, (It's an oldie, but a goody) but, if I am in the mood for that genre this sounds like a book to find and read. Love the swash and buckle romance!

I will add Murder with Puffins to keep up with you and my other LT friends that are reading this series. I enjoyed the first book, too. And I am looking forward to this group of zany and often very intelligent and attractive characters.

We (DH and I) adopted a beautiful female tabby this past Sunday. She is following in the footprints of my dearly and recently departed Natalie who died over a month ago. She is beautiful, sweet, affectionate, snuggly, curious ... playful, all of the things one would expect in a ten weeks old kitten. I will attempt to post her picture on my profile page this week sometime. She is named after the protagonist of a wonderful first novel, The World In B Flat written by a Welsh woman of maturity and over forty years of experience as a librarian. It is lovely, filled with understanding and compassion and I am totally in love with the intrepid Gwinni, the young girl examining the occurrences in her small, Welsh village surrounding her own family's secrets and the mysterious death of the husband of a dear teacher/friend.

I'm thinking caring/loving thoughts and sending pleasant weather your way for you and yours to enjoy. (As if I had the POWER!) But, you know ... I just want your days to be a pleasure down there. Enjoy.

With love,

Ruthie

128wookiebender
Okt. 7, 2009, 5:52pm

Oh, I've got The World in B Flat hovering near the top of Mt TBR! I've heard so much good stuff about it.

Enjoy the new kitten - they are soooo much fun at that age. Our two "kittens" (their first birthday is at the end of the month) are still lovely, affectionate beasts, but have finally stopped keeping us awake at night, skittering over the tiled floor downstairs. (Scamper, scamper, scamper, sliiiiiiiiide, *crash*. Repeat.)

Sadly, our old cat, Stumpy, had to be put down this weekend just gone. It was her kidneys - she was terribly dehydrated, so was nauseous and hence not eating. The vet gave her an injection of saline to make her feel better, she came home for 24 hours so we could all say goodbye, then she was put to sleep late on Sunday night and buried in our backyard.

There is a cat-with-half-a-tail hole in our lives.

129cushlareads
Okt. 7, 2009, 10:38pm

wookie, really sorry to hear about your cat. Hope you feel better soon.

130wookiebender
Okt. 12, 2009, 6:27am

76. The Deeds of the Disturber, Elizabeth Peters



Ah, when life gets you down, Amelia Peabody is guaranteed to pick you up, dust you off, and send you on your way with a slightly foolish but cheerful grin.

Ms Peabody is the embodiment of anachronism, but we love her for it. Her modern feminism, her stout parasol (steel reinforced) and rejection of fashion, her undying love for Emerson and Egyptian archaeology, her complete utter and unwavering belief in her intellectual superiority, her fabulous hourglass shape, her unbridled enthusiasm for sex, and her intolerance for anyone vacuous makes her a heroine unlike any other.

In this book, the fifth in the series, takes a turn from the earlier books in that Amelia and Emerson are in London instead of Egypt, and are solving a murder that looks as if it may be a mummy's curse. This gives us a nice breather from hot and dusty Egypt, re-introduces some earlier characters who haven't been seen for a while, and allows Amelia to be let loose in a different city, dealing with over-enthusiastic journalists, opium dens, and some very ill behaved young family members.

And, as usual, I chortled happily all the way through.

****

131wookiebender
Okt. 12, 2009, 6:41am

77. The Girl Who Played With Fire, Stieg Larsson



So, is this a novel, or a glorified shopping list? The characters are forever buying Billy Pan Pizzas at 7-Eleven, Big Macs at McDonalds, etc. I flippantly said at the beginning of this book "there's more to Sweden than Ikea!", and then there was the excursion to Ikea for a shopping spree. (If I had an Ikea catalogue and I was an obsessed fan, I could probably replicate the exact shopping spree.)

The writing (or translating) is terribly clunky, and both this and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo needed a far better edit than they got, in my (not so humble) opinion. Yet... they are so terribly gripping. I actually had to put this down a number of times and go and read something fluffy in the meantime because the tension got too much. Lisbeth Salander may be a complete psycho, but I do love her, and I was so worried for her at times.

There was a bit too much meandering around with the plot - for a long while it did feel as if we were just twiddling our thumbs while the real plot got put together. And at times I wished we'd stick with Lisbeth a bit more. (And all the sexually adventurous middle-aged Swedes just gave me the giggles, frankly. Good on them for enjoying themselves, but could we have some more plot, please?)

But, when we finally got some plot, and concentrated on Lisbeth, I was a very happy reader. Although maybe a happy reader craving a Big Mac.

***1/2

132Berly
Okt. 21, 2009, 9:33pm

Hi Wookie!

133wookiebender
Okt. 21, 2009, 10:39pm

Hi Berly!

I've been a bit quiet here lately - I was hoping to catch up with a simply scathing review of Twilight, but Tuesday night was a wipeout (forgot my keys and ended up having to catch a taxi to get the kids from care & pick up the house keys from Mr TQD, and by the time we all got home I was too stressed/tired/annoyed with myself at having to spend $67 on cab fares to want to write any reviews) and then had friends over for dinner last night.

But I'm still here, and still reading. :)

But no buying any books for a while. *sigh*

Oh, and planning Mr Bear's 7th birthday parties (one for school friends, one for family & family friends) which is turning out to be far more effort than usual, given that two of his best mates have also scheduled their birthday parties for the same weekend. Meep! (Solution: we've moved our family party a week ahead; and we're in negotiations with the other mum about combining or moving her party to another weekend.)

I've got to get invitations out before anyone else tries to elbow in on that weekend!!

134bonniebooks
Okt. 21, 2009, 10:48pm

Your machinations sound so familiar, Wookiebee. I've been on both sides of those negotiations!

135wookiebender
Okt. 21, 2009, 11:02pm

The problem is, we've got such a limited window of opportunity for his party - my MIL is arriving on the 11th and leaving on the 24th. There's only two weekends in that timeframe!

We could do the schoolfriends party without her (she's really only down for the family party), but that just seems rather strange.

And we booked the venue first. :)

136Berly
Okt. 22, 2009, 12:30am

Well, if it makes you feel any better, my daughter's birthday was in July. We were out of town on vacation, but we did hold the family celebration with her godparents on her birthday. For her friends, we came up with a murder/mystery theme, but she got a lukewarm reception from some friends, so that got canceled. Then we had out of town guests for three different weekends, so those were out. Last weekend was my sons party. Then we planned a party at an indoor wave pool for next weekend, but her two best friends couldn't come. So now I am shooting for November, and whatever date I choose is just going to be it!!!!!

137lauralkeet
Okt. 22, 2009, 12:51pm

>134 bonniebooks:: Meep! I've never heard anyone say that except my teenage daughter's good friend. Well I guess I haven't heard you, either, Wookie, but just thought it was funny to see it in print.

138wookiebender
Okt. 22, 2009, 7:22pm

#137> Oh, my language is definitely stuck in some bizarre teenage world. (I blame Buffy.) I did say "gag me with a spoon" the other night, too.

I'm sure it'll embarrass the kids no end when they're old enough to notice. I fail to see a downside. ;)

139lauralkeet
Okt. 24, 2009, 6:19am

>138 wookiebender:: I did say "gag me with a spoon" the other night, too.
Like, Oh my Gawd!
Reminds me of that old Zappa "Valley Girl" parody song. What - ever!

140Berly
Okt. 24, 2009, 4:48pm

I said OMG (text lingo for Oh My God) out loud the other day and my sixteen-year-old was mortified. Tee hee! I know that secretly she is proud of me as one of the very few moms who texts, so I take her public scorn in stride.

