Welcome new members!
Having said that, welcome to all the new members! I invite you to please review the community info found here prior to your first post. Pretty much everything you could want to know about the community and its guidelines can be found there.
Author: Sue Gee, 2004.
Genre: Historical Fiction. England 1860s. Relationship Drama. Religion.
Other Details: Hardback. 342 pages.
It's the winter of1860 when Richard Allen, a young curate, travels to a small hamlet outside Hereford to take up his first position. It's in this quiet place of wind and trees, birds and water that Richard is to fall passionately in love - but he cannot find fulfilment, for his lover is Susannah Beddoes, the wife of the vicar of his new parish. As Richard's feelings challenge him to his core, he develops a strange relationship with another woman, the solitary and eccentric Edith Clare. Against the backdrop of immense social and industrial change, the consequences of Richard and Susannah's affair are dramatic as they - as well as Oliver Beddoes - grapple with doubt and what it means to lose faith when the great certainties are in question. And throughout it all, the crossing-keeper's daughter Alice Birley - an observer of incidents and events she does not fully understand - has her own part to play... - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
I found this a beautifully written story about a young curate and his forbidden love for the wife of his senior colleague. In it Susan Gee does not bow to modern sensibilities but examines what such a love would mean to these individuals and the environment in which they live. I read it in a single day as it was due to be discussed at a reading group meeting though I rather wish that I had given myself more time to appreciate its graceful pace.
Sue Gee evokes her rural setting and the passing of the seasons in the early 1860s with great skill. There are also musings about religion as Richard comes to address his faith. Of course the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species the previous year is making its impact, though it is only one aspect of his questioning.
Another reviewer on Goodreads remarked on its feminist themes, which are certainly present though understated. At one point Susannah says to Richard: "sometimes I have thought I can hardly bear to be a woman.". When he protests she continues: "I am a woman - I must do nothing. Women must suffer, women must wait, women must follow, must be quiet and good, must never say what we feel". A powerful sentiment, which is reflected by the lack of power experienced by a number of women in the novel.
I found it a bitter sweet story though I am glad it was selected for the group as I would never have picked it up otherwise. However, I seemed to be alone in enjoying it as it wasn't to the taste of my fellow reading group members who complained about its slow pace and literary style. I offered my opinion that Susan Gee was seeking to evoke the atmosphere of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, a novel that is mentioned favourably by Susannah in the narrative.
Though I read Robert Parker's Early Autumn at the beginning of October, the title does not refer to a season of the year but to the potential waste of a young man's life. The main character is Spenser, a private detective in Boston, who solves cases with the help of his tough-guy buddy Hawk and his long-suffering girlfriend Susan. In this book a woman hires Spenser to look for her missing teenage son, and she suspects that he has been taken by his non-custodial father. Spenser finds the young man fairly easily and returns him to his mother, but he quickly realizes that neither parent is especially interested in the boy's welfare beyond seeing him as a possession and a tool to be used to hurt the other in the aftermath of their separation.
Spenser takes the boy to Maine in order to get him away from their toxic struggle, at first with the mother's consent and layer against her wishes. While in Maine they build a cabin and do other guy stuff, and Spenser tries to learn about the boy's interests but discovers instead that he's completely adrift in life. Neither parent ever encouraged him to pursue any particular talent or hobby, or in fact to develop any life skills that would help him become a fulfilled and responsible adult. So he takes the boy under his wing and meanwhile looks for a way to help him in the long term by lessening the influence of his irresponsible mother and possibly criminal father.
This book certainly has several elements of a traditional crime story but is also a little bit of a change of pace from the more conventional whodunit mystery. I read another Parker/Spenser book many years ago, but I'm more familiar with the Spenser of the 1980s TV show (RIP Robert Urich). In any case I enjoyed seeing this renaissance man, nurturing side of him. Though part of a series this book can also be read in its own.
[ETA: Book 35 turned out to be part of a series. I'll post an entry about the series as a whole once I finish it.]
- Current Location:US, District of Columbia, Washington, 1st Ave, 11
Book #63: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Number of pages: 226
Kevin Powers' book is a gritty and harrowing novel set around the Iraq conflict.
Central to the book is the relationship between Privates John Bartles and Daniel "Murph" Murphy. We learn very early on, however, that Murph has been killed and the book focusses largely on the effects on John of his loss. The story is told from John's point of view in a memoir-like style, and vividly describes the conflict that takes place around him, as well as telling of how he was asked by Murph's mother to keep her son safe.
