02 December 2010

Freedom ~ Jonathan Franzen


National Book Critics Circle Award : finalist 2010
Tournament of Books : 2011 (finalist)

First Tuesday Book Club

04 November 2010

Sing, And Don't Cry ~ Cate Kennedy


An absolute joy
Just wish I had read it before the trip to Mexico

Cate spent a year in Mexico as a volunteer worker in a poor Mexican community.

Her observations are compassionate and heartfelt but never condescending or judgmental. She recognises and acknowledges, and maybe even envies, the richness they find in their impoverished lives.

03 September 2010

The Wide Sargasso Sea ~ Jean Rys

Purchased at City Lights Bookshop, San Francisco
Reviewed on First Tuesday Book Club

This is the story of the first Mrs Rocherster. It is a prequel or a sister novel to Jane Eyre.

It is set mainly in the Caribbean and maybe it was the fecund heat of the tropics rotting everyone's existence but I found that there was a lot of second guessing with the plot, a lot of reading between the lines and still not being sure that you "got" it.

The writing style was not for me.

First Tuesday Book Club

04 June 2010

Solar ~ Ian McEwan

Eagerly anticipated but didn't grab me
Lots of blah blah blah scientific detail

The main character is well written - a rather horrible, rather lazy scientist who is simply keen to rest on his laurels. He wants to make as much money as possible based on his reputation that was made after winning a Nobel Prize. He rips off an idea from an acolyte and frames his wife's ex-lover for the murder of her current lover, the acolyte he ripped off.

The scientific blah blah blah was not necessary to understanding the plot or the characters or their motivation ... too much ... too boring.

First Tuesday Book Club

An Iron Rose ~ Peter Temple

A short page turner
Almost a mini "Broken Shore"

This was well constructed and nothing is wasted in moving the plot along. It has dry humour and believable characterisation. It uses its location to the best advantage.

In some ways it reminded me of Broken Shore ~ ex policeman retired to the countryside (check), bad things happen in children's home (check)

03 June 2010

Whispers of the Dead ~ Simon Beckett

** LIKE **

A find on the remainders table
Well constructed forensic crime

A British forensic expert is revisiting his place of training in Tennessee ~ the Bone Farm. We had just watched a Stephen Fry Across the US travel series where he visited this place. (People donate their body to science so that studies can be done on rates of decomposition etc ... so there are bodies in barrels, under trees, in cars, exposed to the elements etc).

The book was an excellent page turner with a good twist to keep you on the edge of your seat. Characterisation was well done.

This was the third in a series (that's the problem with remainders table pick-ups) and, of course, there were the inevitable bits of backtracking to remind you/fill in the blanks if what happened earlier.

02 June 2010

The Children's Book ~ A. S. Byatt

Shortlisted : Booker 2009

Made the wrong choice (me ... not the judges!)

Not that I didn't like it ... just that I didn't love it ... and it was soooo long. And I had "Wolf Hall" and this sitting by the bed and chose this one to read (probably because I like the cover ... groan). Wolf Hall went on to win the Booker and heaps of other accolades.

This was a long long long book. It had a great historical setting but it was so wordy ... at times it seemed like the author just slipped history lectures or research notes into the narrative.

It was set at the turn of the century (1800s into 1900s) in upperclass / bohemian / arty society of England.

Basically, I was glad to finish it!

The Black Minutes ~ Martin Solares

Mexican Crime
Not what I was after

I picked this up before our trip to Mexico but didn't find the sense of place I was after. It was certainly crime noir though with a Mexican touch of phantasmagorical (with lurid dream sequences).

The time swings between the crime happening in the present and an author investigating an earlier crime. The narrative for both stories is overloaded with corruption (everyone ... police, politicians, businessmen) .... all a bit heavy.

05 May 2010

The Blind Assassin ~ Margaret Atwood


Winner : Booker Prize 2000

A delightful read

Iris tells the story of herself and her sister, Laura. It is set among the wealthy industrialist families outside Toronto before and after WW1.

