wookiebender's 100 challenge for 2009
Melde dich bei LibraryThing an, um Nachrichten zu schreiben.
Dieses Thema ruht momentan. Die letzte Nachricht liegt mehr als 90 Tage zurück. Du kannst es wieder aufgreifen, indem du eine neue Antwort schreibst.
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.
(They all really deserved 5 stars, though.)
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
"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!!
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).
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.
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.
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**
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.)
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.
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!
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!)
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.
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. ;)
I'm looking forward to this book, it's on my definitely read soon list.
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?
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".
#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.
So, for the time being, I'm having to rely on my dodgy memory of how to spell! Ack!
I'm being seriously tempted by Let The Right One In at the bookshop, but have always had a more urgent book to buy...
I wish work would buy me a few books! :)
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". ;)
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.)
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. :)
ETA: Read as part of "Orange July", this book was longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2003.
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!).
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.
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!)
Me too! I wish I had post-its for my brain.
fixed inevitable typo
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).
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...
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. :)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 !!! !
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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Then, of course, they learned to read. ;-)
And I have summarized my way through books, too. It's much easier to do when you have already read the book though!
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.
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?????
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??).
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.
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.
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.)
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!
#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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
ETA: Ooh! It's a "hot review" as well! Congratulations; I just added my thumbs up.
Very well done!~!
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.
And I'm about to start reading Murder with Puffins... :)
Ack! Six reviews behind! I'd better get a move on!
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!
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.
(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.
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.
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...
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.
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!
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.
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.
Later, Dear Wookie da Bookie ...
your friend, Ruth
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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. :)
I'm sure it'll embarrass the kids no end when they're old enough to notice. I fail to see a downside. ;)
Like, Oh my Gawd!
Reminds me of that old Zappa "Valley Girl" parody song. What - ever!
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!
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!
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!)
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. :)
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.
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.
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.
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...
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. :)
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.
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.
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?
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.
>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.
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.
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. :)
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.
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,
eta: Oops! Thought I was on Ruth's thread. Hey, Tania! Always jealous to hear someone is reading Jane. Happy reading to you too! :-)
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?)
I just got The Lacuna as a gift this weekend, I'm looking forward to reading it very much!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
(There goes my resolution to shave off half a star... Unless this really was a five star read. ;)
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*)
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.
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.
And The Bean Trees is on my wishlist now. Thanks everyone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But tonight, I'm going to bed early so I can get some reading done. That's surely even more important! :)
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...)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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".
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...
Ooo, you are close to your 100! *Chilling the champagne*
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!)
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.
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. ;)
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.
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.
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.
Two reviews to go still!
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.
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.
Thanks everyone for reading my thread in 2009!