The story is not told in a linear style, and it jumps back and forth in the timeline; however, the beginning of each chapter indicates where the reader is in the chain of events. So, one moment, John will be talking about losing Murph, and then there will be a chapter about him and Murph both fighting in the war, and then there will be a chapter set after his return from the conflict. One of the most profound an enjoyable and profound moments was the depiction of his arrival home, and his descripton of how he goes up to his bedroom, slowly undresses and then puts his dog tags back on and stands looking at himself in the mirror. I noticed also that when senior officers are mentioned, they seem to come across as uncaring and unpleasant.
The dialogue is very descriptive about John's feelings throughout, including his friendship with Murphy, and both characters are easy to care about very quickly. Amongst the depictions of events, there are several moments where the narrator talks at length about his thoughts about what has happened, while the narrative slowly builds towards the moment when Murph was killed.
Overall, I loved this book; it wasn't particularly long, but I found it to be incredibly thought-provoking as a depiction of modern warfare and its effects on individuals, plus the struggle to overcome the loss of a friend.
Next book: A Good Parcel of English Soil (Richard Mabey)
- Current Location:My Flat
- Current Mood: moody
- Current Music:The Stone Roses, "Good Times"
Following the events of The Last Colony, John Scalzi tells the story of the fight to maintain the unity of the human race.
The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU’s secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance—an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they’ve invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn't obvious or easy.
Against such possibilities, managing the survival of the Colonial Union won’t be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning…and a brilliant “B Team,” centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson, that can be deployed to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected things the universe throws at you when you’re struggling to preserve the unity of the human race.
Being published online from January to April 2013 as a three-month digital serial, The Human Division will appear as a full-length novel of the Old Man’s War universe, plus—for the first time in print—the first tale of Lieutenant Harry Wilson, and a coda that wasn’t part of the digital serialization.
This is so far into the series that it's difficult to say anything without it being a spoiler. Suffice to say, this is another solid volume in a fantastic science fiction story. Scalzi writes deep political intrigue with aliens and humans, with humans often as the most villainous at all... though in this book, that's not quite clear anymore. There's another enemy lurking in the shadows and the ending leaves the issue as a frustrating mystery.
I really enjoy Scalzi's dialogue--he does great banter--though I have noticed that many of his characters sound alike. They engage in the same kind of banter. This stood out to me when I read his stand-alone humorous Redshirts as well. It makes things a little confusing at times, but if that's the worst fault I can find in his writing, he's doing pretty well.
There were two standout sections of the book. The first involves churros. I wondered why Scalzi and churros have been linked since the book came out; now I understand. The other part involves a brain in a box, and it is so beautifully written that the end actually brought tears to my eyes.
This is a series I'll continue to read.
- Current Mood: thoughtful
A historical novel about Henry II and his contemporaries: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Empress Matilda, King Stephen, King Louis VII and others. I have enjoyed it as, I believe, anybody who likes Sharon Kay Penman, Philippa Gregory etc, would. The afterword surprised me a bit in that I don't think I have noticed the things the author apparently wanted me to notice, but oh well...
#69 Max Frei: Chronicles of Echo Vol. 1-4
The book is something of a phenomenon in Russia and I was happy to finally see it on Kindle. Mine was in Russian, but an English translation is available. But unfortunately I am not all the impressed. It is pleasant, there are some nice ideas, but I mostly feel frustration that that potential has not been fulfilled.
#70 Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: Dynasty 12: The Victory
Continuing with the story of the Morland family. I really like that saga and I become so attached to the characters. One thing, though, which becomes increasingly more noticeable is that all the really strong characters are women, and they are also the ones who stick in memory.
During WWII, in a New England prep school, Gene and Phineas spend their time playing sports and starting clubs, but a life-changing accident forces them to face the reality outside their small community.
A Separate Peace is a little gem of a book. It's not every day I get to read a novel that's so masterfully constructed.
It an ideal summer that's doomed to become a lost Eden in the winter that ends the novel.
Along with his choice of seasons or his remarkable use of the historical background, John Knowles pays attention to every aspect of his story to create an unforgettable mood. Because Gene is ultimately an unreliable narrator, all the careful details are just as crucial in the telling of the story as the narrator's voice.
John Knowles perfectly captures (prep) school life and humor, but his story of two rival friends sheds light on something so unpleasant about human nature, that the novel becomes far more than another coming-of-age story.
Knowles' writing style is deceptively elegant as it simultaneously conceals and reveals a haunting violence of feelings.
This is certainly one of the best books I've read this year.