141lauralkeet
Okt. 25, 2009, 7:15am

>140 Berly:: one of the very few moms who texts
That's funny ... I text, too, but pretty much only with my teenage daughters. I've found it to be VERY useful when they are out with friends. They can check in with me (we are at so-and-so's house, we are leaving for the football game now, etc.) and they don't even have to own up to their friends that that's what they are doing!

142womansheart
Bearbeitet: Okt. 25, 2009, 9:03am

Dear Wookie, the Bookie -

Well this has been a delightful stop on my way through LT "Talk" this Sunday morning. What a sweet ray of family sunshine you and your LibraryThing buddies bring to bear on life.

Your review of The Girl Who Played With Fire interested me in a way that no other review has done. There have been so many raves about it, that I haven't found it as intriguing as I might have found it otherwise. I like the bits about shopping, food, middle-aged Swedes having sex ... gives me a much different view of the book and the series as a whole.

I hope the birthday party is loads of fun for everyone, but, especially your Mr. Bear. All who posted about planning and staging b'day parties have obviously been there, done that. Cheers to all parents and especially to Moms.

Have a wonderful weekend and no more necessity for taxi fares for a long while!

With love,

Ruth

143wookiebender
Okt. 25, 2009, 7:09pm

Oh, I love texting. Sometimes I wonder what we did before the invention of mobile phones! And Google, another thing I cannot live without.

Thanks everyone for popping by! I'm at home today, sick with a ferocious headcold. So I'm now heading straight back to bed (I only got out of it to help with getting the kids to school/care) with my cup of tea and a good book (or three). It's a gloomy day, just perfect for doing nothing much in bed. I just wish I felt better!

I'll catch up on book reviews sometime rsn. Only eight to go. (Meep!)

144Berly
Okt. 26, 2009, 8:57pm

Uok? Take it EZ. Get some R&R. C U L8r. G2G. :)

145bonniebooks
Okt. 26, 2009, 8:58pm

LOL!

146wookiebender
Okt. 26, 2009, 10:33pm

Love it, Berly. :)

Although I do have to say, it's been commented by workmates that I'm the only person they know who uses proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation in text messages. I can read text speak, but that doesn't mean I have to type it. :)

147Berly
Okt. 26, 2009, 10:39pm

OK. I admit it, I looked up half of those just to make it obvious that I was texting! My favorite so far is POS, which is Parent Over Shoulder. Anyone who sees this should quickly say "Hold it! Take your hands away from the keyboard," and scroll up to see what was going on...LOL. I just need to get a new phone that has an actual keyboard. I have to hit the buttons three or four times to get the right letter. #2 button three times is A-B-C. Takes me forever to type! And I don' like the program which anticipates my word, 'cuz it won't let me do the correct two-letter words. WTF!! ;)

148womansheart
Okt. 28, 2009, 12:07am

>146 wookiebender: - >147 Berly: -

You two are bringing a happy smile to my face with the texting talk.

I hope that you feel better Wookie.

Berly, go for that qwerty keyboard ... you will love it.

Happy days to all and sundry.

Ruthie

149wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Okt. 28, 2009, 1:17am

Berly, I love T9 (which is the funky little program that guesses what you're typing). Mr TQD's phone even pops up with a short list of possible words! Mine isn't so classy, but I do have the option to cycle through the words to get the right choice (so I call my mate Cath, Cath, not Bath).

I must admit, the first time I came across it I had no idea what I was doing and it was all so bloody frustrating. Reading the manual is for wusses. ;)

Ruthie, feeling better, if not 100%. I should type: bag ag worg today. Scaring the coworkers with the pile of soggy tissues that's taking over my desk. I could build a fort out of them, and shoot nerf weapons over them at anyone daring to come near me to ask me a question. (Answer: I don't know, have you looked at the code yourself?) Sickness does make one slightly curmudgeonly.

150womansheart
Okt. 28, 2009, 12:15pm

>149 wookiebender: - Wookie -

I can tell you are recovering. Your sense of smell may not be back, but your sense of humor is now that you are "bag ag worg."

Love you and hope you continue to feel better all the time as the day goes forward.

Ruthie

151Berly
Okt. 28, 2009, 1:19pm

Ruthie-I am laughing so hard (LMAO) because I thought "bag ag worg" was something I had to type in to the T9 texting program in order to figure it out. I almost got out of my chair to get my phone when I realized it was the ol' talking with a "code" accent. Achoo!

152cushlareads
Okt. 28, 2009, 3:06pm

#151 I did the same thing! Wookie, glad you're feeling a bit better!

153wookiebender
Okt. 29, 2009, 6:31am

79. Twilight, Stephanie Meyer



Okay, this was a book that I felt I had to read before I could make a judgement on it: I can be a hardline feminist at times, but, well, I also enjoy some pretty trashy trash. Maybe this one could sneak under the feminist radar as a guilty pleasure.

In one word: no.

It is just so incredibly wet.

For example: there was one bit where Edward was very "I love you, against my better judgement" which was soooo Mr Darcy, and Bella really didn't reach any Miss Lizzie Bennett heights in response, but just went all confused. (I repeat: pathetic.) Now, it may be cruel comparing this book to Pride and Prejudice, arguably one of the world's greatest novels, but Ms Meyer brought it on herself. She's the one who writes Bella as a fan of literature, the Brontes and Austen in particular. So she's the one who cast my mind towards some proper heroines and highlighted the ghastliness of her own creation.

If you're going to have a love/hate relationship with your two main romantic leads, it would be good if there was some actual hate happening: Bella meets Edward and is instantly smitten. She's a pathetic pushover.

And what's with the yellow/tawny/amber/golden eyes? He sounds jaundiced. I couldn't wait until we got mustard coloured eyes. (Unfortunately, we didn't.)

Then later, Edward is being all "I'm ever so dangerous, you shouldn't be near me, but I love you and can't bear to be apart". (This is after stalking her, by the way.)

It's bloody psychological abuse, that's what it is. He's scaring her, and then backflips straight into "I'm the only one who can protect you".

And she bloody well thinks it's *romantic* (ditto the stalking).

I cannot believe that adult women have read and enjoyed this. Further, I cannot believe that we are allowing teenagers to read such twisted attitudes in the guise of romance. I'm banning it from my house (assuming it's still popular when Miss Boo is of teenage years). Or at least giving her the run down on how they are not in a healthy relationship, and how that cannot possibly be romantic.

Bella is unhealthily obsessed with an undead man who treats her appallingly, is many, many years older than her (what's with the hanging out in a school? Who would want to repeat High School ad infinitum?), and who stalks her. An undead paedophile. How gross can you get?

It's a train wreck of a book, but I couldn't quite turn away.

At the end, there was about 50 pages of plot in there somewhere, amongst the angst and wetness. But even then, thinking about it, it was the most useless excuse for a plot ever. The outcome was never in doubt: Edward was going to rush in and save her and kill the bad guy.

Sorry if that's a spoiler for anyone.

1/2 a star.

154bonniebooks
Okt. 29, 2009, 8:55am

It's scary when you think about all the women in real life who put up with appalling behavior and even serious abuse, then when asked why say, "But I love him!" or "He loves me!" Yuk!

155cushlareads
Okt. 29, 2009, 3:22pm

Great review - definitely worthy of a thumb!

Ugh, I hope it's gong by the time T is big too. Haven't read it. I see Wgtn library is running some kind of Twilight evening... didn't get past the headline to see exactly what it was. With all the HP hype followed by criticism, my attitude was that a) I loved the books so was biased and b) if it got kids reading then it must be good. With this one I don't think so! Not a fan of girls being taught to be doormats or worse...

156meags222
Okt. 30, 2009, 11:39am

Ha I loved your review for Twilight. I admit to reading the whole series but found myself getting irritated with Bella as well. My fiancee keeps saying that these vampire stories are getting ridiculous because as you stated why would someone 100s of years old want to keep going back to high school. I am a teacher in the elementary system and I couldn't imagine teaching high school again. I am staying far away from that and I'm only 27. :)

157wookiebender
Okt. 30, 2009, 6:04pm

Thanks everyone for your comments! (And your thumbs, wow!)