There is deliberate confusion about what is happening and to whom it is happening. The story exposing the family's dark secrets is interwoven with a trashy science fiction saga being told by ???

I loved the sense of time and place in this book ... and the fact that you had (wanted to) read carefully so as to expose the truth. This is a complex read with parallel stories and not in a time continuum.

04 May 2010

The Gates ~ John Connolly


Young teen fiction
Cute, well constructed, fast paced.

One of my "Favourites" is Connolly's "Book Of Lost Things" which is also in the Young Adult category (maybe??) but for an older audience than this.

Demons have been let loose! The Gates of Hell are opening. All because a small chink occurred diring the operation on the High Speed Particle Accelerator. So it is up to our cool hero ... a dorky young boy ... ably assisted by his two friends and his very well written dog.

This book is fun!

03 May 2010

The Whisperers ~ John Connolly

Charlie Parker #9
Slightly supernatural suspense

It has been so long that I have read one of the Charlie Parker series but this one was timely as we went to Sydney and had lunch with John Connolly himself! ... thanks to Michael Robotham!!

After my Charlie Parker hiatus (I felt that Black Angel was a bit of a 'jump the shark' for me and Charlie), I really enjoyed this one! Soldiers returning from Iraq bring back spooky plunder from a sacked Baghdad museum.

Plenty of baddies, well written, face paced ... a winning formula

02 April 2010

Island Beneath the Sea ~ Isabel Allende

Historical novel set in Haiti
Long book but just an outline

The narrative was an historical novel of slavery and its overthrow in Haiti. It had an interesting setting and there were lots of possibilities but it often read like an author's scaffold. It so needed fleshing out to make it come to life.

This was so skimpy on detail with little depth to the characters and little detail to their actions. It rambled around with ideas rattling around in its historical context. And it was a jumble of ideas that were like thoughts put down to shape into a novel ... but just got printed the way it was.

03 March 2010

Honolulu ~ Alan Brennert

My Sydney read during Alphie's surgery
Interesting enough ~ mindless enough

Written by the same author as "Molokai" (which I preferred). The man does his research ... but seems unable to put it into a fictional account, to weave the facts through the narrative in natural storytelling ... way too much bald exposition. Characters are very one dimensional and are often just mouthpieces to pass on the information he has complied.

This was an interesting take on the development of Honolulu as it looked at it from a Korean perspective. The story is told by Jin, a Korean "picture" bride.

02 March 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog ~ Muriel Barbery

Not for me ... in spades
Boring philosophical twaddle

A recommendation from someone who described it as "life changing". The whole story line was (Plot Spoiler Alert) : Life's A Bitch And Then You Die.

The characters were not quirky ... they were self indulgent and pretentious. The chapters of "profound thoughts" ... ditto.
The devotion to Japanese culture as the epitome of taste ... ditto.

The "hedgehog' is the concierge in a Parisian apartment block (born poor, self educated genius hiding her light under a bushel). Another resident is a teenager (born rich, genius, wants to die because ... drum roll ... no one is up to her standards). A more deserving pair you could never meet!! Both are overwhelmingly judgmental and narrow minded and superior to all (except perhaps the aesthete who moves in a recognises their uniqueness)

05 February 2010

The Fourth Bear ~ Jasper Fforde

** LIKE **

Part of the "Nurserycrime" series.
Good humoured referencing.

This one follows "The Big Over Easy". The detectives are Jack Spratt and Mary Mary on the hunt for Goldy ... and the psycho Gingerbread Man ... got the idea. There are a multitude of nursery rhyme references. They are clever and whitty and whimsical ... but a tad repetitive.

This is a crazy, fun read .. a wonderful diversion from reality ... what is not to love about porridge addicted bears and exploding cucumbers! Groanworthy in a punny way.

04 February 2010

Inheritance ~ Nicholas Shakespeare

** LIKE **

Recommended by the lovely Camilla
Great coincidences and a great cad.