- Current Location:Antony, France
- Current Mood: confused
Book #62: The Truth by Terry Pratchett
Number of pages: 319
The 25th novel in the Discworld series features the appearance of a pair of assassins called Pin and Tulip and involves a murder that is blamed on the Patrician of Ankh Morpork, plus a kidnapped dog. Once again, all of the City Watch members make an appearance, but the events are seen through the eyes of William de Worde, who has accidentally created Discworld's first newspaper.
This book is largely a satire on the power of the press, and how journalists will stop at nothing for the sake of a good story, once again managing to effectively put a modern concept into the series' fantasy setting. There are a lot of jokes about newspaper headlines and people desperate to get their stories into the paper, plus there are the usual bizarre characters, including a vampire who is obsessed with using a flash camera, despite the fact that it frequently reduces him to a pile of dust. I noticed also that there was some influence from the Watergate Scandal (mostly the appearance of an informant called "Deep Bone".
I wouldn't count this among the best of the Discworld series; the main plot makes for a good mystery story, and everything is explained in the end, but it seemed a bit too thin; also, there were a few recycled jokes, including some including a demon personal organiser and Otto going "cold turkey" by not drinking blood (although the same gimmick was used with a vampire in the previous novel, The Fifth Elephant.
This novel felt a bit too long, but overall it was enjoyable. Also, for attentive readers, there is a really good pay off in the last few paragraphs.
Next book: The Yellow Birds (Kevin Powers)
- Current Location:My Flat
- Current Mood:busy
- Current Music:Kings of Leon, "Fans"
Author: Kerry Greenwood, 2001.
Genre: Period Fiction. 1920s Australia. Crime Fiction. Cozy Mystery.
Other Details: Unabridged Audiobook (8 hrs, 5 mins). Read by Stephanie Daniel.
It’s the 1920s in Melbourne and Phryne is asked to investigate the puzzling death of a famous author and illustrator of fairy stories. To do so, Phryne takes a job within the women’s magazine that employed the victim and finds herself enmeshed in her colleagues’ deceptions. But while Phryne is learning the ins and outs of magazine publishing first hand, her personal life is thrown into chaos. Impatient for her lover Lin Chung’s imminent return from a silk-buying expedition to China, she instead receives an unusual summons from Lin Chung’s family followed by a series of mysterious assaults and warnings. - synopsis from Poisoned Pen Press website.
In this outing Phryne is asked by Detective Inspector Jack Robinson to assist his investigation into the death of the writer Miss Lavender by looking over her rather overly feminine apartment and asking discreet questions of her co-workers and neighbours. His chief is worried that when the press learns of her death that there will be a scandal as Miss Lavender had told the police she felt she was being watched and someone was threatening her life. Jack admits that he didn't take her claims seriously as he felt she had "a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock".
I was amused by Phryne's initial response to the décor of Miss Lavender's flat: fairies everywhere, yes, admitted. More pink than the mind could comfortably cope with. Ever inventive in her sleuthing techniques Phryne takes a temporary job at Women's Choice, producing the magazine's fashion notes. In this volume Phryne's maid and companion, Dot, also takes on some sleuthing and finds she enjoys it very much even if aspects are distressing.
The sub-plot of Lin Chung's disappearance during a silk buying trip to troubled China is a darker, more violent strand to the story. Greenwood handles both the playful and darker aspects of the plot with her usual skill. I was surprised how different the TV adaptation of this novel was. Still that is what makes the novels such a pleasure even after watching the TV episodes.
As with all in this series Away with the Fairies proved great entertainment especially as Greenwood always writes with her tongue firmly in cheek sending up the Golden Age Detective story.
Author: James Oswald, 2012.
Genre: Police Procedural. Serial Killer. Crime Thriller. Occult
Other Details: Paperback. 458 pages.
A young girl's mutilated body is discovered in a sealed room. Her remains are carefully arranged, in what seems to have been a cruel and macabre ritual, which appears to have taken place over 60 years ago. For newly appointed Edinburgh Detective Inspector Tony McLean this baffling cold case ought to be a low priority - but he is haunted by the young victim and her grisly death. Meanwhile, the city is horrified by a series of bloody killings. Deaths for which there appears to be neither rhyme nor reason, and which leave Edinburgh's police at a loss. McLean is convinced that these deaths are somehow connected to the terrible ceremonial killing of the girl, all those years ago. It is an irrational, almost supernatural theory. And one which will lead McLean closer to the heart of a terrifying and ancient evil . . . - synopsis from UK publisher's website
This novel was recommended by a member of one of my library reading groups who thought its occult aspect made it stand out from most in the police procedural sub-genre. It was this aspect that drew me to borrow it. The story did take a little while to find its feet though once it did I found it very hard to put down. I am unsure of Oswald's background but he seemed to have a good handle on occult lore and demonology, something not every writer who enters this field actually possesses.