A friend (who gave me the original book) filled me in on the future plot, which was pretty much what I was expecting, although there were a few more squick moments. But at least I don't have to read further. :)

158wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Nov. 4, 2009, 5:04am

80. The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters



Buying & reading the latest novel by the wonderful Sarah Waters was a no-brainer. I have enjoyed her previous novels, in particular Fingersmith. No, wait, Affinity. No, wait, Tipping the Velvet was the best. Maybe. Too hard to decide!

This is the second of her novels to be set not in Victorian era, but in England in the period after the Second World War. Dr Faraday is a village doctor, barely keeping his head above water, when he gets summoned to visit a patient at Hundreds Hall, a grand Georgian house, whose inhabitants can barely keep it going. The Ayres family are being left behind by a changing society that no longer seems to have time for the old families of England.

And in the atmospheric gloom of the run-down old house, imagination starts running wild...

The writing is wonderful, the atmosphere of hot summer days filled with tension was wonderfully created; the character of Dr Faraday caught between the old world and the new was good, even if sometimes you wanted to slap some sense into him; and quite a bit of the plot was left ambiguous which I rather liked.

But overall this was a slightly disappointing book. After the richness of her previous books, with immense detail and spiffing plots and quirky characters, this is a much slower work, more involved in the psychology of the characters. At times the spookiness sent real shivers down my spine, but on the whole it was all a bit too distant, not really immediate, and I didn't care enough about any of the characters to be completely involved. And the ambiguity towards the end was just a bit too ambiguous - was I just imagining it could have happened the way I thought? Was I reading far too much between the lines?

From a different author, I would have loved this. But from Sarah Waters, it was almost a miss rather than a hit. It just lacked the oomph that I've grown to expect from her novels.

***1/2

159wookiebender
Nov. 4, 2009, 5:27am

81. Everything I Knew, Peter Goldsworthy



In 1964, the unfortunately named Robbie Burns is fourteen years old in the small town of Penola in South Australia. He's bright and precocious, writing endless science fiction novels, surviving the tough world of High School, and becoming mesmerised by his new teacher, the young, glamourous and passionately intellectual Miss Peach, who seems to want to mentor Robbie and help him with his writing.

Miss Peach is unlike anything the town has ever seen before, with her passion for poetry and art, her Vespa scooter, her stylish Audrey Hepburn fashions, her Kool cigarettes. The entire school seems to fall under her spell, but Robbie falls particularly hard given he's a teenager and she seems to be singling him out for special treatment.

I do have to say I didn't really get into this novel. It was evocative, but it was obviously all going to end rather badly so I never really wanted to warm to any of the characters. Miss Peach acted badly, Robbie was your typical sex-crazed egocentric teenager who is just far too literary to be totally believable, and most of the adults were unimpressive as well with their jealousies and flirtations with Miss Peach.

Although Miss Peach's housemates and fellow teachers, Miss Hammond and Miss Burke, never seen without a glass of wine and a cigarette to share between the two of them, and never heard without a quip to put down Robbie, are wonderful creations.

I read this for my bookgroup, and I do have to say that everyone else enjoyed it much more than I did! I barely took part in the discussions, because I just didn't care enough about the characters to want to discuss it or think about it beyond the initial read. I didn't hate it, but neither did I love it or even particularly enjoy it.

And while the final coda on memory and its notorious unreliability was excellent, and made me think that maybe it'd be worthwhile to go back and re-read sections, it was just all a bit too little, too late.

***

160wookiebender
Nov. 4, 2009, 5:44am

82. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl



This was read aloud to Mr Bear over a couple of week's worth of bedtimes. I'd previously read it as an adult to myself - I'd seen the movie with Gene Wilder as a child and was so scared by Violet Beauregarde blowing up into a giant blueberry I had nightmares for weeks and could never read any Roald Dahl books.

Now I wish I could turn back time and sit my younger self down with a copy of the book and skip the movie until I was several years older!

What a ripsnorter of a novel. Mr Bear hoovered it up, he loved the descriptions of the sweets, he loved the bad endings that came to all of the naughty children (who, I kept on drilling into him, just did not listen to Mr Wonka, and that was their downfall! Yes, we have having Not Listening To The Parental Units issues at the moment), he adored Charlie winning.

And, yes, I have let him see the most recent adaptation of the book. I warned him it was a bit scary at times, and then at the end, he turned around and said "that wasn't scary!" with scorn in his voice at the perceived wussiness of his Mum. (He did enjoy the movie, but it wasn't scary. Not even the melting dolls at the beginning, which I must admit, gives me the creeps.)

Of course, Miss Boo ended up cowering under her security blanket when Violet Beauregarde blew up into a giant blueberry. I wonder when I can get her started on Roald Dahl therapy?

*****

161womansheart
Nov. 4, 2009, 6:43am

Dear Wookie -

A wonderfully, smashing review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Sounds like the read aloud was fun for all of you. I love it when children have fun with being brave and seeing their parents cower a little with fear. It seems to make them laugh and appreciate themselves and us a little more.

You are a delightful Mom and it is a pleasure to hear about the reading you enjoy with Mr Bear and Miss Boo.

With love,

Ruth/womansheart

162lauralkeet
Nov. 4, 2009, 1:13pm

>158 wookiebender:: I've heard others say The Little Stranger is not her best. I'll still read it, but it is a shame!
>160 wookiebender:: The Gene Wilder film is really quite dated if you watch it now. I loved the Johnny Depp version and while I agree with you about the melting dolls (but wasn't Depp wonderful in that scene?), I thought the Oompa Loompas were incredible. Our DVD has extras that teach you how to dance like an Oompa Loompa as well.

163wookiebender
Nov. 4, 2009, 4:48pm

Oooh, I want to learn how to dance like an Oompa Loompa! The songs are permanently stuck in my head at the moment, so that might be an advantage. :)

And a second-rate Sarah Waters novel is still a very, very good novel. It just lacked the density of plot that I loved about her Victorian pastiches.

164wookiebender
Nov. 17, 2009, 5:38am

83. Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen



Maybe Twilight had one redeeming feature. It made me think "right, that's it, I'm going to read something by Jane Austen now to get the taste of Bella & Edward out of my brain". And at the bookshop, there was a tantalisingly gorgeous and ridiculously cheap edition of Sense and Sensibility, and I was thinking that maybe I hadn't read it, or then again, maybe I had...

So, due to my incipient early-onset-Alzheimer's, I got to re-read a Jane Austen novel, as if it was brand new. Completely cleaned the synapses of glittery vampires, too. What's not to love?

I really enjoyed this amusing tale of two sisters, one far too emotional for her own good, and the other one far too emotionally bottled up for her own good. I did side with Elinor for the most part, but I actually had a lot of time for silly Marianne, who usually I would have dismissed as a drama queen. I can't believe that anyone could write a drama queen as a character I would care for, but I obviously underestimated Miss Austen's talents.

And now I can go and read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. :)

****1/2

165wookiebender
Nov. 17, 2009, 5:48am

X. Blindness, Jose Saramago



I picked this up from the library, read quite a bit, but then realised I just had no energy to finish it. It was just far too bleak for me. Too much about Humankind's Inhumanity To Humankind, and things just kept on getting worse, with no indication that it would get better.

I was, truth be told, quite relieved to put it down and move on to more entertaining fare.

No rating, as it was unfinished.

166womansheart
Nov. 17, 2009, 8:19am

Hi, Wookie -

Glad that you enjoyed Sense and Sensibility so much after the "junk food" diet of the previous book.