The hero, Andy, gets an unexpected windfall ... he accidentally turns up at a funeral where the deceased has stipulated that his estate be split between attendees ... and he is the only one there!

The author found a good way of revealing a family's history in a story within a story. A poor man does good, a broken heart, a charismatic conman, a determined young Galahad ... all the cliches and all the coincidences you can poke a stick at ... but it all comes together in a readable narrative.

Nothing great but it keeps your attention.

First Tuesday Book Club

Revolutionary Road ~ Richard Yates

Note to self : DON'T see the movie!
A First Tuesday Book Club book

What a depressing read! And the word depressing should be in CAPS and bold!

I can see that it could have been seen as a masterpiece when it was published (1961) but it seemed dated now.

Frank and April feel they are too good for the blandness of suburbia. They were perfect intellectual snobs ... trouble is, they have very little intellect. They are boring malcontents.

Mournfully depressing life in the 50s

First Tuesday Book Club

03 February 2010

Faithful Place ~ Tana French

The Redeemer ~ Jo Nesbo

How do you say "O.K." in Norwegian?
Maybe I should have read an earlier "Harry Hole" novel

This was an ok read ... nothing more, nothing less. Yet another book on the Scandinavian bandwagon because of the Millennium trilogy.

Maybe it was the fault of a lackluster translation ... I found the language quite repetitive. This book is part of a series that uses the same detective, harry Hole, so some of the storytelling was spent retelling old narrative, going over background to get the new reader up to speed and tying up one loose end after another from previous texts. And then it spent time setting things up for the next installment.

Basically annoying!

02 February 2010

The Slap ~ Christos Tsiolkas

Longlisted : Booker 2010
Best Overall : Commonwealth Writers Prize 2009

Too raw, too harsh, too unrelentingly nasty

This book was a gift (thanks Lin) and enthusiastically endorsed by the critics ... so I had to finish it ... but What An Effort!!!

What totally unlikable characters!!! Brilliantly written ... unfortunately they are all too believable. My problem was that I just didn't want to spend any time with them!! Low-lives!!! Nasty dumb-fucks!!!! A strongly written narrative about life among the great unwashed yobbo new Australians ... for me, putting my own dirty washing on the line as per the book, this was a book for bringing out the inner racism in you.

Can't deny that it wasn't well written ... full credit to the author ... great use of point of view voice ... but the characters and narrative left me cold. Too raw.

I have seen it called a get-down-and-dirty version of Tom Perrott's "Little Children" ... a book that happens to be on my Favourites list ... for me that was a much preferable read!!!!!

Longlisted for 2010 Booker

First Tuesday Book Club

05 January 2010

The Lacuna ~ Barbara Kingsolver

***** FAVOURITE *****

Orange Award : Winner 2010
Tournament of Books : 2010 (finalist)

04 January 2010

The God of Small Things ~ Arundhati Roy

*** LIKE ***

Winner : Booker Prize 1997

Ahhh ! Only in India!!

An eclectic mix of characters from different classes, the outcasts and the impoverished upper class, all sinking slowly into the crumbling mold.

A good read ... more a "slice of life" than a climactic narrative. Written in a different style that well suits the strangeness of the characters and events ... and with a certain lushness that suits the heat and humidity of the setting.

03 January 2010

The 19th Wife ~ David Ebershoff

 ** LIKE **

Light murder mystery
Heavy religious background

This was a good read to give insight into the Church of Latter Day Saints ... and especially into polygamy and the fundamental splinter groups that exist today.

The writing seemed a bit jerky with the narrative jumping between the present and the past and back again but it was a good vehicle for showing the history of the church and the cults of today.

The murder investigation was a bit light but the twist was good.

02 January 2010

Breath ~ Tim Winton

Wow! At last!
A Tim Winton I enjoyed!

I enjoyed the sense of place and the surf culture background to the story. It was simply written. There was a lot of dialogue with no quotation marks and this sometimes led to some confusion and rereading.

As usual with Winton, all is not sunshine with his characters. In this narrative they dabble with near-death auto-erotica sex games.