July 28th, 2014

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

A few minutes here and a few minutes there and then a book or two gets read:

First was Osprey Command #20: Orde Wingate, a short book that gives a fast overview of an eccentric British general famed for his work in WWII.

Then, Osprey Elite #191: Italian Navy & Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces 1940 – 45; hard to believe that there's much to say about the armed forces of Italy in WWII, but they managed to perform in various roles quite well, especially when it came to the more elite navy and air force. I learned a thing or two from this book.


Jeff Shaara has continued his novelization of the Western Campaign.  We've previously reviewed A Blaze of Glory, focusing on Shiloh, and Chain of Thunder, with the liberation of Vicksburg.  My earlier reviews commented on a forthcoming trilogy from Mr Shaara.  But Book Review No. 5 gets to review The Smoke at Dawn, which ends with the rebels pushed out of Chattanooga, and the anticipation of at least a tetralogy should the Georgia campaign, or the sack of South Carolina, become material for future writing.

If you're interested in the military history, Nothing but Victory provides that.  Mr Shaara's approach deals more with the interaction of the imagined and actual characters -- Rebel general Braxton Bragg comes off as a particularly nasty piece of work -- and the military accomplishments (lifting the siege of Chattanooga, occupying Lookout Mountain, and clearing Missionary Ridge) play a supporting role.  Perhaps we have read the conclusion of the trilogy, with at least one of the supporting characters invalided home, or perhaps there will be more.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book 144: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Book 144: The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2).
Author: Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling), 2014.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Mystery. Detective Fiction.
Other Details: Hardback. 455 pages.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him. And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before . . . - synopsis from author's website.

J. K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith has produced another old-fashioned detective novel that proved a very effective mystery laced with a degree of satire aimed at the insular world of literary publishing. As one character observes: "...Writers are a savage breed, Mr. Strike. If you want life-long friendship and selfless camaraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels."

Rowling's chapter epigraphs are taken from Jacobean revenge tragedies and some characters also have a background in the academic study of the same. So alongside Cormoran as the down-on-his-heels gum shoe that harks back to the pulp fiction of the 1930s, there is this interesting sub-text that resonates with this older literary tradition.

Rowling is known for creating vivid characters as well as telling compelling stories. I have come to love Cormoran and Robin both individually and as working partners. There is a tension between them and yet also a growing trust; along with a hint of sexual attraction, though it is understated. In addition, Rowling does a splendid job in depicting London during the snow bound winter of 2010. It is one of those novel's in which you feel as though you are walking the streets alongside the characters.

In all a very enjoyable summer read. I borrowed this in hardback from the library but will no doubt buy when in paperback as I have the first book The Cuckoo's Calling. I am so pleased that Rowling has confirmed that she will continue with this series.

Book #38: The Cold Moons by Aeron Clement

Number of pages: 358

Bamber the Badger discovers that his sett has been destroyed by people, and that all the badgers, including him, have been poisoned. Realising that this is part of a systematic eradication programme, he stumbles off to warn others. He arrives at Cilgwyn Cadre, another sett, and is able to pass on the message before his untimely death.

This sets off a quest for survival in a story that owes a lot to Richard Adams, particularly his books, Watership Down and The Plague Dogs. A story that involves culling of badgers to stop the spread of tuberculosis feels very topical, considering some of the events of a few years ago (although this was written in 1987).

I read this book about twenty years ago, and reading it again I noticed that this book is largely about badger politics. When the reader is introduced to Cilgywn Cadre, the writer talks about the strict system involving elders and council members that shows that the badgers in the story have similarities to humans. The story even goes as far as to introduce a villain, a badger called Kronos, who is determined to create, and win, a battle for power; it almost felt like Game of Thrones with badgers.

Aside from this, the story is largely about the badgers' struggle to escape the imminent danger, and survive all the dangers on their way. The tone of the story is far from cheerful, as many of the characters in the book end up perishing, and there are some incredibly harrowing moments. Throughout the book, Kronos becomes increasingly evil and twisted.

Reading this again, it did occur to me that this felt like a Pilgrim's Progress-style Christian allegory, with the badgers' quest being very similar to the Israelites travelling in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt, with Kronos as the devil (there are even references to him tempting other badgers with promises that they could not fulfil). The badgers in the book are also given their own religion, which seemed heavily influenced by Viking mythology.

I noticed that, since almost all the book is from the point of view of the badgers, there were some things that they did not understand, particularly one moment when people are seen getting off a train, the badgers think they are looking at a monster.