Sometimes dystopia just doesn't do it for me either, so I will pass on Blindness also, and plan to enjoy something from the glittering wealth of my shelves here at home that are over flowing with good reads ... The Lacuna, Still Alice, Last Night in Twisted River, Black Swan Green and Half Broke Horses. I need two of me ... one to read and one to take care of the other important things in my life. Don't you agree?

I wish good days and happy times for you and your family,

with love,

Ruth

167Berly
Nov. 17, 2009, 10:26am

Loved Half Broke Horses! Will have to look at some of the other good reads you listed Ruth. It goes without saying that I also love anything by Jane!

168bonniebooks
Bearbeitet: Nov. 17, 2009, 11:57am

Hey, Ruth, I want to read Half Broke Horses too! I wish I could trade you a few unread books from my shelves for some of yours. If you don't have a whole lot of time right now, you can read Still Alice in an evening. Though, if you have any worries about losing your memory (as I do) you might not want to read it at all! ;-) But it's a great book! Black Swan Green is good too. Happy reading!

eta: Oops! Thought I was on Ruth's thread. Hey, Tania! Always jealous to hear someone is reading Jane. Happy reading to you too! :-)

169wookiebender
Nov. 17, 2009, 7:32pm

Ruth, that's a great list of books to read! I've been eyeing off The Lacuna in the shops - but no new (or new secondhand) books are allowed in the house until the new year. So it'll have to wait awhile. (And maybe in the meantime, I could get around to reading her Prodigal Summer which has been on my shelves for too long, hmmm?)

I keep on hearing about Half Broke Horses, I might have to look into that one a bit. (Do I need to have read her The Glass Castle first?)

170bonniebooks
Nov. 18, 2009, 2:24am

The story of Half Broke Horses comes first chronologically, but I think you should really read The Glass Castle first! Just my opinion.

171teelgee
Nov. 18, 2009, 3:14am

wookiebee -- have you read other Kingsolver books? 'Cause, imo, Prodigal Summer is not a good representation of her fantastic writing. It's my least favorite of hers -- well, I really didn't even like it much.

I just got The Lacuna as a gift this weekend, I'm looking forward to reading it very much!

172wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Nov. 18, 2009, 4:05am

The only Kingsolver book I've read is Poisonwood Bible - and I wouldn't rave. I thought most of it was a bit lacking in tension - you *knew* it was going to end badly in Africa, with a father like that, although I wasn't sure how/when. But I thought the final part, with the grown up daughters was quite magnificent, and I definitely learnt about The Congo, which is always a plus.

Prodigal Summer just happens to be on my shelves, and I ran into it the other weekend. :) Oh, and LT has just told me I also own Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - I forgot that one was by her.

(Edited for clarification. I must learn to read before I hit Submit.)

173wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Nov. 19, 2009, 5:24am

84. The Island of Doctor Moreau, H. G. Wells



I picked this up on a whim when Blindness (my then current read) proved to be too bleak for me and I was stuck at work without a book to read on the bus home. Set on the eponymous Island, which is rather well known by now given this book's classic status, the megalomaniacal Doctor Moreau experiments turning animals into humans.

This is a over-the-top gothic horror, with Well's usual blunt-force moralising, and the creepiest scientist-gone-mad-with-power ever to grace fiction.

Enjoy it? Absolutely.

Something about Victorian adventures, they're just awfully good fun. Usually I baulk at the whole mad scientist character (something about having a science background myself, it just makes me feel picked-upon), but I really enjoyed hissing and booing at this particular villain. And this book also had a nice frisson of horror at the end.

***1/2

NOTE: this is when I started scaling things down 1/2 a star or so. I was just giving too many books too many stars. Time for some Tough Love with my reading.

174wookiebender
Nov. 19, 2009, 5:35am

85. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman



I love Neil Gaiman's books, and this is no exception. A young boy escapes the slaughter of his family and ends up taking refuge in the local graveyard, where the ghosts bring him up.

The book dips in and out of his life as he grows up and learns, each chapter being a particularly important part of Bod's life.

I found this charming, an easy read, and entertainingly quirky.

****1/2

(There goes my resolution to shave off half a star... Unless this really was a five star read. ;)

175Berly
Nov. 19, 2009, 12:44pm

Careful shaving Wookie! We don't want you to have to make a run on bandaids!! I read creepy Dr. Moreau a long time ago, but remember that he was a great villain. The Graveyard Book sound intriguing. Is it a YA book?

176cushlareads
Nov. 19, 2009, 2:18pm

I read The Poisonwood Bible last year and quite liked it but didn't love it. But I did love The Bean Trees - much less heavy-handed on the moral of the story.

177wookiebender
Nov. 19, 2009, 5:54pm

Berly, yes, The Graveyard Book is young adult. Most of his books are adult fiction, although he does some great kids' picture books, and my local library will insist on putting his "Sandman" graphic novel series into the teen section. (Adults read graphic novels too!)

I don't know if I would have liked his books when I was a kid, I was a pretty wussy child. :) But I'm hoping I can foist them on my kids when they're bigger. They've got quite a bit of spookiness to them, and I love them as an adult.

His writing style is great for kids - he doesn't talk down to them at all.

Hi Cushla! I'll keep my eyes open for The Bean Trees, thanks! (Although no book buying until the new year... no book buying until the new year... no book buying until the new year... *sob*)

178womansheart
Nov. 19, 2009, 10:01pm

Instead of just lurking and shoving off again, I am stopping to say hello and all the best to you and yours.

I'm with some of the other readers ... try Barbara Kingsolver's earlier books first, then the more recent ones. She is a marvelous, gifted writer and an equally nifty person.

Ruth/WH

179bonniebooks
Nov. 19, 2009, 11:30pm

Animal Dreams was my favorite Kingsolver. Prodigal Summer is a much lighter book than Poisonwood Bible--my least favorite Kingsolver, by the way. You could read Prodigal Summer in an afternoon. In fact, you should wait for a summer afternoon to read it.

180Berly
Nov. 20, 2009, 4:32pm

Hi Wookie--

Thanks for the info on Graveyard. I have it written down on THE LIST. (It is long enough now that it deserves caps!) I agree with previous Kingsolver assessments: Loved Animal Dreams, Bean Trees, and not so much Poisonwood Bible. I will have to add Prodigal Summer to my summer list.
Happy reading!

181wookiebender
Nov. 20, 2009, 6:24pm

Well, we're heading into summer right now (matter of fact, summer's come early this week, it's been Very Hot for several days now!), so maybe Prodigal Summer will actually get read earlier rather than later. ;)

And The Bean Trees is on my wishlist now. Thanks everyone.

182wookiebender
Nov. 23, 2009, 4:57am

86. Strangers, Taichi Yamada



A Japanese ghost story, this concerns TV scriptwriter Harada who is a man without any family. His parents were killed in a hit and run when he was a boy and he spent the rest of his life with his elderly grandfather (now dead) and uncle (now also dead). He is recently divorced, and estranged from his only son. As he is penurious following his divorce, he is living in his office, meaning that at night he is often the only person in his building, next to a noisy express way.

In this empty life, he one day runs into a man who looks uncannily like his father, at the same age he was when he died. He goes back to this man's house and meets his wife, who is also a dead ringer for his mother.

Have his parents come back to him? Why? How?

In the midst of this intriguing story, there is also a second plot revolving around a young woman who also lives in the office block. This second story doesn't resolve nearly as well as the first, unfortunately, and since it ends after the story of Harada's "parents", it did mean that the entire ending felt disappointing.

I was expecting something with a bit more "BOO!" in it, in the style of Japanese horror cinema like "The Ring" or "Dark Water". It's not that sort of ghost story for the most part, being mainly about family and missed opportunities. It was more hit than miss, but an interesting story overall, with a fascinating premise.

***

183wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Nov. 26, 2009, 5:20am

87. Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett



The first of the Continental Op series by Dashiell Hammett who single-handedly invented hard-boiled crime, if Wikipedia is to be believed. Red Harvest is set during the prohibition era in a small mining town, Personville - more commonly known as Poisonville - which is riddled with corruption. The (unnamed) Continental Op is called in to solve the murder of the son of town's founding father who also happens to be the source of all its corruption. You see, some years before, Daddy brought in some hard men to break the Union. The hard men did that, then looked around, liked what they saw, and settled in. With corruption going all the way to the top, it's every man for himself.

Our hero solves the murder by about page 60, which was a bit of a surprise to me. But then turns his sights on cleaning up the corruption of Personville. However, it proves to be far too easy to slide into corruption himself in his quest to clean up...

I loved the atmosphere of this book. There were beautiful tough dames, ugly tough men, gunfights in the middle of the town on what seemed to be a daily schedule at one stage, tight dialogue, touches of dry humour, and gripping action. But most of all, it's not a clear-cut book, it is filled with moral ambiguities with our hero's actions being most un-heroic, even when done for the best of intentions.

'Look. I sat at Willsson's table tonight and played them like you'd play trout, and got just as much fun out of it. I looked at Noonan and knew he hadn't a chance in a thousand of living another day because of what I had done to him, and laughed, and felt warm and happy inside. That's not me. I've got hard skin all over what's left of my soul, and after twenty years of messing around with crime I can look at any sort of a murder without seeing anything in it but my bread and butter, the day's work. But this getting a rear out of planning deaths is not natural to me. It's what this place has done to me.'

"Poisonville" is a very apt name for the town, poisoning everyone's lives.

****

184wookiebender
Nov. 26, 2009, 5:39am

88. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole



Finally picked this one up after many, many recommendations. The person who recommended it to me last and loudest reckoned that Ignatius J Reilly *is* the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. (Fat, overly enamoured of his own literate opinions, a Masters degree in something arty, etc.) So he was a big simply-drawn yellow slob in my mind as I read it. :)

And A Confederacy of Dunces took me an age and a half to finish! I kept on putting it down and picking up other books in between (never a good sign). I could *see* the humour in Confederacy but it wasn't tickling my funny bone much.

It's not that it's not a good book (Ignatius J Reilly is an amazing comic creation), it's just that if a nuclear bomb were to be dropped on New Orleans in the book at about the halfway point, I might have just breathed a sigh of relief that all these irredeemable characters were blown to kingdom come. There's not a single character that I could identify with, let alone *like*. I tagged it "grotesque" at one stage, and I'm sticking with that as the one-word-summing-up.

Can't say I enjoyed it - all the characters were most unlikeable, and there didn't seem to be any point in the plot (they're all still revolting at the end, and I like a bit of character development). It's been highly recommended by a number of people (most of whom are men, if that makes a difference), and is on the 1001 You Must Read Before You Die list, but I think it's a personal thing - they probably got the humour.

It's not a dreadful book, it's just not for me.

***

185wookiebender
Nov. 26, 2009, 5:50am

89. Un Lun Dun, China Mieville



A serendipitous library find. We'd borrowed this once before, but hadn't gotten around to reading it. This time, thanks to a nasty headcold, it was the book of choice while I wallowed in bed for two days, feeling stuffed up and sorry for myself.

I am a fan of China Mieville's adult fiction, in particular Perdido Street Station, so I was curious to see how he'd go with a young adult book. I do have to admit that the opening chapters were a bit too young for my tastes and felt slow and awkward, but there were some potentially great ideas, and I stuck with it, sure that it would settle down (or that I'd settle into it).

And I'm glad I did. What felt forced in the first half became effortless in the second, and I really soaked up all the imaginative details and the page-turning plot. Highly recommended, especially for Neil Gaiman and Lewis Carroll fans.

***1/5

186bonniebooks
Nov. 27, 2009, 1:02am

I admire your persistence in finishing Confederacy of Dunces. I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters. Not my kind of humor at all.

187wookiebender
Nov. 28, 2009, 9:51pm

Well, I thought there might have been a *point* somewhere in it all. Turns out I was wrong, which was a shame. If there had been some sort of epiphany or turning point or even some character development, it would have been a much better book. As it was, I can see why some people like it, but I didn't.

188Berly
Nov. 28, 2009, 11:53pm

Hi Wookie! Hope you are feeling all better. And thanks for saving me the trouble of reading Dunces. Mwaaaa! (That's me blowing you a kiss.)

189wookiebender
Nov. 29, 2009, 7:09pm

Hi Berly! Oh yes, much better. I'm only about six books behind in my reviewing, so while I had a nasty headcold while reading Un Lun Dun, that was about a month ago now. :)

190Berly
Nov. 30, 2009, 6:29pm

I have decided to take a much more lenient approach to my reviews in the second half of this year. They were slowing me down and seriously detracting from my book enjoyment. So now I write a quick blurb and rate the books with stars and try not to fret about my lack of literary eloquence. Too much else going on in life!

191wookiebender
Dez. 2, 2009, 5:43am

Berly, those are wise words. :) I have been contemplating a similar approach, but there's always so much I do want to say (about some books, at least), that I am still getting bogged down. (Seven reviews to go now.)

But tonight, I'm going to bed early so I can get some reading done. That's surely even more important! :)

192Berly
Dez. 12, 2009, 4:45pm

So....where are your insightful reviews then?!? Inquiring minds want to know! I am so far behind I haven't even listed the ones I've read, let alone reviewed them. Ah well, it is the thought that counts, right?

193wookiebender
Dez. 12, 2009, 6:47pm

Sorry, I've fallen victim to small children being overly excited about an upcoming visit from Santa. They *won't* go to bed at night, they wake up all over the place, they talk (very VERY loudly) at me all the time...

Roll on, December 26th!

Until then, I might just post rough notes, proper reviews be damned.

(Ack. They're now throwing the plush toys down the stairs. Oh well, indoor exercise...)

194teelgee
Dez. 12, 2009, 6:54pm

At least they're not throwing each other down the stairs.

195wookiebender
Dez. 12, 2009, 6:59pm

90. George's Marvellous Medicine, Roald Dahl



This is one that Mr Bear chose for us to read together. His beloved Year One teacher (Mr M.) read it out to the class, so Mr Bear wanted to introduce me to it as well. And, amazingly, he didn't tell me what was going to happen as we read! There is hope for him yet.

A short amusing read, about George who invents a Marvellous Medicine to give to his ghastly grandmother, which turns out to have all sorts of unexpected side effects. Possibly it should be used as a cautionary tale (don't play with medicines!) but I doubt very much that was Mr Dahl's idea, and it just plays as an amusing revenge romp.

With some very fun side effects on some innocent chickens. PETA lovers, beware.

***1/2

196wookiebender
Dez. 12, 2009, 7:22pm

#194> I'm very thankful for small mercies. They're now making hotels for their respective plushes in my *new* bookshelves. (Well, new second hand. I walked past a garage sale yesterday...)

197wookiebender
Dez. 12, 2009, 7:39pm

91. Every Last Drop, Charlie Huston



The fourth, and penultimate, book in the Joe Pitt series. Joe remains the hardest bastard every to live (or, rather, die, since he's a vampire) in a book that has an awful lot of hard bastards. Blood, tough men staring angrily at each other, more blood, torture, more blood, and three murders in the first 50 pages. Not for the faint of heart.

For the non-faint of heart, this is a great series, as hard-boiled as they come.

This one does feel a bit like a place holder, just setting things up for the final book (My Dead Body), but I still enjoyed it immensely. For a hard bastard, Mr Pitt remains incredibly likeable. I think it's the strict slightly old-fashioned moral code that hard men at the center of noir novels tend to have. He may be inventively killing dozens of vampires, but he's careful with humans, and treats women with respect.

****

198Berly
Dez. 14, 2009, 6:32pm

Hi Wookie! See, I knew you could do it, write some reviews I mean. I think I might have to look up this hard bastard named Joe the vampire: sounds good! And I love Dahl. I wish you best of luck with the plush animals. My kids are a little older, but they are still collecting: now they want Webkins, which are toys that they can then use to sign on to web-based animated games as that character. So don't expect the little animals to disappear for quite some time!

199wookiebender
Dez. 14, 2009, 8:02pm

Oh, I was even halfway through review #92 when the computer froze, and I lost what I was working on. *sigh* (This Mac is beautiful, but is probably about 10 years old now, and is finally beginning to show its age. We're upgrading next year when Miss Boo is at school and we can stop the child care fees that have bled us dry for so many years now!)

200cataluna
Dez. 18, 2009, 5:13am

I'm with #198, Joe the Vampire sound good, I'll have to check him out in the new year.

I've also tracked down a copy of World War Z which I'm reading over the Christmas holidays...because nothing says I love you family like blood, mayhem and brains! I'll have to let you know what I think.

201wookiebender
Dez. 19, 2009, 8:39pm

cataluna, I did love World War Z. Hope you like it too!

202wookiebender
Dez. 19, 2009, 8:49pm

92. The Last Camel Died at Noon, Elizabeth Peters



This is the sixth Amelia Peabody mystery. This woman has a knack of getting into far too much trouble. This time, with a lost city in the middle of the Sudan, which is in the middle of a fairly bloody war. So, of course, Miss Peabody is in the thick of it all.

Instead of her usual battle-of-wills with the infamous (and as yet unnamed) Master Criminal, this book sees her dive into the desert, following a crude map, on the trail of some fellow English adventurers who have been missing for some decades. (Impossibility isn't the sort of thing that daunts Miss Peabody.) No wonder the last camel died at noon! She and her companions stumble across a lost city in the middle of the Sudan, and proceed to wreak havoc with the ancient civilisation that lives there.

And I think that might be the weak point for me. It's apparently a homage to previous adventure stories such as She or King's Solomon's Mines, neither of which I've read. And it just wasn't as much fun as Amelia battling the Master Criminal. Too much sitting around, waiting for a chance to do some adventuring, and not enough adventuring!

But one slight dud in an otherwise highly entertaining series does not dim my enthusiasm for the following Amelia Peabody adventures, as she remains a heroine of the highest order.

***

203wookiebender
Dez. 28, 2009, 12:57am

93. Landscape of Farewell, Alex Miller



A poignant meditation on loss and secrets that can alienate families. This is the story of history professor Max Otto, who was a child in Germany during the second World War and whose life has been deeply affected by the subsequent guilt, most especially by the fact that he never knew exactly what his own father did during the war. As the book opens, he's grieving for his recently dead wife and planning on killing himself as soon as he's finished giving a paper at a local history conference. There he meets a young Australian academic, Professor Vita McLelland, and rediscovers his passion for life.

The rest of the book takes place in outback Queensland as Max spends a few weeks with Vita's Uncle Dougald. Max and Dougald get along very well, although - or perhaps because - they are both taciturn men, and the time they spend together ends up being far more profound and dramatic than they were expecting.

One of the interesting themes of this book was that of massacres. Max, although an innocent to World War Two's atrocities, feels deep guilt for them. And Dougald's ancestor was a powerful man in his Aboriginal community, another group of people who know all too well about massacres. And Max always yearned to write about such things as a historian, but was never able to because of his own guilt and took the easier path academically into medieval history.

I found this overall a bit too slow and stately, it focussed very much on the characters' inner lives, and I generally enjoy books that are less psychologically introspective. But the characters were interesting (although I never did quite understand Vita), and it was beautifully written.

***1/2

204Berly
Dez. 28, 2009, 1:56pm

Hi Wookie! My list is too long to add another book, any book, at this point. But I do enjoy your reviews. Ciao!

205wookiebender
Dez. 28, 2009, 10:20pm

Thanks, Berly! I think I may have actually read my 100 books this year (squeaked it in!), but am quite behind in reviews. (Not helped by school holidays.) I'm hoping to knock the last few over before the year clicks over, but it might be a flurry of review writing on Thursday night. (Ah, takes me back to Uni... ;)

206wookiebender
Dez. 29, 2009, 12:31am

94. Ice, Louis Nowra



A very wild retelling of a part of Australian history I knew nothing about. (Don't you love books that also educate you?) The fiction (towing an iceberg to Sydney, amongst other tales) is mixed in liberally with the facts (the life of Malcolm McEacharn, an early mover and shaker in Australian business and politics). If McEacharn was still alive, he'd be suing the pants off of Louis Nowra round about now.

But he's not, meaning that we can enjoy this wonderful toboggan ride through Australian history.

The book opens with young McEacharn and his business partner, Andrew McIlwraith, towing an iceberg into Sydney Harbour one hot summer. While this doesn't make their fortune (their backers get the lion's share of the profits), it does make their name in colonial Australia, and as the book progresses, their fortunes rise as they become the first people to successfully ship frozen meat from Australia to England, and then move into immigration, shipping English people out to the Australia to make their own fortune. But as the story progresses, we find out Malcolm's full story and his obsession with his first wife. And this tale is paralleled by the story of the narrator who slowly emerges from the usual role of a disinterested party as we discover his own reasons for writing this story.

The pressure builds as both McEacharn and the narrator's obsessions are fully revealed, leaving me emotionally bereft at the end from the narrator's story, and rather gobsmacked at the extent of McEacharn's obsession.

And I likes me a tale of obsession, I does.

This is not a book for everyone: those of you who prefer their history untweaked should keep well away, but I thought this was a marvellous story.

****1/2

207wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Dez. 29, 2009, 2:31am

95. The Mask of Dimitrios, Eric Ambler



Another wonderful recommendation from LibraryThing's members. (Thank you!) This thriller was written prior to World War Two, yet is surprisingly fresh and gripping. It concerns English crime writer, Charles Latimer, who is travelling in Europe and who becomes fixated on the story of murdered criminal Dimitrios (no known last name). He sets out to uncover Dimitrios's history, travelling all over the continent.

But of course, putting yourself on the trail of a master criminal does tend to put you in the view of other criminals...

This was a deftly done novel, a light touch of humour around Latimer's mild incompetence, and a wonderful sense of impending doom with Hitler on the rise and paranoia rampant throughout Europe.

I should have known it was going to be good when I saw the cover blurb was from Graham Greene. one of my favourite authors. And it does have all the wonderful Greene hallmarks: beautiful, concise writing; morally ambiguous characters; engrossing plot. Highly recommended.

****1/2

208Berly
Dez. 29, 2009, 2:25am

Wookie--I am down to the finish line. Two books to go in three days to make my 100. Are you doing 100 again next year or what? I am thinking either 75 or the 10 in 2010.

209wookiebender
Dez. 29, 2009, 2:44am

I've signed up for the 100 again in 2010 - it seems to be my usual(ish) number of books, and I don't really have time to challenge myself any further than maintaining the status quo! I've started a thread already, and it's fairly content free so far: http://www.librarything.com/topic/79496

Let me know (or post on your own thread!) where you end up with your challenge next year, and I'll star it. I like keeping up with these challenges and what everyone else is reading.

I was contemplating doing the "1010" challenge as well (10 books in 10 categories), but I didn't want any extra complications!

210wookiebender
Dez. 29, 2009, 5:40pm

96. Elizabeth and her German Garden, Elizabeth von Arnim



A simply delightfully charming read.

There was a mention of a contemporary review in the introduction to my edition which mentioned that the amateur gardener would be bitterly disappointed because it gave no advice on when to prune or how to deal with garden pests.

Methinks that reviewer missed the point, somehow.

(And it reminds me of the review for Lady Chatterley's Lover for some English country magazine that praised it as a truthful representation of an gameskeeper's life.)

