12 September 2011

The Hare With Amber Eyes ~ Edmund De Waal

< OK >

A biography for those who are into self indulgent dilettantes
Not for me ~ gave up

This was a family memoir that was glued together by following the family collection of Japanese collectable. The family members came across as materialistic and grasping ... but mainly dull, dull, dull. To me, the author and family researcher did not give life to the characters. It is factual but it is also slow going (did I say it was dull) and dragged in places ... interesting does not equate to fascinating or scintillating ... wealthy does not even equate to interesting.

A nice memoir for the author’s children (said with tongue firmly in cheek).

First Tuesday Book Club

11 September 2011

The Hypnotist ~ Lars Kepler

< OK >

Hypnotist = Hype + no
Just ‘cause it’s Scandinavian doesn’t make it good

Maybe the problem was that “Lars Kepler” is actually a husband-and-wife writing team. The first 300 odd pages read really well ... a truly nasty psycho baddie ... but he just about disappeared in the last third as the story went off on another tangent. And the other tangent could have been a stand alone story.

There was an overabundance .... of characters - the hypnotist and the detective, but also the wife and the father-in-law ... and baddies - the serial killer, the Pokemon gang ... and multiple individuals from the hypnotherapy group. Too much.

I didn’t so much mind the flashback sections with the hypnotherapy sessions but found it dragged and could have been just as relevant with a good edit. And sadly the main psycho from the group just showed up as a bright-red herring to me. So obvious.

And then there were the overly cutesy bits ... the detective who always needs to be told he was right and taking Maccas to father-in-law in hospital made the last few pages gag worthy.

But apart from all that ... it was a get-you-in read (in need of a good edit)

10 September 2011

The Polio Paradox ~ Richard L Bruno


“Uncovering the hidden history of polio to understand and treat PPS”
Heavy going but thorough and informative

We have ordered the “hard” copy of this which will be easier to read than the Kindle version. I think you need to skim, skip and browse as it becomes brain befuddling to read from cover to cover. It was a little overloaded with anecdotal referencing for me.

Below is some pertinent information copied from the post polio newsletter :

What are Post-Polio Sequelae
“Post-Polio Sequelae (PPS, Post-Polio Syndrome, The Late Effects of Poliomyelitis) are the unexpected and often disabling symptoms -- overwhelming fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle and joint pain, sleep disorders, heightened sensitivity to anesthesia, cold and pain, as well as difficulty swallowing and breathing -- that occur about 35 years after the poliovirus attack”

Is there treatment for PPS
Yes. Polio survivors need to ''conserve to preserve,'' conserve energy and stop overusing and abusing their bodies to preserve their abilities. Polio survivors must walk less, use needed assistive devices -- braces, canes, crutches, wheelchairs -- plan rest periods throughout the day and stop activities before symptoms start. Also, since many polio survivors are hypoglycemic, fatigue and muscle weakness decrease when they eat protein at breakfast and small, more frequent, low-fat / higher-protein meals during the day.

What can family, friends
Polio survivors have spent their lives trying to act and look ''normal.'' Using a brace they discarded in childhood and reducing overly-full daily schedules is frightening and difficult. So, friends and family need to be supportive of life-style changes, accept survivors' physical limitations and any new assistive devices. Most importantly, friends and family need to be willing to take on taxing physical tasks that polio survivors may be able to do but should not do. Doctors, friends and family need to know about the cause and treatment of PPS and listen when polio survivors need to talk about how they feel about PPS and lifestyle changes. But friends and family shouldn't take control of polio survivors' lives. Neither gentle reminders nor well meant nagging will force polio survivors to eat breakfast, use a cane or rest between activities. Polio survivors need to be responsible for caring for their own bodies and ask for help when they need it.

09 September 2011

Cloud Atlas ~ David Mitchell

***** FAVOURITE *****

Shortlisted : Booker Prize 2004
Finalist : National Book Critics Circle Award 2004 
First Tuesday Book Club

This book is Ice Cream Soup*.
A disturbing dystopia we are already creating.

This was shortlisted!!! for 2004 Booker ... I shall have to read the book that beat it (The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst) because it must be a mighty fine book!

This is something brilliantly different. You can’t skim read because it is so rich in thought, so rich in style. It is a book to be enjoyed for the author’s talent - for the the structure and the stories.

This book is extraordinary in that is a series of short stories that are interlinked by the major theme and by the interconnectedness of the characters. It spans time periods from the colonial Pacific in the 1850’s, composers in the 30’s in Belgium, shonky nuclear reactors in Reagan's California, the dystopian world of the conurbs and fabricants, to the disintegration of civilisation. All echoes down a corridor of time.

I have blathered on ... I shall have to edit this when it filters through my synapsis.

We go up the timeline with a short story of each, then back down the timeline finishing off their tale. Simply brilliant use of language, voice, pace.

Way tooooo hard to explain. You just had to be there! Awesome. Epic!

But not for everyone. So I don’t want to know if you don’t like it.

*Ice Cream Soup : As a child, my sister, Mary, used to make her bowl of ice cream last until we had eaten ours, just so she still had some left. What she really had was just Ice Cream Soup ... but she did get to draw it out and savour it for as long as possible, and just maybe we did envy that she still had some.

This is a book to savour ... and I wish I had some left!

08 September 2011

The Graveyard Book ~ Neil Gaiman


Winner of the Newbery (2009) and Hugo (2009)!!!!!
A dark fantasy for kids.

A children’s award winner ... but a Hugo as well???

It was an engaging narrative not overloaded with characters but many fleeting glimpses of the ghosts and ghouls that inhabited the graveyard world of Bod (short for Nobody). Growing up in a graveyard gave Gaiman lots of action scenes and creepy descriptive opportunities.

It is suitably supernaturally creepy to keep adults interested but not too scary for its intended audience.

07 September 2011

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane ~ Kate DiCamillo


Children’s fiction at its best
Recommended by Colin

This is a really sweet story ... but never ever saccharine. Its sweet simplicity hides a story of great love and great sadness. Both the desperate situations that he finds himself in and the flawed lives of the people who own him, lead “Edward” to find room in his heart for love.

It is more than bittersweet at times as Edward learns to open his heart. (Note : I didn’t cry ... I just had something in my eye)

Not sure what age group I would read it to or suggest it to ... there are confronting topics within.

06 September 2011

On The Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) By Franz Mier ~ John Connolly

* LIKE *

Short Story ... an inexpensive Kindle download
Connolly doing creepy rather than crime.

Should short stories be sold in an anthology? Is this a way for Amazon to make more money by selling short stories one at a time ... and it was only 99c? Or is it a way for Amazon to introduce a writer to a new market?

I have read Connolly’s “creepy” writing before though his crime novels also have a high level of supernatural creepiness. My fav Connolly (The Book of Lost Things) is not one of his crime series. I have a “creepy” anthology (Nocturnes) and, as with most anthologies, you love some and hate some.

So the positive about this was that is was cheap download and, as opposed to the love-some-hate-some of a collection, this stand alone was a good creepy read. He manages sinister very well and this was suitably dark.

It reminds me of one of those good old spine-tinglers that cuz Jan used to read to us when we were young (Poe? Saki?)

05 September 2011

The Well Of Lost Plots ~ Jasper Fforde

* LIKE *

#3 in the Thursday Next series
Like drowning in a Well ... and the Plot was a little Lost

This one didn’t tickle my fancy anywhere near as much as the previous Thursday Next novels. I love the witty literary references and the madcap ridiculousness of the alternate world of Reading but this one wasn’t a racy read.

Maybe because the action took place in Bookworld (working for Jurisfiction) and was more about text and grammar (beware of attacking grammasites) and punctation (who stole all the punctuation from Ulysses) and spelling (with the misspeling vyrus) it all became a bit overloaded.

Buuuuut ... I’ll be ready (sometime) for another in the series just because Fforde has a wonderful way with puns and word play and are so imaginative. (#4 “Something Rotten” ... hmmm not sure how much I’m into Shakespeare?!)

Loved the bit where the rabbits fro Watership Down have overbred ... but Lenny likes to come and visit them.

04 September 2011

The Night Surfer ~ Alpheus Williams (Draft)


Hot off the press (aka the printer).
The newly-revised draft of the first 150 pages

This is great! A very tight rewrite - more than an edit, this is a re-write of the original idea. Characters have been trimmed, the plot cleared and it is all systems go. This is still the original story but without the detritus. It is sharper and more powerful. I especially loved Amma’s stories at the beginning but the descriptions and storytelling throughout kept me engaged.

Now waiting for the rewrite of the next section!



03 September 2011

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake ~ Aimee Bender

** OK **

Tournament of Books : 2011

Funny book ~ not funny “ha ha” but funny “peculiar”.
May have been better as a short story!

I didn’t exactly dislike it but .... it had a good premise for the story but it just became weird in an unsatisfactory way. It is told from the point of view of Rose, starting from when she was 8 till she was an adult but the “voice” doesn't change that much ... it all remains rather immature for an adult or a little too astute for a child.

Rose has a “gift” in that she can identify people’s emotions by eating food they have cooked. This gift is the bane of her existence that she finally comes to terms with. He brother also has a “gift” ... hmmm I think it is that he can “think” himself into inanimate objects. The father may also be “gifted” but avoids testing himself.

So they are odd. So is the book. Quirky idea left hanging by the author.

02 September 2011

Sister ~ Rosamund Lipton

* LIKE *

Oddly unusual, crime/psychological thriller.
Fast paced page turner with nice twist at the end.

I enjoyed this ... but not sure if I enjoyed it because it was a good read ... or because it was readable - after that bad-taste-in-my-mouth last read (The Gathering). The book was engaging and, while the plot line jumped through time and place, it was easy to follow.

Characters, while maybe a little two dimensional, were believable. The narrative was told through Beatrice giving her statement to the prosecutor with addition information coming though her flashbacks or imaginary talks with her sister.

There seems something a little surreal about her deposition but I can say no more without revealing too much ....