This is another instance in which an author was unable to find a publisher and went the self-publishing route to then find when his novel proved successful that he was signed up by an established publishing firm (Penguin). From what I read about the process publishers were uncertain about his mixture of crime and the occult but readers felt otherwise. So now he has a contract for a bunch more in the McLean series as well as a new one for his dragon-themed fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro, which again was initially self-published.
The group member did caution that there was a high level of gore and violence in the novel and this proved so. So not one for the faint hearted as it is quite grizzly fare. The author did include a note about the novel's genesis and included the original prologue that Penguin felt was too graphic and sexually violent to be included at the start of the novel. Oswald prefaced its text with a warning.
Author: Richard Montanari, 2013.
Genre: Police Procedural. Serial Killer. Crime Thriller
Other Details: Hardback. 458 pages.
For one hundred years, the Delaware Valley State Hospital at Cold River was known as a warehouse for the criminally insane. Two decades ago, it closed its doors forever. But a man named Luther never left. To this day he roams the catacombs beneath the abandoned hospital, waiting and watching. On a late winter day a businessman is found brutally murdered in a Philadelphia park. Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano get the case. They soon discover a two-year-old girl wandering the streets in the middle of the night, a little girl who does not speak. In her hands -- a key piece of evidence that may be linked to a series of murders committed halfway around the world. As the detectives investigate, and more bodies are found, they're drawn closer and closer to the doors of Luther's devious maze, to Die Traumkaufleute -- The Dream Merchants -- and the dark secrets of Cold River. - synopsis from author's website.
I have followed this series of gripping police procedurals since its beginning and have have enjoyed them all. They are intelligent and unrelentingly dark with many of the crimes focusing on the dark and hidden places to be found in the city of Philadelphia. Here the city's catacombs and the abandoned mental hospital provide chilling settings. This was quite a complex tale that featured some intriguing themes linked to dream research along with quite disturbing behaviours.
I had thought a couple of books ago that Montanari was drawing the series to a close and now with this volume certain changes occur that make me feel that he actually now has retired the series. However, I shall keep my eyes open for news just in case he does continue.
Poet Simon Armitage decides to walk the Pennine Way, in the opposite direction to usual and paying his way with poetry readings as he goes.
I have to admit, I was halfway through the book before I realised I had mixed up the author with Simon Amstell, former host of music quiz show Never Mind The Buzzcocks. I have no idea why. Probably because I'm an idiot.
Moderately entertaining at worst, this, but I couldn't muster any huge enthusiasm for it.
102. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith. 248 pages.
I didn't enjoy this as much as the previous books in this series, but I suspect that might be more to do with me than with the book.
It was still nice to revisit all the characters in Smith's Botswana and to sympathise with their troubles and enjoy their triumphs.
103. 1984 by George Orwell. 265 pages.
This is definitely a classic. Many terms from it have passed into the language and culture and the society depicted in it is enduringly horrific.
It has its faults of course - there's a horrendously long info-dump towards the end of Part Two, which could easily have been shortened or even entirely dispensed with without lessening the impact of the book as a whole for one thing, and the behaviour of the Party is illogical and self-destructive even by the internal logic of the story, but it's still an enormously effective dystopian nightmare that stays with you long after you've read it.
103a. The Girl Who Was Infatuated With Death by Laurell K. Hamilton. 39 pages.
Short story set in the Anita Blake 'verse between the novels Blue Moon and Obsidian Butterfly.
This starts promisingly, with Anita called in to search for a missing girl, but degenerates into another Anita-angsts-over-her-relationships fest.
Slight and disappointing.
104. A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire. 307 pages.
Second in the October Daye series.
An intriguing and engaging mystery for changeling Toby to solve when she's sent to find out why her liege lord's niece isn't answering the phone - if she can survive long enough to get the answers she needs.
I enjoyed this book, although at times I was frustrated by Toby's utter inability to see things which were as plain as day to the reader.
I'd been meaning to read this forever and someone at work finally convinced me to do so. It was exceptionally good, although the big reveal at the end made me very uncomfortable (if you want it spoiled for you, just PM me). Still, I was glad to have read it.
The Painted Drum, by Louise Erdrich
This novel veered back and forth between parts that were hugely well-done and powerfully immersive and parts that just bored or irritated me. I can't even say why - I couldn't figure out a pattern - it was just ... patchy.
When We Wake, by Karen Healey
YA future dystopia, thorny and meaningful and even difficult, but also superfun. I <3 Karen Healey.