The only thing I didn't like about the book was the fact that there was no dialogue, something that I never noticed when I was younger. I know that it's supposed to be a book about badgers, but there is some suspension of disbelief in the fact that they formed a council, and are evidently able to have intelligent conversations. Instead of showing what exactly is said, the book just mentions briefly what the badgers discussed with each other, which has the disadvantage that most of the characters feel very two-dimensional, with not much indication of personality, except that Kronos is dislikeable, and that other characters are heroic and courageous.

Overall, I thought this was an okay book; not exactly a classic, but I loved the way that this got across a serious conservation message as well as being an enjoyable adventure story.

Next book: A Clash of Kings (George R.R. Martin)
smirk by geekilicious

Book 66

Fairy Tail, Vol. 24 (Fairy Tail, #24)Fairy Tail, Vol. 24 by Hiro Mashima

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Finally the other earth storyline is over and I'm rather glad to see it end. The Exceed end up somewhere I didn't expect them to but other than Happy, Carla and Lily, I doubt we'll see any of them.

There is a major twist with the end of that storyline that I won't want to spoil here but I'm sure will have major implications.

The next storyline has opened up. 8 members have been chosen to try out to be a S-class wizard and they have to pass any number of tests to make it, including battling Erza or Gildarts. Not only are Natsu and Gray battling each other (as are whoever under wizard they paired with) Canna is finally getting a storyline(partnered with Lucy who is too new to be considered for this test).

It could be a really interesting storyline and I hope I DO get storyline instead of just endless battles. I'm tired of paying money for that. I don't mind battles but when that's all there is I get bored. This at least has some story going on and it's pretty good.

View all my reviews
Briana and Aunty Tara

Books 27 & 28 - 2012

Book 27: The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult – 388 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Fourteen-year-old Trixie Stone is in love for the first time. She's also the light of her father, Daniel's life -- a straight-A student; a pretty, popular freshman in high school; a girl who's always seen her father as a hero. That is, until her world is turned upside down with a single act of violence. Suddenly everything Trixie has believed about her family -- and herself -- seems to be a lie. Could the boyfriend who once made Trixie wild with happiness have been the one to end her childhood forever? She says that he is, and that is all it takes to make Daniel, a seemingly mild-mannered comic book artist with a secret tumultuous past he has hidden even from his family, venture to hell and back to protect his daughter. With "The Tenth Circle," Jodi Picoult offers her most powerful chronicle yet as she explores the unbreakable bond between parent and child, and questions whether you can reinvent yourself in the course of a lifetime -- or if your mistakes are carried forever.

This was one of those books that prior to hitting the 100 page mark I wanted to throw across a room, and then once I got to that point, the characters had managed to worm their way into my heart effectively enough that I was enthralled. Daniel Stone is a comic book artist writing a new comic book for Marvel. His wife Laura lectures on Dante’s Inferno. Their fourteen-year-old daughter Trixie is doing what fourteen year olds do – which is where all the problems start. Or so it seems. The stuff Trixie was getting up to at fourteen, whilst probably not that unusual for the average fourteen year old, horrified me and made me ever so grateful I’m as ‘weird’ as I am (and therefore didn’t behave as a normal fourteen year old). Fourteen year olds should not be having sex (there’s laws in place for a reason!) and they certainly shouldn’t have intimate knowledge and experience with the game ‘Rainbow’ (when I explained that to my Mum, she was horrified – she’d thought ‘Spin the Bottle’ was risqué). When Trixie is raped by her ex-boyfriend, suddenly this picture perfect family starts to unravel at the seams. Turns out Laura’s not been the best wife in the world, and Daniel’s past in the Alaskan bush not so much catches up with him, as it starts to weigh heavier and heavier on who he is and what his life has become.
This is only the second Picoult book I’ve read. I read ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ several years ago, though the ending was ruined for me by Mum who has a terrible habit (and one I’ve started to pick up) of skipping to the end about a quarter of the way in. I have acquired quite a collection of Picoult books (she seems to churn them out quite quickly) though like approximately 60% of the 500+ books I own (I guesstimate – I am essentially moving house at the moment and I intend to catalogue my books then to get an exact number) I haven’t actually read most of them. I really enjoyed ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ even if it is a little melodramatic. Sometimes, I need a melodrama to remind me I’m human (seeing as I spend so much of my reading time hanging out with aliens, monsters, hybrids etc). I really didn’t think this book would get to me like it did, but I am generally drawn to ‘dark’ male characters, and Daniel filled this role perfectly in this story and I was rather enthralled by him, and by Picoult’s lovely little tidbits about Alaska. I’ve never really considered visiting Alaska, and I’d probably not get to see the things described in the book anyway (nor would I likely survive the cold – the one downside to being Australian is my sheer inability to cope with temperatures below 20C/65F) but reading this book certainly inspired me. Ultimately though, I really loved Daniel’s metamorphosis as a person, from the angry white kid picked on in the Alaskan bush to the devoted father in small town Maine (I also love stories set in New England – I want to buy a house in Marblehead, MA, one day when I’m rich and famous). I love seeing characters change and develop, and its one of the joys I get out of both reading and writing. For me, Picoult manages to pull this off and it made this book a joy to read, and one that has stayed with me.