To me, while it was delightful and full of whimsical frippery (and lists of flowers I've never heard of), there was also quite a serious undertone similar to that in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own: women need space, peace, and something to interest them. Of course, I think most people would be bloody lucky to have enough money to have leisure time like Elizabeth! I particularly liked a brief comment at the beginning: ...and all forms of needlework of the fancy order are inventions of the evil one for keeping the foolish from applying their hearts to wisdom.

Exactly. Women need proper intellectual stimulation, not pretend work that keep their hands busy but their minds idle. (Of course, the ideal situation would be a stitch'n'bitch group, but that's some decades after Ms von Arnim.) Luckily Elizabeth has the fortitude to ignore the conventions of a stultifying society, and spend her time doing what she wants: reading, gardening, and ignoring all forms of housework.

What an ideal life!

****

211lauralkeet
Dez. 29, 2009, 5:53pm

Oh yes, that's an absolutely lovely book. I agree with the presence of a Woolf undertone. I'd like to read more von Arnim, I think I have a couple others in my Virago Modern Classics collection.

212wookiebender
Dez. 29, 2009, 6:49pm

97. The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton



I read this for my online Australian literature reading group (it was the "light fiction" choice for this month). I was looking forward to it - I was promised a "Great Read" by a lurid gold sticker from The Women's Weekly plastered on the front cover - but overall it just annoyed me.

The main plot involves Nell, a little girl discovered on the wharf in Queensland after disembarking from a passenger ship in the 1920s. Nell can't remember her name or her family and no one comes forward to claim her, so the wharf master and his wife adopt her. On her 21st birthday, Nell is told the real story of her life, and it sends her into a spiral, changing her life forever. In the parallel plot, Nell's granddaughter, Cassandra, is dealing with the Nell's death and is finding out about Nell's origin as well. Then there is a further parallel plot with Nell's parents. (Confused yet? We were!) And then there are fairy tales dotted throughout the book, paralleling the action.

The main characters however were very likeable (or characters you liked to hate, which is just as good), and I was curious to see if I was right (I mostly was, but I did over-complicate it a bit) and to see how the characters worked it out themselves.

The best bits were the fairy tales, which were quite delightful, and reminded me of Oscar Wilde's fairy tales, as well as a lovely collection of English fairy tales I loved as a child. There were also a number of fairy tale elements to the plot - the wicked stepmother, lost children, overgrown gardens, the almost supernatural beauty of Eliza (the author of the fairy tales).

However, even given the superficial complexities and time jumping, the story of Nell's birth and family was obvious, and I kept on thinking Cassandra must be a bit of a dill to not see it!

And there were a number of minor irritations as well: for example, when the dashing young man that has Cassandra blushing turned out to be a *doctor*, not a "mere" gardener, I almost pffft'ed out loud. That to me landed it fairly out of "literary fiction" (my preferred genre) and into "light fiction" - what woman would want to marry a gardener (poor income) when they could have a doctor (high income). Just too much of a "romance" wishlist - the handsome, sensitive, educated young man.

What's wrong with being a bloody gardener, I wanted to know.

Although, yes, it is nice to not have to worry about money. (I sometimes think of Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei Lee in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" - "Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn't marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help?")

It wasn't the best light fiction I've ever read, but it wasn't dreadful either - good ideas and some nice characters. Maybe it needed a good edit or something, it's probably that "difficult second novel".

**1/2

213wookiebender
Dez. 29, 2009, 6:52pm

#211> My Mum did also lend me Love by von Arnim (no touchstone). And she (now that she's read Elizabeth and her German Garden), she actually preferred Love since it had a plot and is pushing me to read it!

Unfortunately her books are out of print in Australia - it is easy enough to order them in from overseas, but I do keep on freaking out about the carbon footprint of getting books from Amazon or whatever. Not to mention that it means I'm not supporting my lovely local independent bookshop! Mum & I shall continue to scour second hand shops for her books...

214teelgee
Dez. 29, 2009, 9:23pm

wookiebee -- what's the library system like where you are? Good? Adequate?

Ooo, you are close to your 100! *Chilling the champagne*

215pamelad
Bearbeitet: Dez. 29, 2009, 11:20pm

Wookie, a fellow fan of Eric Ambler here. Have been on a binge this year and can recommend some more of his early books: Cause for Alarm, Journey into Fear and Epitaph for a Spy.

ETA Background to Danger

216wookiebender
Dez. 30, 2009, 12:17am

#214> I like my local library (20 books out for 3 weeks! and I can ask for any book in any of the five branches and one stack), but there are some holes - that I probably wouldn't ever have known about it if wasn't for the recommendations of overseas readers here on LibraryThing! I find them good for classics, Australian books, and anything new and popular. But if it's something that's not available here in the first place (eg, Ngugi wa Thiong'o) then they're not going to have it either.

I think it's the local suppliers that are to blame, rather than the library system!

But I'd be sad if I lived overseas and didn't have new and not-yet-popular Australian authors easily available!

#215> Oh, Journey Into Fear is on my shortlist when I'm allowed to buy new books in the new year. (Only two sleeps to go!)

217wookiebender
Dez. 30, 2009, 1:14am

98. The Reformed Vampire Support Group, Catherine Jinks



This is not your typical group of literary vampires. Instead of casting a glamour on you and slinking around and being generally sexy and evil, they're more likely to throw up on your shoes due to the nausea from being undead. And, instead of being found in any glamourous setting; they're far more likely to be found kvetching at each other on a Tuesday night at their support group, where they try to support each other in their decision to not bite humans.

I liked the "reality" of this bunch of vampires - without glamour, it's hard to get by in this human world, identification is difficult to get, and they're generally scraping a living in all-night call centres, trying to not bleed everywhere. Plus, our heroine is a perpetual 15 year old, while one of the other vampires was a saintly 90 year old nun when she was bitten. This is not your usual glamourous bunch.

The plot is kicked off when one of the group - the rather repulsive Casimir, who is responsible for biting most of the people in the group - is staked through the heart. Who tracked them down? How much do they know? Did they get Casimir's address book and are they coming to get the rest of them...?

Unfortunately, any decision these vampires make has to be discussed and bitched about as a group, and they keep on falling into the same old alliances and fights each time. After a couple of decades together, this is only to be expected, but it does make it a bit of a dialogue-y sort of book, rather than an action-orientated book.

It also reminded me of the classic Monty Python scene from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail": We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week. But all the decision of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting. By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two-thirds majority... Only less funny.

Overall, it was a nice antidote to the current crop of paranormal romances, and the characters were fun, and I didn't see where the plot was going. It's not a great book, but it was a fun quick read.

***1/2

218Berly
Dez. 30, 2009, 2:30am

So, Wookie, #98! Does that mean you are caught up on reviews or just shy? Your reviews are much more lovely than mine -- I have been going for the Reader's Condensed version lately. I just finished #99 so I have two days to read #100. Yeah! I think I shall make it. :) Might commit to the 75 thread next year, although I will probably hit about the same number read, but I am also thinking about the 1010. Don't want to maintain two sites though. It would wear me down. Will let you know where I wind up. I am off to star your new one. Happy New Year if I don't talk to you again before then.

219wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Dez. 30, 2009, 6:34am

Berly, this means I'm burning the midnight oil to get all my reviews finished for the year so I can start my 2010 reviews fresh! I'd like to make them shorter, but there's always so much I want to say (I know my memory, and if I don't jot it down now, I never will remember it!).

Mr Bear & I finished reading his book aloud tonight, so I'm finishing with a grand total of 103 books. Five reviews to go! And 25.5 hours (Sydney time!) to write the reviews!

Thanks for the New Year wishes! I hope you have a Happy New Year too!

ETA: I can't add. ;)

220wookiebender
Dez. 30, 2009, 6:41am

99. Things We Didn't See Coming, Steven Amsterdam



This book won The Age Book of the Year award for 2009, and combine that with a rather funky cover, and I snaffled it off the library bookshelf as soon as I saw it there. It's a series of futuristic dystopian short stories (or a disjointed narrative, as has been pointed out, given that the narrator is the same in each story). The first story kicks off on New Year's Eve 1999, as the world waited for planes to drop out of the sky. Or partied happily. (I was in the second group.) So while there's a sense of menace to that first story, we also know that it all actually ended well - no planes actually did fall out of the sky.

But the following stories are set in a future where it never stops raining, or it hasn't rained for years. Where plagues wipe out the populations and cities are in quarantine zones. Where society is crumbling due to all the stresses put upon it.

So maybe while the planes didn't fall out of the skies, it was the start of the end anyhow.

These are very well done short stories, a good sense of dread throughout them, but overall it was just a bit too depressing for me.

***1/2

221wookiebender
Bearbeitet: Dez. 30, 2009, 6:55am

100. The Lambs of London, Peter Ackroyd



You know, when I first picked this off the shelf at the library, I assumed that the "lambs" of the title were metaphorical. You know, the lost innocents of London. Instead, it's about Charles and Mary Lamb, of Tales from Shakespeare fame. (Although maybe they are lost innocents themselves.)

As it opens, young Charles is working as a clerk and beginning to write essays. Mary is struggling to care for the family, with her father suffering from dementia and her mother unsupportive of her efforts. As the book progresses, Charles' star rises while Mary's life becomes more and more closed in and helpless. And while the two siblings are very close, Charles is unable to understand Mary's unhappiness.

In a parallel plot, young William Ireland has stumbled upon a treasure trove of lost Shakespearean papers. He knows Charles by sight, and since the young Lambs are such admirers of Shakespeare, the paths of them all cross and entangle together.

The climax of the book was a complete shock and sent me running to Google and Wikipedia to find out the truth. And, in basic format, the story of the Lambs is true, as is that of William Ireland. However, they did not ever meet or even know each other, that was pure fiction by Peter Ackroyd's. (But excellent fiction.)

I'm not the sort of person who wants absolute truth from her historical fiction. This had a wonderful sense of place and time, the basic facts are true, and it's all blended together with a modicum of truth bending into a fascinating and gripping story. I loved it.

****

222wookiebender
Dez. 30, 2009, 7:14am

101. Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel



A wonderfully dense, engrossing, marvellous read. It starts off with young Thomas Cromwell being kicked in the mud by his brute of a father. And Thomas Cromwell somehow grows up from that poor bedraggled boy into one of the most powerful men in Tudor England. It doesn't help that he's incredibly clever at politics. And languages. And people. And maths. And business.

He's some sort of poster boy for smart people everywhere, I reckon.

This book is written in such sparse language. Bare bones of descriptions on which to hang luscious dialogue and internal thoughts. But it does take some getting used to. For example, the use of 'he' pronoun all the time to refer to Thomas. Gives a sense of his importance to the book's story, but I kept on thinking 'the cat's father'?

What I liked best about this book was that it didn't feel as if modern psychology had been put to work on the historical characters, moulding them into people with modern ideas and feelings and thoughts so that we could understand them. You really get a feeling for Thomas being of a different age to ours with his strong attachment to those who treat him well, and the flipside of his holding a grudge for those who treat him poorly.

But he was very likeable, a great character on which to hang such a wonderful book.

I feel that I've failed to capture the book at all with my comments. I did love it, but I'm just not sure what to say about it but: Wow.

****1/2

223Berly
Dez. 30, 2009, 9:08am

Lambs of London and Wolf Hall both sound great! I shall never catch up at this rate, but fall happily farther and farther behind on my Wish List!

224cataluna
Dez. 31, 2009, 5:00am

Congratualations yourself on making 100. Looking forward to seeing what you read in '10. Happy New Year :)

225merry10
Dez. 31, 2009, 8:53pm

That's a great review of Wolf Hall wookiebender. I'm a sucker for smart people. Lambs of London looks great too.

226bonniebooks
Jan. 2, 2010, 11:14pm

I'm reading Wolf Hall now, WookieBee! Love the cover on Things We Didn't see Coming, but I'm not big on dystopian novels--there's enough bad stuff happening in the real world for me to get all worried about what's going to happen in the end after the end (if you know what I mean). Maybe I'll read Ice just because I love the image of an iceberg being towed to Australia.

227wookiebender
Jan. 2, 2010, 11:41pm

Bonnie, I did love Ice! It's quite unusual, but fascinating. And if I'd known Things We Didn't See Coming was dystopian, I probably would have left it on the library shelf. ;) I have a limited appetite for dystopias, and prefer them in my sci-fi/fantasy reads, not anything remotely based in reality.

Two reviews to go still!

228wookiebender
Jan. 6, 2010, 4:18am

102. Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos, Donna Andrews



The third in the Meg Langslow cozy mysteries, this one is quite a hoot, especially after the disappointing second book. Meg is, as usual, juggling crazy family and friends in one madcap weekend. This time at a reenactment (something American Civil War, forgive me for not knowing/caring too much about which battle in particular), so everyone's been forced into period costume. I particularly loved the "Anachronism Police" running around and fining people for wearing wristwatches and other heinous infractions of the period costume rule.

The plot is almost secondary, but is actually rather nicely done. There's enough red herrings and potential culprits to keep me on my toes over a summer holiday. And I did enjoy the ride.

***1/2

229wookiebender
Jan. 6, 2010, 4:27am

103. Fantastic Mr Fox, Roald Dahl



Another Roald Dahl, read to Mr Bear. We were reading it in preparation for seeing the movie (no movie without reading the book first!), but now he's less keen. (I think he just wants to go and see "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel". Again. *sigh*) No matter, I really still want to see it!

It's a fun romp, as can be expected from Mr Dahl. Three wonderfully named farmers (Bean, Bunce, and Boggis) try to hunt down Mr Fox and his family, since he keeps on stealing their birds for his own dinner. Of course, Mr Fox isn't the sort of family man to take threats to his family lying down, and ends up winning the day, leaving Bean, Bunce and Boggis watching a muddy hole.

I do love Dahl's ability to communicate with children - he seems to get to the heart of the matter, even if sometimes his concepts aren't simple or as "easy" as I'd like to explain to my children. But I think that's part of the joy of reading him - he does stretch me as a parent (this time, I got to explain all about drinking cider), but he lets Mr Bear (and Miss Boo too, when it's her turn) ask all sorts of fascinating questions and learn all sorts of new concepts that I might want to shelter him from sometimes.

Sometimes I think I'm just too protective a parent, so this is a Good Thing.

***1/2

230wookiebender
Jan. 6, 2010, 4:39am

FINISHED! You can now find me over on the 2010 thread: http://www.librarything.com/topic/79496

Thanks everyone for reading my thread in 2009!

231bonniebooks
Jan. 13, 2010, 11:04am

I got interested in so many books because of your reviews, Tania. Plus, you get the title of "Ms. Funny" as far as I'm concerned. (I'm not funny, so I won't try to come up with a funny title for you, but I bet teelgee could.) Anyway, you're a true "favorite" of mine. 2009 on LT wouldn't have been nearly as good without you--looking forward to seeing what you're going to read in 2010.

232cushlareads
Jan. 13, 2010, 11:57am

Loved catching up on your thread and all the new reviews. I didn't do one for Wolf Hall in the craziness of getting ready to move, but loved it too. I also read Elizabeth and her German Garden last year, and hve the sequel on its way over with our stuff. And I've added the Eric Ambler to my wishlist - looking forward to seeing your new thread (off to find it now).

233wookiebender
Jan. 13, 2010, 4:50pm

Aw, shucks...