Square Peg, by Todd Rose
Part memoir, part advice book, about how kids - people in general - are all very different, and learn best when treated as individuals instead of trying to one-size-fits-all everybody. Good stuff about the effect of emotions on learning, and other related topics, as well. The author went from being the kind of kid who threw stink bombs in chem class, and never really wanted to go to college, to being a Harvard prof. Not the most writerly book, but I found it a really useful - and openhearted - read.
Buffy Season 9, vol. 4: Welcome to the Team, by Andrew Chambliss et al; Willow vol. 1: Wonderland, by Jeff Parker et al
Fun popcorn reading. Glad they kept these going after the show was over. They almost never reach the heights the show often did. The art in the Willow volume was often incredibly gorgeous, though, far beyond what TV special effects ever achieve.
The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice, by Mike Carey et al
This was grand altogether. Even though it's chronologically a prequel, reading it at the end of the series worked perfectly - so much richer because of all the echoes of what will happen.
- Current Mood: relaxed
- Current Music:tv
50. "Farseer Trilogy: Royal Assassin" by Robin Hobb
51. "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" by Robert Tressel
53- 59. "Incorruptible" Vol 1-7
60- 70. "Irredeemable" Vol 1- 10
71. "The Shining Grils" by Lauren Beuke
72. "Mine own executioner" by Nigel Balchin
73. "Invisible Monsters" by Chuck Palahnuik
74. "A Woman Speaks" by Anais Nin
75. "Hitchhiker's guide tot he galaxy: And another thing" by Eoin Coulter
76-95. "Fables" Vol 1- 19
96. "Falling Angel" by William Hjortsberg
97. "Cinderella: From Fabletown with love"
98. "Cinderella: Fables are forever"
99. "Fables: 1001 nights of snow"
100. "Fables: The last Castle"
101. "Farseer Trilogy: Assassins quest" by Robin Hobb
Lots of comics in the last few months, my favourite title (as you can probably surmise) has been "Fables". While some story arcs were slower than others, I just fell in love with it in general :)
Easily my most enjoyable read of this year was Robin Hobb's "Farseerer Trilogy". While it took me a long while to finish the last book I was totally hooked for all 3 installments and will definately be reading her "Tawny Man" trilogy in the near future :)
- Current Mood: happy
Steampunk’s big, brassy, powerful, and sweaty way of looking at the world sideways inspires six stories of the Victorian age of wonder. Author Irene Radford offers new and old stories that reach from a weapon of mass destruction that could change the outcome of the U.S. Civil War, the truth behind why the ballet Giselle disappeared for nearly fifty years, pirates in Indonesia questioning whether we should control technology or be controlled by it, to a glimpse of Princess Victoria coming of age as secret operatives try to protect her from madmen acting in the name of long dead Lord Byron. Adding to the fun Steampunk Voyages includes a sneak peek at an upcoming novel in the world of dirigibles, necromancy, a steam powered book catalog, and hints of romance.
I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program.
Radford's collection features five stories--most of them reprints--and an excerpt from a forthcoming novel, Night Dancer, under the name Julia Verne St. John. I have been reading a lot of steampunk as I write in the genre as well. Radford hits on many of the tropes of the subgenre, with fabulous fashion, female scientists (Ada Byron, no less), automatons and airships. The stories are within the same world, but the majority follow two sisters on very different life paths: one a tutor and seer, the other a moral airship pirate. The American Civil War is still ongoing--though with technological adaptations--and Victoria sits on the English throne. I was fascinated by the concept of wandering souls that can inhabit machines.
The action flows well, but I was never completely immersed in the world. It felt like there was almost too much going on beneath the surface--too much back story, too much alternate history to try to absorb within a short word count. Really, I wonder if the forthcoming novel will be the ideal thing to read first and then go on to read the short stories.
- Current Mood: thoughtful
Author: Jennifer Gray, 2013. Illustrations by Mark Ecob.
Genre: Children Book. Fantasy.
Other Details: Paperback. 220 pages.
Atticus Grammatticus Cattypuss Claw, the world's greatest REFORMED cat burglar, is back! This time, the tabby with talent is on the right side of the law. And when Jimmy Magpie and his gang are busted out of jail by a mysterious villain and an evil cat called Ginger Biscuit, Atticus knows from bitter experience he's going to need all his skill and courage to catch them. Can Atticus overcome his murky past with the help of the Cheddar family in order to prevent the biggest crime in history AND settle a score of his own? - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
As indicated by the cover art the Tower of London features in this adventure for Atticus. There is also a cameo by HMtQ and the royal corgis.
I've been reading some quite heavy books recently and combined with writing for NaNoWriMo I needed a bit of a break. This provided the perfect respite. As with the first book in the series, Atticus Claw Breaks the Claw this was an old fashioned charming fantasy written for children but with a broader appeal, especially for cat lovers.
I had to laugh when Atticus was described as a "pampered pussycat pet" by his nemesis Ginger Biscuit. It really sums up my adopted cat, who has now lost all his street smarts in favour of being a pampered pussycat pet.
My only concern about the book was that Ginger Biscuit, who is repeatedly described as being ginger, is shown in the book's illustrations as a black cat. Not fair! Black cats have enough bad press over the years and in this case it was a ginger cat who was the baddie.
Meta! In spaaaaaaaaaaaaace. This was a lot of fun. Also clever.
Tropic of Hockey, by Dave Bidini
Dave and his wife traveled around the world to places where people play hockey ... places like Hong Kong, Dubai, and northern China. I forgot I liked sports books until I read this.
Home and Away, by Dave Bidini
This one was about the Homeless World Cup (of soccer). Focused on the Canadian team, 'cause Bidini traveled with them. Both funny and meaningful.
Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
Really all I want from a teen dystopia is for it to make me unable to put it down. And this one totally did that.
Stonelight, by Gaelyn Gordon
Quirky, oldfashioned kid's timetravel fantasy set in New Zealand. Was quite good, but not amazing.
Gould's Book of Fish, by Richard Flanagan
This book was annoying. Like, really annoying. The patches with no women in them were particularly dire. And yet, its better qualities got me to read it all the way through. Because they were really good. Whatcha gonna do?
What the Family Needed, by Steven Amsterdam
This was lovely, a perfect balance of realism and (superpower-type) fantasy, snarkiness and insight. Definitely going on the read-more-by-this-guy shelf.
- Current Mood:relieved
- Current Music:Matisyahu
Book #61: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Number of pages: 208
This is a book I absolutely loved as a kid so decided to read it again. It's not the first in the Narnia series, but it was the first written and most scholars agree that this should be book to start with when reading the Chronicles of Narnia.
The story opens with four children - Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy - being evacuated during World War 2 to an old country house inhabited by a professor and his housekeeper. When the weather prevents them from being able to explore the countryside, Lucy discovers that the wardrobe in an attic room leads into a woodland that turns out to be the land of Narnia.
She is approached by a faun by the name of Mr. Tumnus, who befriends her but secretly plans to hand her over to the self-proclaimed ruler of Narnia, the White Witch, who has cast a spell over Narnia to make it "always winter, never Christmas". Lucy manages to convince Mr. Tumnus to let her go and they become friends.
Of course, no one on the outside world believes where Lucy has been, and when Edmund accidentally finds Narnia and meets the White Witch, he still pretends this is all a game. Eventually all four children find themselves in Narnia while trying to hide from visitors, and this is when the adventure begins and the children find themselves being told that the great lion, Aslan, is on the move and that only he can rescue Narnia from the White Witch.
This book is, at face value, an enchanting children's tale about a fantasy world/parallel universe; anyone who reads deeper into this might even see parallels between the war that is taking place in Britain at the time of the book and the conflict between good and evil that takes place in the book. Many people who read this book will surely realise that this is also a Christian book, and in this case it is mostly an allegory to the life of Jesus (who is represented in the Narnia series by Aslan). The most obvious reference comes near to the end...
When I read Michael Ward's The Narnia Code, I found that there were other similes made by the theme of the children being crowned in Cair Paravel to the concept of "wearing a crown" in Heaven that features in the Bible.
Overall, I found this book to be just as enjoyable as it was when I was young; certainly reading it now, I can tell it is aimed at a young audience because of the way it is written (C.S. Lewis constantly reminds his audience they should not shut themselves in a wardrobe), it the final battle felt like it was a bit too short, but that was mainly from having seen TV and film adaptations that milked that particular scene for all that it was worth. I also liked the characterisation of the children, particularly how Edmund starts off as a character who should be very dislikable, but gets transformed by the books events into a heroic character. C.S. Lewis was an incredible writer and I will hopefully get a chance to re-read the rest of the Narnia series soon.
Next book: The Truth (Terry Pratchett)
- Current Location:My Flat
- Current Mood: tired
- Current Music:Oasis, "Turn up the Sun"
Author: Joyce Carol Oates, 2011.
Genre: Contemporary. Horror. Literary Fiction. Short Stories.
Other Details: Paperback. 365 pages.
I am not usually a fan of short story collections, finding them a little hit and miss. Yet this collection, which contained seven tales of non-supernatural horror, was superb from start to finish. The centrepiece of this collection is the novella, The Corn Maiden, which was my favourite and the most chilling.
The Corn Maiden is Marissa, a beautiful eleven-year old girl with long hair the colour of corn-silk, who is stolen away by a group of teenage girls. They are led by the fanatical Jude, who has convinced her small group of disciples that they need Marissa to recreate a Native American rite, that she claims involves the ritual sacrifice of an innocent 'corn maiden'. The girls also maliciously plant suspicion on another innocent: a male teacher at their school who had angered Jude. There are aspects of what Leah, Marissa's grieving mother, faces in the spotlight of the media that call to mind scenes so familiar from news stories as her life, actions and secrets are laid bare to public scrutiny.
The other six stories involve toxic twins, revenge, sibling rivalry, lonely widows and an ambitious doctor. The stories each embodied a nightmarish situation giving a sense of continuity to the collection.
I've been impressed by the novels of Joyce Carol Oates that I've read and this collection proved to me that the praise about her skill with the short story format is more than justified.
A pillow talk between Queen Medb and her husband King Ailill reveals to her that she does not own a bull that matches her husband's in value. She is determined to capture one of equal status by starting a war.
The Tain is mainly the story of Cu Chulainn, one of the most famous Irish heroes, his invincibility (this particular tale does not go as far as his death) and bad temper. Anyone interested in Celtic mythology would consider this piece a must-read, and those interested in Irish literature and history will easily see why Cu Chulainn became a symbol of resistance during the Irish Revolution.
The Tain is primarily a tale of military deeds, yet the magic that surrounds them is its most fascinating aspect, along with gender depiction through the ambitions and sexual power of the fascinating Queen Medb who regularly offers "the friendship of her thighs" to those who have something she covets.
- Current Location:Antony, France
- Current Mood: thirsty
In the spring of 1918, the Spanish flu epidemic spreads, killing millions of soldiers and civilians across the globe. Overwhelmed by the constant flow of wounded soldiers coming from the French front, battlefield nurse Bess Crawford must now contend with hundreds of influenza patients as well.
However, war and disease are not the only killers to strike. Bess discovers, concealed among the dead waiting for burial, the body of a murdered officer—a man who not only served in her father's former regiment but was also a family friend.
Before she can report the terrible news, Bess falls ill, the latest victim of the flu. By the time she recovers, the officer has been buried, and the only other person who saw the body has hanged himself. Or did he?
Using her father's connections in the military, Bess begins to piece together what little evidence she can find to unmask the elusive killer and see justice served. But she must be as vigilant as she is tenacious. With a determined killer on her heels, each move Bess makes could be her last.
I read the first Bess Crawford mystery and liked it, for the most part. I looked at the next books in the series and it seemed continuity wasn't a big deal, so I went ahead and read #4 since I already had it.
Despite jumping over two books, I had no difficulty in following the story. It follows the chronology of World War I but nothing major had shifted with Bess or her immediate circle; it was really quite self-contained. As a mystery, the pace flows well and it's a fast read. I read 150 pages in one sitting.
One reason I'm reading the books is that I am studying up more on World War I-era medicine. In this regard, I'm still frustrated with the series. This book did show some action at the front, with procedures and the terror of a gas attack, but it didn't dwell much on the medical aspect.
Bess as a character still feels rather empty to me. It's definitely not a character-driven series. I have no idea what she wants. It also seems like her father is too much of a power figure. If anything goes wrong, Colonel Sahib comes to the rescue. He even has her pulled from the front when she comes down with the flu. It makes things awfully convenient far too many times over even as people are out to kill Bess. Through her father's connections she knows almost everyone and can do almost anything.
I already have the second book in the series so I'll go ahead and read that, but overall I find that there are too many bothersome elements here for me to continue beyond that.
- Current Mood: aggravated
Book #60: Cathedral of Lies by John Pye
Set in the 1980s, this book opens with a defendant on trial for drug running taking a barrister hostage and escaping from the courtroom; shortly after a dead body apparently belonging to the barrister is found in a car charred beyond recognition and a connection is made with another dead body found out on the moors.
This is just the beginning of an increasingly complex mystery that is investigated by the novels' two lead characters, Kim and Taylor, who soon find themselves having to flee to the continent after being framed for murder where they discover suspicious activities in a Belgian cathedral and evidence of police corruption.