27 / 50 books. 54% done!

8046 / 15000 pages. 54% done!

Book 28: Alice I have been by Melanie Benjamin – 365 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Part love story, part literary mystery, Melanie Benjamin's spellbinding historical novel leads readers on an unforgettable journey down the rabbit hole, to tell the story of a woman whose own life became the stuff of legend. Her name is Alice Liddell Hargreaves, but to the world she'll always be known simply as "Alice," the girl who followed the White Rabbit into a wonderland of Mad Hatters, Queens of Hearts, and Cheshire Cats. Now, nearing her eighty-first birthday, she looks back on a life of intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. First as a young woman, then as a wife, mother, and widow, she'll experience adventures the likes of which not even her fictional counterpart could have imagined. Yet from glittering balls and royal romances to a world plunged into war, she'll always be the same determined, undaunted Alice who, at ten years old, urged a shy, stuttering Oxford professor to write down one of his fanciful stories, thus changing her life forever.

This book was strange. I have no other word for it. I’m a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland – I’ve read both Alice’s Adventures and Through the Looking Glass, though my original interest came about as a result of Frank Beddor’s amazing ‘Looking Glass Wars’ series (love, love, love!!). Since Looking Glass Wars, I’ve developed a real love for reading anything Alice related, so when I saw the release of this book a few years ago, I was really excited. While living in England temporarily, I got to a point where I actually ran out of books to read (I brought seven books for fifteen weeks, but as I ended up having 3 hour round trip commutes each day, I ended up with a lot of reading time every day!). This book was on sale on bookdepository.co.uk so I picked up a copy. It was the last book I started reading while in England, and as a result I didn’t get it finished before I left for Italy and the US. I finally finished it on my flight across the Pacific to Australia (I’m tapping away on my computer now on said flight, eager to get off a plane after 10+ hours in the air, as well as eager to see my dog after so many weeks away!). It looks at the life of Alice Liddell, the little girl who gave her name to Alice in Wonderland and who nagged Charles Dodgson to write down the story he told on that now famous afternoon. Dodgson seems to have been a very strange person to me, and this book does nothing to dispel that sentiment. Of important discussion within the story is the break between Dodgson and the Liddell family, which, to this day, has not been fully explained. Benjamin doesn’t necessarily have a huge amount to add to why the break occurred, and she doesn’t elaborate on her hypothesis until right at the very end. The book is split into three parts – Alice’s childhood and her relationship with Dodgson during the inception of Wonderland; Alice in her early twenties and her relationship with Prince Leopold, and; Alice as an old woman and the loss of two of her three sons to the First World War (definitely had tears at that point – very sad!). I found it really hard to get into the first part of the book as the relationship between a child Alice and Dodgson crept me out. The middle third is interesting but still drags a bit, especially given the way Benjamin writes the relationship between Alice and Leo and knowing what is to become of that relationship. The last third is by far the most readable and rather devastating. The key thing throughout the story is Alice’s tumultuous relationship with her Wonderland alter-ego, something Benjamin reflects on nicely in a short author’s note at the end of the book. I found this particularly interesting, as in my own book, my main character writes and publishes a fictionalized version of her own life, and I have explored the resulting effect of said book on her life within the story. Ultimately, an interesting read for anyone fascinated by the creation of one of the world’s most famous stories.

28 / 50 books. 56% done!

8411 / 15000 pages. 56% done!

Currently reading:
-        A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce – 392 pages
-        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Seventh: The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket – 256 pages
-        The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 313 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages