Thursday, 22 August 2013

Wakling C 2011 What I did

Shock news: the Daily Mail is not always wrong. There's a Mail quote on my paperback copy of this book which I found really off putting, but this book just goes to show that you shouldn't judge a book by the company it keeps on the cover.

I loved this novel, sweetly narrated by a six year old who gets his long words mixed  up, doesn't understand what's scaring the adults and talks in metaphor that they fail to notice. Much like the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, the reader has to work for the truth behind the narration, and I found this so much fun.

On reflection I'm not sure what I feel about how the author creates plot tension towards the end. While reading I was gripped (confession: I fall into novels hard). Afterwards it felt like the actions of Dad weren't in keeping with what we knew about him. I'll say no more, because I'd hate to ruin the story for others.

First line:
This is the first bit and shall I tell you why? Okay I will. It is to make you read the rest.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

North A 2011 America pacifica

A dystopian novel where the dystopia is fully imagined and the plot has holes that need attention.

A generation from now the new ice age has made America uninhabitable. We learn, through memories and story telling, how civil behaviour collapsed as cold and hunger became commonplace. Visionaries fled to a new island home, and slowly others joined them. We meet this new society some twenty years after  it was founded, and it's not a great place to be poor. The teenage protagonist knows little about how things got to be as they are, and cares little about changing them. She's focused on the rent, dinner, staying safe.

I found the descriptions of how a marginal society gets by to be compelling. There is filth and hunger which reflect every refugee camp and shanty town you've ever read about, and turned your eyes away from. And the privileged classes - mostly the Mayflower first boaters - hold their privilege by deception and firepower, which also reflects every ailing society you've ever read about and turned away from. The plot, which at first had me gripped when a main character goes missing, lost me for the final third of the book. The final chapter? Meh.

I'd read another novel by this author though, and she seems to have set up a sequel.

First line:
The trouble started when the woman with the shaking hands came to the apartment.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Wilson P 2012 The visiting angel

Do you believe in angels?  For the afternoon I spent reading this novel, I believed hard.

I also believe in good people, and the support worker protagonist Patrick is good people. So is sexual health nurse Sarah. As Patrick, Sarah and Saul tell their stories they also tell the sad and upliftng stories of people whose lives could use some help from an angel.

Flashbacks to Patrick's childhood give vivid and believable vignettes of the cruelties children inflict on each other, the naivity of a boy trying to fit in, and the fierce protective love of his big brother who can't protect him when their world shatters.

Particularly enjoyed the penultimate chapter: crossing the void was beautifully written and nailbitingly tense.

First line:
His brother, as a boy, was unafraid of heights.

Last line:
He is not comfortable in the water himself, but sitting high in the rafters of some anonymous municipal pool, with the light bouncing off the walls of the polished tile and his son nestled beside him, he is happy to worship her diligence, the steady strokes, the accrual of lengths, the way she smiles unselfconsciously at nothing in particular when she climbs fresh from the water, and the beauty in her face that she has won, that this unexpected life has bequeathed her.

Whitely A 2008 Light reading

Apart from the murder, suicide, abuse and adultery, this actually is a light read. I took it at a gallop and finished in a day. Interesting structure too.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Project Gutenberg: collected Byron

Every now and then I remember Project Gutenberg, and then kick myself for the waste of however many months since I last gave it a second thought. Today was a remembering day, and I idly wondered if the collected lettters of Byron might have made it to publication.


This inches thick hardback is a book I've dragged home from libraries in at least four cities. It's hefty, and having it in kindle format will mean less weightlifting and more reading.

Delighted, and so grateful to the volunteers who make Gutenberg such a great resource. Last time I had spare time I was proofing letters written by a man who went on to be an early American President during the turbulence of the war. John Adams??? Maybe?  It was great - even if the finer details now escape me - and something I would never have ordinarily read. I'm going to find a few hours and proof read again this month. Do something good while sitting down with a nice cup of coffee: why not?

Morgan R 2001 Altered carbon

This is a tough and nasty read, but I've read it multiple times.

The fighting is dirty, and I usually skip those passages. The torture is horrific, and I always skip past that. The sex is explicit: some in the good way (merge9 -yes please); some in the bad way (abuse of sex workers). The plot is convoluted and I'm not sure I could describe it.

What did I like? Our anti hero,  Kovacs. We learn in flashbacks that he entered  the military to escpe a tough childhood, we learn just how tough the fighting was - never his fight, never his body - and we learn how hundreds of years and light years distance don't distance you from your demons. Also, despite the body count, he seems to be basically decent. Maybe I'm just an optimist?

Also, I really like the world(s) Morgan creates. It is perfectly constructed. I believe. Has someone fan-ficed the Quellist philosophy into a quasi Little Book of Calm? Make it personal.

First line:
Two hours before dawn I sat in the peeling kitchen and smoked one of Sarah's cigarettes, listening to the maelstrom and waiting.
Last line:
 The doors were waiting at the top, the needlecast beyond. Still trying to laugh, I went through.

Pratchett T 2009 Unseen academicals

My house contains more books than bookshelves. This problem cannot be resolved with more bookshelves, as my house has also run out of walls. I'm going to reread and donate for a while. Trying to pick out the books I kinda wanna read again, but will probably be okay letting go of by the last page.

Like everyone I know, my Pratchett shelf is well thumbed. These are comfort books that come to bed with me. They've been dropped in the bath. They've gone to the beach,  and the park, and I don't know what that stain is. It's fine to start reading any one of these books wherever they fall open, and there's no need to read to the end after the first few passes. Pratchett bears the test of time.

But not all Pratchetts are equal. I particularly liked the Moist von Lipwig series. I enjoy the witches, seeing myself as something of a Magrat. I can't really be doing with the faux-Scots nonsense in the Tiffany Aching books.

This one is middling-good. Cut brutally in half by an editor with chutzpah I think it would've been very good. The idea of the wizards footballing is visually funny but I think Pratchett is better at plot & dialogue than description and theme. I have no idea why there's a high fashion sub plot (football is for boys, so let's give the girls & the gays fancy clothes?). I suspect the Orc represents some kind of anti racism undertone, but it's laboured and Pratchett's not my choice of social-conscience reading.

 Bye bye, book.