February 7th, 2012

  • cat63

Book 10 for 2012

Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill. 225 pages.
Fifth book in the series about Dr Siri Paiboun, chief coroner of the communist regime of Laos in the late 1970s, who also sees dead people in a rather less material way.
This time Dr Siri is kidnapped while on a journey with the ghastly Judge Haeng, and back in Vientiane Nurse Dtiu and Phosy are faced with a deadly conspiracy.
I love the sardonic humour that runs through these books and the character of Dr Siri, who embodies the sincere revolutionary who finds that having achieved the revolution isn't nearly enough. 
Dead Dog Cat

#26, 27

During lunch yesterday, I finished reading an ebook, Osprey Campaign #2: Austerlitz 1805: Battle of Three Emperors, one of Napoleon's most famous and successful battles. It's well-laid-out, and filled with good information. It's sort of indicative that there's a chapter devoted to how to game the campaign...

I also finished reading a book this morning before logging onto the desktop computer, Valhalla by Tom Holt, another SF/Fantasy humorist from Britain. This wasn't the best work of his that I've read, dealing with Odin, Valhalla, and corporate entities, but it had a number of amusing moments, and I never thought of setting it aside. I'm way behind on reading his works, so I will move on down the list.
book and cup

#14 The corner that held them - Sylvia Townsend Warner (1948)

I bought this book in a charity shop last week. I had heard of this book and on flipping through it I was instantly intrigued by it. I decided to read it straight away while my interest was piqued.

‘The Corner That Held Them’ is an historical novel, set in a Benedictine convent in the 14th century. There is no plot as such; although there are many stories, the novel follows the fortunes of the convent over many years.  Under each of the five different prioresses, the concerns of the nuns are mainly worldly and particularly economical, rather than spiritual. Many of the women find themselves leading a religious life due to family connections or business like transactions. Although for many women it was life that was to be preferred than the alternative, for some, it was, socially speaking a step up.

 What this novel demonstrates beautifully is the passage of time, and how each of us is but a bat of an eye within it. Seasons come and go – people die and are born and time goes on, the life of the community carries on as it always did.  The characters in this novel are subject to jealousies, deceits and ambitions, these emotions drive the stories of the convent.  A priest who is not really a priest, the building and then collapse of a spire, a murder, a disappearing nun, elections of prioresses and visits by a bishop and his custos are among the stories that are told in this beautifully written novel.

The historical details are well done – yet are subtly drawn rather than rammed down the readers throat like in some more modern popular historical novels.  I think the stories of these characters will stay with me for a while. I found this a delightful read, and rather different to many other virago books I have read.


Book 16

16. Punkzilla, by Adam Rapp. I really didn't care for this book at all. I will admit, the writing style is good. It's stream of conscious, but still easy to follow. It's also short (a good thing because another 40-50 pages I'm not sure I would have bothered finishing it.) But the biggest problem I have with it is that the main character, 14-year-old Jamie (aka Punkzilla) isn't all that likeable. I understand this is YA lit, and the protagonists aren't supposed to be angels. That's fine. I don't mind controversial material if there's a point to it. And I like the honesty a lot of the modern YA novels convey. But to me, Jamie is little more than a loathsome little cockroach with few redeeming qualities. A story portraying its characters with cigarettes, alcohol, drugs... that's one thing. But at one point, early on, Jamie describes how he knocks out people in the local park to steal their iPods and other items. He describes who he targets, and shows little remorse for it. Later in the story, he punches a woman and cusses her out, with little provocation. Again, no remorse. No punishment. That crosses a line with me. What's worse is his older brother's seeming "ha ha, boys will be boys" attitude to his younger brother's confessions. Yikes. We're not talking about getting a candy bar at the local drug store on the five finger discount. We're talking assault and battery. At any rate, the premise of the story is that Jamie has found out his older brother is dying of cancer so he goes on a cross-country quest to get to him before the end. Along the way he meets an assorted allotment of characters, some kind to him, some creepy.