I remember having mixed feelings for this story at first; there was some enjoyable sexual tension between the male and female leads of the book, but it seemed to turn into romance so quickly it felt as though it were forced and unnatural; they end up having sex about a third of the way into the book. Strangely, after this moment, the whole romantic subplot is completely forgotten about and the book does not make any more of it. Thankfully, both characters were easy to care about, so I wanted to see what happened.
The book is certainly thrilling, and there is no shortage of exciting action sequences; without giving too much away though, the climactic scene owes a large debt to Raiders of the Lost Ark. As for the main plot, it was difficult to see what many of the plot elements tied together until some of the unexpected revelations in the second half; this seemed reasonable as it keeps the reader guessing, and there is a particularly surprising twist towards the end that you're unlikely to see coming.
Overall, I wasn't sure about this book at first but by the time I reached the end I was very pleased I'd taken the trouble to read it.
Next book: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
- Current Location:My Flat
- Current Mood: sleepy
- Current Music:Queen, "Sweet Lady"
The book's title is a fairly obvious allusion to the book "1984" by George Orwell, but aside from common themes, the books don't have a whole lot in common. Most of the story is told from the viewpoint of two Japanese characters living in the year 1984: Tengo and Aomame. They were friends briefly in grade school but haven't seen each other since then when our book opens in 1984 and the characters are now each around 30. I've seen the book described as being about two people trying to find each other across time and space, and I guess that's all I'll say, since I don't want to give any major spoilers. Some might find the book slow. Murakami goes back and tells the same stories from the characters lives over and over, adding layers of detail each time. I believe this is intentional and relates directly to its shared theme with "1984" - that of "re-writing history." Other shared themes are television and its impact on culture, crimes being committed for "the greater good," and the Cult of Personality. Despite this slow pace, when a scene is supposed to be tense and gripping, it is. Murakami knows what he's doing.
One side effect of reading a story this long is that you really get sucked into that world. I feel like I have been living in a world slightly askew ever since I started listening to the audiobook a couple months ago. I really like the readers for this book, and its been a pleasure.
( The other books I've read so far this year:Collapse )
Diana Wells gives you a short history of a 100 flowers.
The short history of a flower typically includes some Greek mythology, a description of its potential medicinal properties or what they were perceived to be in the past, where the botanist who made it famous found the flower and how he made it more popular in England or America.
I'm not a botanist and I never do any yard work, but the Parisian parks I spent my summer in made me a little curious about flowers and their stories. To tell you the truth, they were not as interesting as I wanted them to be, but there was always here and there a little something that made the book worth reading.
- Current Location:Antony, France
- Current Mood: worried
Author: Jeanette Winterson, 2012.
Genre: Historical Fiction. 17th Century England. Horror. Witchcraft and Magic.
Other Details: Hardback. 198 pages.
Good Friday 1612. Pendle Hill. A mysterious gathering of thirteen people is interrupted by a local magistrate. Is it a witches' Sabbat? In Lancaster Castle two notorious witches await trial and certain death, while the beautiful and wealthy Alice Nutter rides to their defence. Elsewhere a starved child lurks. And a Jesuit priest and former Gunpowder plotter makes his way from France to a place he believes will offer him sanctuary. But will it? And how safe can anyone be in Witch Country? - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
This proved a powerful evocation of the events that led to the deaths of a number of women accused of witchcraft in 17th Century Lancashire. However, Winterson states in her Introduction that while she has based this short novel on these events she has not limited herself to history alone allowing for "speculations and inventions " and introducing elements aspects of fantasy and also taken dramatic license with characters. As she says: "My Alice Nutter is not the Alice Nutter of history".
The novel was certainly gruesome in parts, appropriate to its Hammer Horror imprint, with some images that I am certain I shall never forget. Yet there was also beauty and magic, not only of rural witchcraft but the angelic and hermetic magic of John Dee and Edward Kelly. It was very clear that Winterson had researched the period intensely as well as aspects of late 16th Century occult lore.
This was the selection for our Leicester reading group and those of us who did read it praised it highly even while admitting that some parts were disturbing to read. A few others made a start but found it too strong in terms of graphic content. Winterson doesn't shy from descriptions of violence, poverty, deprivation, illness and the horrific conditions that prisoners faced during the period.
One member of the reading group had the opportunity to read the novel 'on location' at Pendle Hill and brought back photos of the haunting landscape and the roadside statue of Alice Nutter that had been commissioned to mark the 400th anniversary of the events at Pendle Hill. Likewise, the publication of this novel in August 2012 also acknowledged this anniversary.
Review of 'The Daylight Gate' - in-depth review in 'The Guardian' 16 August 2012.
( Statue of Alice NutterCollapse )